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CPT’s Cat Behavior Program Brings Harmony to Oliver and Kitty
August 12, 2023
Oliver’s Cat Behavior History:
Oliver, an 8-year old, neutered, male, jet black, Domestic Long-haired and Maine Coon Cat mix was born outdoors with a stray mother and littermates. In 2015, when first observed by Solomon, the mother and her 6 solid-black kittens appeared highly anxious in general and with Solomon’s approach. Nevertheless, concerned for their welfare and their survival amidst the outdoor elements, Solomon regularly fed the mother and litter.
At around 3.5 months of age, one male kitten became more confident, comfortable, and bold, whereupon he followed Solomon into his apartment. Solomon then elected to maintain the kitten as an indoor pet and named him “Oliver.”
Back in 2015, Solomon shared an apartment with his sister, who was also a cat lover. Fortunately, Oliver adapted quickly to Solomon’s sister’s cats. However, in 2016 Oliver required an adjustment period to reside compatibly with an adult male, orange tabby. Furthermore, Oliver remained hesitant and aloof when sharing space with a dog for 4 months during 2016.
In 2017, Solomon moved out on his own, whereby Oliver became the sole pet. Moreover, since that time Oliver received only incidental exposure to canines or felines. Nonetheless, in 2017, continuing Oliver’s socialization didn’t seem imperative.
As Oliver matured, his temperament reconciled with Solomon’s lifestyle. Oliver was playful, albeit occasionally nippy during play. He appreciated attention from Solomon and often sought Solomon’s attention and affection.
Yet, there were some detrimental characteristics. Although Oliver never hissed at visitors, he was initially wary. Consequently, Oliver required an acclimation period of 10 – 20 minutes before exhibiting social curiosity with human guests.
In addition, Oliver demonstrates state anxiety amidst sudden or unexplained noises. Per Solomon, if an object drops or Solomon is vacuuming, then “Oliver freaks out and runs away.” Moreover, when exposed to new household objects, at first Oliver is apprehensive before tentatively investigating the item.
From a health standpoint, Oliver has progressed from a thin, underfed kitten, to an overweight adult cat. While fed a raw diet, Oliver’s weight ballooned to 15 pounds. Veterinary examination failed to diagnose an endocrine origin. Therefore, his vet believed Oliver’s weight gain was principally a result of too much calorie-rich food and too little exercise.
Thus, the vet encouraged Solomon to transition Oliver to a commercial lite diet, feed him 3 times per day, and measure the quantity. Oliver’s weight subsequently reduced to 13.5 pounds, which is a substantial 10% weight loss. Nevertheless, Oliver’s target weight is 12 pounds. Hence, at the time of our in-home meeting in January 2023, the dietary goal was incomplete.
Interestingly, although the change in nutrition produced beneficial weight reduction, concurrently it changed Oliver’s urinary habits. Consequently, during the food transition, Oliver developed feline lower urinary tract diseased (FLUTD). Fortunately, a round of antibiotics cleared the infection.
As time evolved, so did Solomon’s life. He moved from an apartment to a home. He dated Amanda for 2 years. And in July 2023 they plan on moving-in together.
Kitty’s Cat Behavior History:
Amanda owns Kitty, a 15-year old, 7-pound, spayed female, Domestic Long-haired Cat. Kitty was an owner surrender that Amanda acquired 2.5 years ago from an animal shelter.
Kitty is low energy, sleeps a lot, and doesn’t have much of an appetite. Yet, she is confident, social, and affectionate with strangers. And she is comfortable with noises. In summary, 15-year old Kitty is the direct opposite of Oliver.
However, all is not rosy. From a negative standpoint, Kitty has intermittent litter box issues exacerbated by stress, especially separation-related stress. Kitty urinates on Amanda’s bed and bathroom mats if Amanda returns late from work or school or when she travels. For instance, Kitty had multiple urinary infractions while Amanda visited Chicago.
Moreover, Kitty has limited socialization experience with fellow cats. To Amanda’s knowledge, Kitty may have lived with or alongside cats at the shelter. However, since leaving the shelter, the only cat Kitty met is Oliver- and she is anxious, frightened, and defensive amidst Oliver.
