Help! New cat gone bad!

tanya daly

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I have 3 existing cats: 1 large male Bengal/tabby mix (Bailey), a little black short haired female (Ariel), and a ginger tabby male (Oliver) who is really just a stray that has slowly moved in. I got Peanut after he was recently neutered, he was an ex-breeding cat, and a timid little thing who was picked on by the females in his cage. I took him on and he was a really frightened little ball but he slowly grew in confidence and became a really affectionate, sweet and playful cat. He really adores my partner and I. We went through the normal introduction process and the cats all seemed fine, to the point that Peanut and my other 2 males would sleep on the same sofa or in close proximity without incident. My little girl cat has always been terrified of her own shadow and tends to hide out in one of the bedrooms but Peanut seemed indifferent to her. Then one day Peanut suddenly just attacked Ariel, quite viciously, we tried shouting, clapping, spraying with water and he just would not stop. She then became terrified of him and avoided him. He then turned his attention to Bailey and started violently attacking him - this happened several times - and again, despite shouting, clapping, or spraying him with water, he would not stop to the point that Bailey became too scared to come back into the house. Once Peanut is in attack mode, we cannot seem to distract him.

Oliver generally just stays out of Peanut's way or ignores him and Peanut does not go for him. The more Ariel or Bailey run away, the more Peanut seems to want to hunt and attack them. We took Peanut to my boyfriend's house for a month to give the other cats a break and because we thought that maybe since he was only recently neutered, his hormones might still be raging. We bought him back and tried some basic introduction steps with limitations because Peanut refuses to be locked in a single bedroom and Bailey refuses to go into the bedroom where Peanut's bed is. But we did things like scent swapping before bringing Peanut back, having them eat on opposite sides of a closed door, I try sleep with Bailey sometimes so that I dont become the territory of one cat etc. We have got as far as getting Peanut and Bailey to eat together once, had all 3 males in the lounge on different sofas without issue but Bailey and Ariel seem almost scarred from their previous experience with Peanut. Things have been OK for 3 weeks but it has required almost constant supervision of Peanut until yesterday when he really attacked Ariel badly again and I am sure will go for Bailey if I let him. He has tried a couple of times to go after Bailey but we were able to intervene.

Peanut (and the other cats) get lots of treats and strokes when they are in close proximity to create positive associations but while Peanut wolfs everything down, the other cats won't touch any food now if he is around. Bailey has started to spend more time out of the house but I try to coax him in and get him upstairs before Peanut can see him. I feel we have read all the usual stuff including all the posts about Cat Introductions on this site, and watched several YouTube videos but are at a loss as to how to get Peanut to stop his bad behaviour, if we can. I don't know how long we give it before we may have to accept that he might be a cat that just doesn't want to live with other cats despite him having shared his space with other breeding cats for 4 years. The key behaviour we noticed is that originally, Bailey seemed non-plussed and indifferent to Peanut's presence, but as soon as he started to back down and let Peanut assert himself as the alpha, we think that is when it all went wrong. I dont want to give Peanut up because he is a beautiful, otherwise wonderful pet, but I also cannot bare to see Bailey and Ariel be so stressed. Any help that is outside of the usual would be so appreciated!
 
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tanya daly

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Oh, should have mentioned that Peanut is a male Bengal. Its not the first time I had a Bengal and I have successfully introduced cats many times before, this is the first time I am having such a serious issue :-(
 

rubysmama

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Sorry you're dealing with Peanut's major aggression.

It sounds a little bit like another thread I'm following so I am going to post the link, in case there might be something in it to help you. I'll also tag C catluvs in case they want to read your thread, or just see that they are not the only one struggling with cat attacks.

Here's the link: Sweet cat with redirected aggression, please help: euthanasia may be the only option.

In addition, maybe something in this TCS article will be helpful: Why Do Cats Attack? – Cat Articles

I'm also wondering if it has something to do with him being a Bengal, so will tag bengalcatman bengalcatman in case he has anything thoughts.
 
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tanya daly

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Thanks, I did read the sweet cat with redirected aggression but it sounds like a very different problem, Peanut is not so bad that he would ever need to be put down. When he was at my boyfriend's house, he was perfectly fine so the final solution would be to find him a home where he could be the only cat. He is a wonderful cat in all other respects. What I cannot understand is why he was fine one day and then went for my cats the next but when I observed it, its more that the other cats behaviour changed rather than his i.e. when they act like prey, he hunts them. When they act confidently and unperturbed by his presence, he does not attack.I also wonder how much of this is him exerting his dominance and taking advantage of his new found freedom having come from an environment where he was picked on and in a cage
 

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It sounds as if Peanut is having fun doing the bullying at the expense of Ariel and Bailey. Being a Bengal, his need for exercise and mental stimulation must be sky-high. After Peanut's experiences with females in the cattery, he likely has a strong mistrust of females in general and is using the theory that the best defense in a good offense.
What types of play are you using for him? I like using a repurposed fishing pole with a teaser toy attached on the end - the diameter of the play circle is greatly increased and allows for across-the-room dashes and high leaps into the air. I also recommend learning tricks, especially for the bullied cats, as a confidence restorer. Finally, there is a free, online course from Maddies Fund that teaches feline communication:
https://www.maddiesfund.org/feline-communication-how-to-speak-cat.htm
Please let us know what you try & the results that you get.
 
