Hi, everybody. Happy Tuesday. We’re back with Coffee Talk. My name is Dr. Erica Barron, and this is Ellen Carozza, our head LVT here at NOVA Cat Clinic. And today we’re going to talk to you all about sibling issues or roommate issues because they’re not always actually .
Especially coming back from the vet’s office, and one of them leaves the house, which is a major stressor, comes here, and then returns home. And then suddenly, your two cats aren’t getting along anymore. Well, what do we do?
Yeah, they smell different because remember, cats really care about the way things smell way more than we do. So we have to be careful when they start to smell different because they’re like, “I don’t know if I recognize you. You smell different.” It’s hard. It’s hard. So one of my tricks – it doesn’t work for everybody, but works for some people – is when you get home, you put a dab of vanilla extract on their heads and on the base of their tails. And then I feel like it resets a lot of them, and then they don’t have this issue. I usually recommend that if you do have any type of sibling issues or roommate issues, or whatever you want to call your two cats, or three cats, or four cats, that when you bring one home and it hasn’t been around everybody for a bit, then keep him in a separate room for a little bit just to kind of let him cool off. Maybe they didn’t like it when they gave us blood today. Maybe they need to take five minutes and think about it and just calm down. Maybe they need to meditate, however cats meditate. That’s an option.
One thing you do need to remember when you’re using the vanilla extract trick is, you don’t use a lot of it because cats have a more sensitive sense of smell than what people do. So while we may think they smell like chocolate chip cookies, well, your cat doesn’t appreciate smelling like a chocolate chip cookie. In all honesty, they probably are having a really overwhelming sense of vanilla that’s going on. And that kind of makes them rethink, “Well, what should I be upset about? Should I be upset about my friend who went to the vet, or should I be upset that I smell like a chocolate chip cookie? My butt doesn’t smell normal anymore. What do I do?” So they’re busy–
Because it’s just a dab.
–worrying about thinking about that. So just a little bit. Other things you can do is simply use pheromone products. I mean, there’s several different companies that make pheromone products now. The number one company that’s been out there that started it was CEVA for Feliway. And they even have a brand-new one called the Feliway MultiCat that is meant for inter-cat aggression. It’s a different formulation than the regular Feliway, which you can use in conjunction with Feliway MultiCat. So you can use both of them at the same time, and that might help reduce the amount of stress in the home. It is recommended, though, that you just don’t put the Feliway plug-in when the problem occurs. If you know your friend is going to the vet’s office, put the plug-in in a day or two beforehand so the cats can acclimate to the pheromones. And when the cat comes home again, continue to use it for the next several days afterwards. And, hopefully, that might be able to tame down some of the inter-cat aggression that you see coming from the vet’s office. But keep in mind, when your cat does go to the vet, it’s not just stressful on the cat that’s going to the vet. It’s really stressful on the other animals in the household. You have just completely upshifted the whole entire home.
And remember, cats like consistency. They like their four walls. When somebody leaves their four walls and comes back who’s always there, and something’s different, that’s rough. It’s hard. I will say–
It gets really stressful.
I will say for Feliway, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I plugged a Feliway adaptor in a couple months before I gave birth. And then it was a couple months after, I used that in concert with Zylkene. And I will say– oh, no, I didn’t use Zylkene. I used Calm Diet. That’s right. I don’t know if Zylkene was on the market. I will say subjectively, multiple times I thought in my head, “Wow. These cats aren’t fighting as much as I feel like they should.” I can’t tell you what would have happened if I hadn’t done that because clearly I did that. But I remember thinking multiple times like, “Subjectively, I feel like they should be fighting more than they are,” because my cats have a lot of redirected aggression towards each other when something goes wrong because I wasn’t a good cat mom for Cosmo. And it’s okay. I didn’t know any better, did the best I could. But humans aren’t always the best model moms. And he doesn’t always have the best coping mechanisms as a result. So I remember thinking subjectively that I thought that it was a good product. Now if anybody in your household, humans, not cats, are asthmatics or are sensitive to smells and things, you probably shouldn’t use Feliway adaptors. If you do do the sprays, make sure the cats don’t see you spray it. And then if you notice you’re having symptoms, don’t use it. We can’t use it anymore because my daughter is asthmatic. But I remember thinking subjectively that it was good. Another thing you could do, as I’ve mentioned, is– while I was talking, when I said something about Zylkene, Zylkene is a casein supplement that you can put in their food. Most cats eat it without an issue. You could start doing it a couple days before the vet visit and then follow it a couple days after. Whenever we go out of town, I’ll give it to my cats for a couple days before we go out of town. No one can give them anything while I’m out of town because my cats are not always very nice to most human beings. Ellen’s like, “No! No! Your cats are not nice !” Okay. It’s fine that they love us.
