Q: Our cat Hanky is a big male tabby who is such a scaredy cat. The other male cats beat him up all the time and he just cowers down to them. When he cant take anymore he will then fight back but due to all the stress his hair on his tail and belly are falling out. What can I do to relieve the stress in him? I have six cats. Three male and three females. The females don’t seem to bother him. I feel so sorry for him. Its like telling your children when someone’s picking on you go tell an adult. Well who can a cat tell? Lol – Nancy
A: You have to prevent the other cats from beating up on him, as you phrase it. You can do this in a number of ways and it depends on the severity of the attacks and how many cats are truly involved. A professional consultation is always beneficial so behavior modification can be tailored to the needs of the kitties and the individual dynamics between cats.
If your cat is so fearful or stressed that he is losing hair or is so fearful that he is always hiding or unhappy, it is best to separate him and the other kitties (or the males who antagonize him), so that he can de-stress and move about freely without worry that he will be attacked. Once everyone has calmed down and he is truly happier and comfortable in all the rooms, you can begin introductions with each of the males separately. You should do this in a way that the antagonistic cats will not stare, stalk, or chase him. This can be done by putting him on vertical or higher surfaces while feeding the kitties delicious food together, or by feeding them on opposite sides of screen doors, or even by sitting in between them. You must feed them food that they love and do not get frequently (tuna, mackerel, salmon, chicken, wet food etc.) and you must feed them at a distance where the victim kitty does not feel fearful, otherwise he won’t eat. You must position the cats in a way that the aggressor kitty is not directly facing or blocking the kitty who is more vulnerable.
You may also want to teach your aggressive kitties to wear a harness. This way you can prevent a chase or an attack. In addition, you should make sure that the victim kitty’s confidence is boosted by allowing or providing him access to important or more desired rooms and areas that have high value to the cats i.e., kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and so on. It is imperative that you both prevent and interrupt staring by the aggressor through redirection and distraction, and/or by repositioning (See One Kitty Picks on Another). It is also important that all litter boxes are open and in locations where cats can see a landscape view of the area or all entries and exits (See Tips to Have a Happy Cat).
You did not mention if the cats were neutered or intact. If they are not neutered, this should be on your top list of priorities, as intact males will continue to fight (and spray). They should be separated until this is done.
Copyright © Alana Stevenson 2013
The following online articles and Q&A’s can also help you:
Alana Stevenson can be reached through her website. She provides behavioral consultations by phone and Skype.