Oliver and Kitty- Their First Time Together:
Solomon and Amanda resided together briefly during December 2021. At the time, they were in a small apartment, while Solomon prepared to move into his home. The brevity was both due to the residential transition and due to the relationship between the cats.
They tried a “soft introduction.” However, Oliver mercilessly chased Kitty, who preferred reclining in peace. Solomon believed Oliver was playing. Nevertheless, 15-year old Kitty did not share Oliver’s energy, playstyle, or lifestyle. Although Oliver never extended his claws, Oliver’s inconsiderate attempts to interact affected Kitty’s quality of life. Consequently, to provide placidity for Kitty, Solomon temporarily relocated Oliver with a family member.
Oliver and Kitty- Their Second Foray:
In January 2023, after relocating to his home and with plans for Amanda to join him in July, Solomon wanted to again try integrating the cats. However, this time he preferred doing it with the professional guidance of CPT Head Trainer Mark Spivak.
Solomon was working from home, whereby he had time to adhere to a behavior modification program. Furthermore, Amanda was already visiting frequently, which provided opportunities to test the methodologies recommended by Mark.
The home is a 4-bedroom ranch, with a porch and no basement. Solomon placed 4 litter boxes in 2 locations within the house. He positioned adjacent robotic and traditional litter boxes in the master bedroom and guest room. Thus, the cats had a choice to use either the robotic or traditional box.
When Amanda visited, they kept Kitty in the master bedroom. They sequestered Kitty both to keep her apart from Oliver and to minimize the risk of litter box errors. Moreover, the master bedroom was a good choice, since Oliver rarely entered the room. Plus, it is easy to provide Kitty pleasant attention and affection in the room.
While Kitty remained in the master bedroom, Oliver typically remained on the family room couch or on the bed within a guest bedroom. The closed master bedroom door separated the cats.
They fed Oliver in the kitchen and Kitty in the master bedroom. The house had one (1) cat-tree, a 4-foot tree located in the family room. Although the cats were totally segregated, Oliver occasionally “meowed” at the master bedroom door. However, Kitty did not share parallel interest in Oliver.
Oliver limited his cat-cat communication to vocalizations. He never swiped underneath the door to solicit interaction. Yet, the door was very close to the floor, which provided little room to comfortably place a paw underneath.
During Solomon and Amanda’s occasional attempts to integrate the cats, Kitty had been very cautious, sometimes ran, and often hissed when Oliver was close. When Solomon and Amanda were together in the master bedroom, Oliver frequently clawed at the carpeting adjacent to the door. Consequently, to prevent property damage and appease each cat, they slept in separate bedrooms.
Head Trainer Mark Spivak’s mission was to develop a cat behavior modification program that successfully integrated the entire family.
CPT’s Cat Behavior Modification Program for Oliver and Kitty:
CPT’s customized cat behavior modification design implemented multiple strategies intended to work cohesively and synergistically. Thus, although there was a sequential component to some aspects of the plan, most constituents were conducted concurrently.
First, we recommended generalized anxiety solutions for both cats. Oliver’s anxiety arises from segregation within the household. Kitty’s anxiety worsens from the nearby presence of Oliver. By reducing Oliver anxiety, he is less likely to become excitably aroused when observing Kitty. Similarly, by reducing Kitty’s anxiety, she will be more receptive to Oliver’s presence, without exhibiting defensive arousal. Furthermore, she becomes less apt to run or hiss, which in turn keeps Oliver calmer.
The CPT Generalized Anxiety Solution Plan includes holistic, homeopathic, quality of life, and nutritional strategies. In severe or refractory cases, we also advise speaking to a veterinarian about prescription anxiolytic solutions.
Second, if integration exposure results in increased litter box infractions from Kitty, we advised the environmental modification of a hooded litter box. Some cats feel more secure when urinating in an enclosed box.
Third, we advised the environmental modification of at least 2 additional positions of height. Cats often feel more secure when they can ensconce themselves in an elevated position, atop a tall cat tree or on wall platforms/steps. Therefore, we advised either a 6-foot+ cat tree and/or wall steps in the master bedroom and family room- and possibly the guest room. The cat tree should preferably include a sisal scratching post, an enclosed box or cave, and a raised open platform.