That’s okay. My old cat was a jerk to just about everybody that came into the house. And once you told them, like, “Well, this is how this cat is. Just accept it,” everything’s cool.
When you walk in my house, the first thing anyone tells you is, “Don’t look at the orange cat. Just pretend he’s not there. If he sits on you, don’t pet him.”
Yeah. He’s all about making eye contact on purpose.
So I do think that Zylkene helps them not be as stressed, even though no one can give it to them when we’re gone. My cats are stress pukers, and they don’t puke as much when we’re gone. Is there a question, Sophie?
There is a question. Skeeter2228 asks on Instagram whether you can use Feliway intermittently or if you should continue to use it constantly.
Depends on which Feliway you’re using. If you are using the plug-ins, and you have a consistent problem at home, it’s advisable to use it for at least a few months. Sometimes it’s a permanent addition to your home. Now, if you use the spray, you can use the spray intermittently, okay? That’s what the spray is meant for is, you use it as an intermittent basis. You could spray it on a blanket. Shake it out because it does have a really intense alcohol smell for the first few minutes. You don’t want your pet lying on that. But you can use it on an as-needed basis. You have to remember, pheromones aren’t miracles, either. It depends on how well the cat responds to them. I usually have Feliway plugged in in my house year-round because I have cats constantly coming in and out of my home. And it’s a stressor to everybody else in the house. And unfortunately, one of the big stressors in my home is when I don’t have kittens. That’s when Benny tends to get one of his herpes flare-ups with his eyes–
I know. You can’t get upset because they don’t have kittens.
–is when I don’t have kittens. So I have to make sure I have several of these plugged in in my home. I have one on every single level to make sure that he is actually calm, too. And then he also gets this on his bedding and everything. But if I don’t have kittens, he’s walking around the house like– and then as soon as I have a kitten come, it miraculously goes away. It’s the strangest thing. He stresses out over different things. He stresses out when kittens aren’t there, not when we bring somebody strange into the home. It’s really weird.
He’s so sweet. He’s such a good big brother [laughter]. He’s like Uncle Benny. He’s like–
I just [crosstalk] pussycat.
–“Hey, everyone.” Another thing you could do is– we could potentially prescribe things that help kind of take the wind out of your sails if this is something that happens multiple times. There was one person I used to see at the clinic I worked at before here who, every time he brought one cat in, he brought the other. And if someone touched one cat, they also had to touch the other cat, even if there was an issue with the other cat. And if we took blood and we used alcohol on one’s leg, we had to put alcohol on the other’s leg.
Yeah. You’ve got to smell the same.
You’ve got to smell the same [laughter]. And I think that did help him with his two cats. But I also don’t know if he was doing any of the other things we talked about. And there’s a question, Sophie?
Yup. SpaceBellatrix would like you to know that her cat has been attacking her for the past two days. What does she do? Please help.
Oh, yeah. You need to see the vet. Your cat should not be attacking you. There’s something that your cat is telling you. Something’s very wrong. Now, whether or not you initiated something that you’re going to have– your cat suddenly doesn’t like you, some cats get very territorial when other people come into the home and they don’t like it. Her cat does it.
He stops you.
They don’t like it. If you did something different to the cat, like if the cat’s lying on the bed, and you move something suddenly, you spooked it, etc., some cats will have a negative reaction to that and will take it out on that person because you’re the one that created the distraction. So it’s important to kind of try to figure out their triggers. But if your cat is just suddenly attacking you, that’s a vet visit right there because something could be very wrong with your pet.
And if you can get a house-call vet to come, this way they can see the environment. Maybe they’re seeing something that you’re not noticing.
Yeah. And videotape any odd behavior that your cat is doing because that helps the doctor kind of make a process of elimination of what potentially could be going on in the home.
Right. I always think that things that happen in the house, it’s always good if somebody can come in and physically see it, if it’s possible, because they might not notice anything, but there might be something. I know for some of my acupuncture cases that I do for other vets, when I walk into the home, the first thing I notice might be that they might not have told the vet that all they have are hardwood floors. And there’s no rugs or anything. And the pet’s slipping a lot. First thing I do is say, “You need to get this,” or “You need to get that to help with that.” And there’s another question, Sophie? This will probably be the last one, and then we’ll have to cut it off because I have appointments. I’m sorry.
No worries. RescueInStyle would like to know, how do you know if the cats are fighting or playing?
Oh, you know the difference between fighting and playing [laughter].
I know playing [laughter]. Playing can be rough because, remember, cats are predators. There are species that play at predation. And they’re predators. So when they play, they can play rough. However, if either of them have dilated eyes– pupils, not the whole eye, the pupil, if they have a very aggressive look–
Yeah, the ears completely flat and back, and the hackles will go up.