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tanya daly

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Thank you. Yes, he has a lot of toys: stuffed animals, balls galore, a feather teaser, electric butterfly chaser toy which he loves, he loves playing with elastic bands, and access to the outdoors so we definitely keep him stimulated as Bengals are high energy and highly intelligent. I will definitely check out that link and see if there are other things to try.
 

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Does he like to play fetch with the toys? I have a Maine Coon that in his younger days would hunt & attack other cats unless he had TONS of interactive play with humans. He liked to have an actual thinking brain on the other end of toy "mixing it up" so that his stalking/pouncing was unpredictable. Regular wand toys were nowhere long enough so I originally used my horses' lunge whip until my ex left the whip out after a too-short play session; JC, in frustration, chewed the lash into interestingly-equal lengths and then chewed the end of the whip body. After that, I switched to retired fishing poles with yarn inside plastic straws (to decrease entanglement or choking). As well, I have used the fishing pole toys to help tame ferals outside. I like the length of fly fishing rods best because anything less than a 10 - 12 foot dash is not enough for JC nor for the ferals.
Another confidence builder that I use for the "victims" is comfort grooming with a comb.
 
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bengalcatman

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I won't presume to offer any suggestions, looks like you have researched the problem well and received lots of good advice. You certainly have put a lot of thought and care into fixing the issue. I can relate our Bengal story and maybe you can find something helpful in it.

Our male Bengal, Makena, was aggressive toward all other animals when we first got him. He sprayed in the house and more than once tried to dominate us with growling and threatening behavior. Once he had time to get over his past, learned to trust us, felt secure and had all his needs met (mainly daily walks and interaction with with us) he became friendly with other animals. He was the only cat in our house during the adjustment phase, if we had brought another cat in, he likely would have torn it to shreds. We now have three cats and Makena is attentive, protective, loving and playful with the other cats... BUT... he is careful to assert his dominance. This comes in the form of occasionally pushing them away from their dish and eating their food, or bullying them off a favored napping spot.

Our bond is very strong with Makena, he listens and is looking to be a good family member. We can tell him to leave another animal alone and he will. Once he gets the idea of what we want, he generally complies. He will not, under any circumstances, tolerate a stray cat or dog on our property and will attempt to run it off. But this is what he views as protecting us, if we pet and talk to the intruder, Makena will keep a close eye but leave it alone.

It took a long time and all the patience we had to get to this point.

In retrospect, all of Makena's difficult behaviors were caused by two things: 1) not getting enough interaction and stimulation, 2) emotional pain

1) interaction and stimulation: Makena was different in that he didn't need attention, he needed interaction. 1:1 play times with toys, hide and seek games with us and his walks and hikes with us where we all enjoyed being out together, being quiet while he stalked something, praising him for climbing a tree, pointing out things he would be interested in etc. There has to be a lot of "new" challenges for him: new places to explore, new toys, new games with us... things to discover and make him think.

2) Makena hurt inside. He had been shuttled from home to home and had his heart broken a few times. His play and interaction needs had not ever been met and he was frustrated and feeling like he didn't belong anywhere... too wild to fully be a "pet cat" and too much of a pet cat to ever be fully wild. His life had been very painful. (This is why I have a soft spot for Bengals, I suspect many of them don't get what they need and they suffer a lot of emotional pain.)

This all was anything but clear when we first got Makena. We were initially fairly sure he had to remain as the only cat in our house, but our vet had a little timid female Bengal (Lilia) that needed a new home. The vet knew how much we had struggled with Makena, so Lilia was given to us with the idea of a very slow intro and the promise we could return her if needed. It took about two months for the intro and all went well (scent swapping and slow intro.) There was never any challenge to Makena for "top cat" status because Lilia was very timid. Like Makena, Lilia hurt inside from the loss of her former owner (she passed away) and there was long adjustment period to her new home. We had Makena for close to two years before we brought Lilia in.

Two years ago Makena found a kitten while we were out hiking, we brought her in and he basically took care of her and raised her (story here.) It was a long and difficult road from where he was to who Makena is now.

Though Makena is very bold and confident, he sometimes needs guidance. If he seems a little too much of a bully to one of the other cats, we tell him "no" and gently redirect him to a toy. If the weather is too cold/rainy/snowy and he doesn't want to go out, he will sometimes start to pace back and forth in frustration. In this case we pick him up, talk to him a bit, and take him to his quiet spot to nap (dark closet, top shelf with a piece of our clothing to lay on, inaccessible by other cats) and he will curl up there for an hour or so, then jump down and be back to his normal self. He is slowly learning to do this on his own. Sometimes he simply asks for direction: when we first had Lilia out and about on her own, she walked up to Makena and swatted him hard on his nose, Makena looked at me with huge eyes, and I said, "No, leave her be," and put his head down, stood his ground and did not retaliate. Two years earlier he probably would have torn her face off. I was making a ham sandwich at the time and he got about half the ham for that one.