Fourth, we advised conditioning each cat to wearing an escape-proof cat harness. Cat harnesses provide the opportunity to walk Oliver outside, which is an excellent energy release. With energy productively and preemptively expended we should reduce the probability of chasing behavior. Furthermore, cat harnesses facilitate success during controlled counterconditioning and systematic desensitization drills. Kitty has worn a harness without protest. Oliver was previously tolerant to a harness, but then became frightened. CPT provided a plan for conditioning each cat to wearing a minimalist no-escape harness and a light nylon leash.
Fifth, to optimally expend Oliver’s energy, in addition to outdoor walking, we advised increasing his vigorous indoor play time. We concomitantly recommended specific toys and games. Our favorite human-cat games include: a) jumping for a “fishing pole,” b) retrieving an aluminum foil ball, c) scent discrimination (food hides), and d) hide-and-go seek.
Sixth, we advised preventive management strategies. The protocols required that Solomon and Amanda initially limit the cats’ exposure to one another, except during controlled drill exercises. Then, once we achieve progress and Kitty demonstrates a willingness to share a room with Oliver, we can use a harness/leash to response block Oliver from chasing Kitty. By blocking access to chasing behavior, Oliver can then adopt a new, calmer modality for interaction. Just as importantly, Kitty can then learn to trust Oliver and not feel a need to escape or hiss amidst his presence. In addition, with the presence of more and taller cat trees and wall platforms, Kitty has more avenues to be near Oliver while still feeling safe.
Seventh, we designed and implemented a counterconditioning and systematic desensitization drill that taught each cat to appropriately relax around the other. Oliver was highly cooperative, since he enjoyed the high-value food treats he received for exhibiting calm behavior. Kitty appreciated the attention and affection she received for remaining calm amidst Oliver. As each cat displayed calm behavior from a distance, we gradually increased the stimulus load by diminishing distance. Soon we could place the cats within several feet of one another, with each cat ignoring the other.
Eighth, once Kitty appeared reliably relaxed amidst Oliver during drills and looked forward to drill participation and once Oliver ceased chasing Kitty during drill and non-drill time, whereby there was no need to response block with the harness/leash, we allowed free interaction. However, we postponed free interaction until the probability of success was very high. By being sapiently patient, we minimized the risk of behavioral regression.
Cat Behavior Results- Update 1- Late June and Mid-July:
In late June Solomon emailed Mark with a splendid report. “Oliver and Kitty are doing great. They get along well now, which is incredible for us and a huge relief.”
He then referred a friend having issues with her dog. He also attached a photograph of Oliver and Kitty relaxing near one another.
Solomon then sent a subsequent follow-up email in mid-July, while giving CPT permission to discuss his case on the website and Facebook. “It definitely took a lot of work, but everything you told us worked. The difference is night and day.”
He also enclosed 3 additional photographs of the cats harmoniously sharing space. And a picture tells a thousand words.
Cat Behavior Results- Update 2- Late July:
CPT’s cat behavior modification program went so well that Solomon and Amanda added 2 Ragdoll kittens to the household. In late July Solomon contacted CPT about a Zoom or in-home appointment to address the kittens’ household behaviors. During a Zoom we discussed resolving jumping on the counter, extending claws to climb humans, over-excitability during feeding time, conditioning to a harness, age-appropriate exercise, and general socialization.
Most relevant, there was no need to discuss familial cat-cat socialization. Oliver and Kitty both enjoy the kittens. Everybody gets along famously. Thus, the program we applied to Oliver and Kitty, helped each adult cat to adapt to the introduction of the kittens. Moreover, the program facilitated Solomon and Amanda receiving more pleasure from their pets, while eliminating previous stress.
CPT is the only company in Atlanta providing both dog and cat behavior modification programs. If your cat has litterbox, anxiety, aggression, socialization, obsessive-compulsive, or household behavioral issues, we welcome you to contact CPT by email or phone (404-236-2150).
A CPT cat behavior modification program can improve your cat’s quality of life and improve the enjoyment you receive from your pet owning experience. Like with Solomon and Amanda, you will find the program outcomes well worth the cost.