–if their ears are back, if they’re using their claws– usually, when they play-fight, they don’t use their claws. They’re not ripping out fur or things like that. They’re not going after each other’s scruffs. I think that’s a key. Unless your cat was raised by a human and doesn’t have good coping mechanisms or know how to talk to other cats, well–
He might not play nice.
He might not know how to play nice because he’s not very smart. He’s wonderful and loves me, but he’s not very good with other cats. If your cat was raised with other cats, they know how to talk to other cats appropriately. And all the things I mentioned are not okay. And that’s usually more territorial or aggression. Do you have anything to add to that, Ellen?
Well, I mean, when you’re looking at a cat that’s actually wanting to initiate a fight, true fight, territorial fight, “Get out of my way,” versus play-fighting, you really have to pay attention to their body language. And you can find a lot of awesome posters online on cat body language that lets you know when something is really wrong. So when a cat is actually going to fight, and they get into that predatory mode, they’ll get as big as they possibly can. The ears will go flat and completely back. Their muzzle will spread open, and they’ll actually do some intense vocalization. And you might see some of those videos that’s on AFV when people are taking these little animals and making their cats start doing that “No, no, no,” and they get really scared and intense. That’s a cat that’s getting ready to nail you. And you deserve it if something happens that way. I’m sorry. In all honesty, you don’t do that. You put that animal into a position that it doesn’t want to be in, and now it’s going to attack. So that’s the kind of body language that you look for. But if you have blood, hair that’s flying all over the house, the cat that won’t leave the other cat alone, they’re urinating and defecating out of fear, that’s a cat that’s initiating a true fight. And those are the things you need to be aware of versus just play-fighting. They chase each other around the house. They may leave each other alone. They may initiate some intense grooming afterwards versus the big-time fighting. So you really need to understand cat body language when it comes down to that.
And if you have any questions about that, you can just shoot us an email or message us, and we can put a couple signs up. I know we have a couple signs up in the office to show what the difference is between fear and aggression. Sometimes fear can come on from stress, too. So it’s important to understand that if you’re doing something that’s stressful to the cat, and it’s fearful, and it starts having these things, you should know. Like last night, I was in the shower, and I decided I didn’t need two loofas anymore. I don’t know why there were two loofas in there. So I threw out my old loofa. And my poor little cat, my little girl cat– I didn’t realize she was sitting right outside of the thing. So I took this big loofa, and I threw it in the trash, and she freaked out and ran away. And I didn’t see her for the rest of the day [laughter]. So that was fear [laughter].
Right. And it’s a stressor in the home. I mean–
And if she was a different type of cat, she might hide for a couple days. She might start having redirected aggression. I didn’t mean to scare her with a loofa . My other cat didn’t care, but he also doesn’t understand how to be a cat all the time.
Right. I remember years ago, one of my cats, when I was taking in groceries, got stuck to a plastic bag handle. And she ran around the house with it like a superman cape on it. And that cat was never the same ever again when I brought groceries home in the house.
Oh, poor thing.
I mean, she was just gone the entire day because she knew I was bringing groceries in. It was all because of something she did, but it was a stressor that I was part of. So on Sundays, when I would come back with the groceries, I would never see the cat because she knew that I did something bad, which was basically bring groceries into the home. She was playing in the bags as I was going ahead and putting groceries away, and she got caught in a handle running around the house. And that cat was never the same after that.
On Sundays with groceries.
On Sundays, it was–
The rest of the time she was fine.
It was terrible. It was like the most . It was–
You must have felt so guilty.
It was really sad. We had to cut the cat out of the bag, literally take a pair of scissors and cut her out of the handle, so.
Poor thing.
You just don’t know what kind of stressors will trigger a cat. So you have to be just really aware when you have them in the home.
But it is important that when there are vet visits involved, that you do think about it and consider using Zylkene, or Feliway, or one of those things. But that’s pretty much it. So thanks for sharing this time with us. We appreciated all the questions today. If there’s any topics you want us to talk about, I’m not promising that we’ll do a video tomorrow, but we do try to aim for Wednesdays. So we’ll see how it goes. It depends on the cats that are here because two Wednesdays ago it was kind of crazy. Or was it last Wednesday? I don’t know.
And it might be a snow day tomorrow. We’re supposed to get snow in DC, therefore, it’s going to be complete Armageddon out here, even if there’s a couple of flakes, and nobody knows how to drive.
It’s only supposed to be a half an inch. So we’ll be okay, hopefully. But thanks for sharing this time with us. It’s great to see you all. And if we can help you in any way, just let us know. Bye.