We’ve all been there.
We have the pleasure of forming a new acquaintance, some misunderstanding arises and suddenly we’re absolutely filled with antipathy towards that person. We either start avoiding them like crazy or blow up on them, causing a serious falling out.
What would it take to make you re-approach that person with an open mind?
For that matter – what if that person…is your own kitty?
It honestly isn’t that different for cats and humans.
If negative associations with said person are what caused the rift, then resolving your differences so you can re-establish trust through forming positive associations becomes key.
But it doesn’t stop there. Misunderstandings often occur with no one to blame. Someone looks at another a certain way or laughs at a moment that gets misinterpreted and voila – instant conflict. So, preventing that situation from repeating itself is going to be important.
And of course, then there is the fact that when we’re stressed and miserable, we lash out. Misery, after all, loves company. Relieving chronic stress and optimising your living conditions, in particular, will benefit your social skills a great deal.
And the same is true for cats.
Unfortunately, there are rifts you cannot come back from, no matter how hard we try. And this point of no return is different for each individual – depending on the topic, personalities involved and the trauma inflicted. Similarly, the duration, complexity and intensity of the situation will play a large part in the resolvability of the problem.
So how do we put this all into practice? How do we apply it concretely to our feline companion’s problems?
In other words, what do we do when our kitty is less than happy about the new pet we brought home? Or when the dog won’t stop pestering them? When your two fur babies just won’t stop hissing and clawing each other up? Or when your cat is terrified of you, your spouse or your children?
1. Fostering Positive Associations
Re-introduction is an attempt to break the pattern the two parties are stuck in. We all fall into patterns and it is all too easy to stay there, even if they are a negative pattern. It costs significant energy and effort to re-do the work you put in to form your previous conclusions and stay open to a different result.
First, we set the stage. That means no unsupervised interactions, period. No possibility of negative affirmation in the slightest. From now on, all interactions are a positive thing. That means confining the warring parties to different parts of the house, if need be. It also means making your presence (if you are one of the warring parties) a positive one at all times.
And now, we bribe.
Just like ‘grass’ is legal in cat land, so is bribery – in fact, it’s encouraged!
Check out Step 4 in this article on how to foster all those good ‘feewings’ you need to restore harmony and peace in your household. Cliché, but true – sorry.
One thing to consider
If you are part of the war, check in with yourself.
Do an intake of your attitude towards your cat.
Chances are that over time – due to the growing apathy and antipathy between you – you’ve started responding to the cat primarily when they caused a negative reaction in you. And chances are you aren’t even fully aware of that tendency, yet.
If so, invest in repairing the trust and bond you once had by engaging in joyous activities together. Challenge your negative responses to their actions. Ask yourself instead why your kitty would do such a thing, Then see if you can channel their motivations and energy in a way that you find acceptable or even appreciate.
In other words, try and remember why you adopted and love your kitty in the first place, so you can regain that bond you had.
2. Using Distractions To Break ‘The Stare’
One of the things you’ll run into more with re-introductions than with actual introductions, is the threat of the Stare.
Staring is considered an overt threat by most mammals.
It is also something we do when we don’t trust someone. And the same is true for cats. So when you’re doing the food ritual described in the previously mentioned article, you may want to have the option to close a door, or lower a towel onto the door to break that stare, before it escalates into violence. In the final stages, a piece of card board may suffice.
The Stare often is the first sign of aggression. And more often than not, we miss it, because a) we’re not looking for it, and b) it tends to be a rather subtle yet infinitely significant gesture.
The longer the two warring parties are exposed to each other, the higher the risk that the Stare will occur. This is why you want to build up the amount of time that they are exposed to each other carefully. Also, try to end the interaction on a high note, whenever possible. Think frequent but short training periods.
3. Optimising Their Happiness And Living Situation
Nobody is at their best when they don’t get their needs met.
We get short-tempered, chronically stressed, insecure, and eventually just snap.
Besides food, water and a clean litter box, a cat needs to feel safe in their own home (territorial insecurity) and have something to actually occupy their time with (environmental enrichment).
Creating a kitty sanctuary doesn’t have to be expensive, either. It just takes a little bit of effort, creativity and empathy to understand exactly what it is that your cat needs to be the best they can be.
And…if you are one of the warring parties…you may want to do the same for yourself.
A little self-care goes a long way!
Complexity and Intensity
Despite all of the above, these types of things can in fact be too complex and too high-stake to handle on your own.
There is no shame in bringing someone in to help you make sense of it all and straighten it out if at all possible.
Especially considering the fact that consequences of this stuff can be elimination 3 times a day on your bed and sofa, destruction of your property, non-stop vocalisation at night causing sleep deprivation and increasing antipathy towards your beloved pet.
Any reasonable person would go nuts (chronic stress, hello!) in that type of situation.
One thing your cat, any warring party, yourself and your behaviourist will undoubtably agree on is:
The sooner it is resolved, the better!
Meanwhile, if you would love to learn more about step 3, please check out my First-Aid Kit For Cat Guardians. It is freely available to those that join our email list.
And, it has all the basics on optimising your lives together!