Again, in retrospect (and again, anything but clear at the time,) once his needs were met, the key was building a bond strong enough that he began to be interested in pleasing us. Once he reached that point, it was a matter of being able to make him understand what we wanted (not always easy.)

We sought help from a few professionals with mixed results: An expensive animal behaviorist who more or less told us to put him down, a cat vet who prescribed an inappropriate medication, etc. Finally we found a cat specialist who gave us sound advice (patience, time, lots of play,) fully examined Makena (found he had a kidney issue and needed his fluid intake increased) and prescribed daily 5mg prosac... all of which helped a great deal.

Couple of misc things: I don't know how Makena would react to another male cat in the house. We don't ever shout at him or spray him with water (I suspect in Makena's particular case that would just confuse him or make him angry.) We treat Makena with a great deal of respect: he needs a lot of private quiet time and we never interfere with that. When hiking... to whatever extent is possible, we let him pick a path, set a pace, take as much time as he wants to sniff or investigate. We have never placed him in a cat carrier, he wears his harness and lead whenever outside, and sits on a shoulder in public places. Not saying any of this is the "right" way, it is just what we do.

In general with Bengals, the lower the generational gap to the Asian Leopard, the more wild they are. I have a bunch of customers with Bengals and a few have related that there are exceptions to this, Bengals that are 7 or more generations out that are VERY wild. The more wild, the more challenging they can be to figure out and own.

Hope something here is helpful!

Makena playing with "his" kitten



Makena on walk
 
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tanya daly

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Thanks Bengalcatman, some very useful stuff, but I guess it will take a lot of time and patience. I was shocked at how much cat behaviourists cost but one said I would have no choice but to get rid of him. We have actually made massive progress in 3 days by making sure that we play with Peanut and Bailey (my other large male) together, feed them together and give them affection together because we had an epiphany that Peanut is acting out of jealousy and FOMO, and we also took on board what you said about being emotionally damaged. When Peanut saw Bailey with a toy or sitting on my lap, he suddenly wanted that too. We also realised that the other cats spending too much time out of the house made him think that this is his domain and they are invaders so we have kept all the cats together indoors for extended periods so he is aware that this is their home too. We have also been giving him Nutracalm. I just worry because I can control his behaviour right now because I am home a lot but next week I will be much less so. We did have Peanut on a harness for a while to try keep him in check but he started to get irritated with it and was chewing it off or getting stuck as he tried to wriggle out of it so I am not sure how you take your cat for walks, I would love to do that. I have definitely taken on a challenge but when I took Peanut out of his previous situation, I knew it was a gamble because I was bringing in a male and he came from an unhappy situation. Optimistic that we may still resolve this situation.
 

cataholic07

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Whenever there is a full on cat fight and the cats dont get along after it, it is best to do a reintroduction. Feeding close together, play time in the same area (if they share the toy its fine to play with just one wand toy, if not play with 2 wand toys). Give treats when together. Basically whenever they are with each other, it means great things. It could have been redirected aggression. Sometimes seeing a cat or dog from across the block can trigger a redirected aggression. You can try feliway multicat to :)
 

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:clapcat: :rock: :salam:. Wonderful update! Will you please share some top tips that worked well for you? I know that you searched far & wide for help and considered many ideas from multiple sources - a compilation will be most welcome :catlove:
 
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tanya daly

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:clapcat: :rock: :salam:. Wonderful update! Will you please share some top tips that worked well for you? I know that you searched far & wide for help and considered many ideas from multiple sources - a compilation will be most welcome :catlove:
Sure, will have a think and post something on a new thread x
 

bengalcatman

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bengalcatman bengalcatman I just wanted to say thank you for your advice, not just on this thread but others too, I read it all and with lots of time and patience, this is Bailey and Peanut now...Peanut and Bailey regularly lick each other and sleep together :-)
Its really nice of you to post up and tell how the story ends! I will be smiling all day, thanks!

I am very pleased to know that two hybrid males were able to be successfully introduced and eventually become friends. We have been causully talking about getting a Savannah, and we would like to get a male. Makena has readily accepted two females into our home but I was a bit afraid a male cat might be pushing the limits of what Makena is able to do.
 
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tanya daly

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Its really nice of you to post up and tell how the story ends! I will be smiling all day, thanks!

I am very pleased to know that two hybrid males were able to be successfully introduced and eventually become friends. We have been causully talking about getting a Savannah, and we would like to get a male. Makena has readily accepted two females into our home but I was a bit afraid a male cat might be pushing the limits of what Makena is able to do.
Not gonna lie, it wasnt easy, and they still play-fight and play the dominance game occasionally but for the most part, my Bengal (Peanut) always snuggles up really close to Bailey when they are sleeping and for a long time followed him around everywhere - quite a switch from tearing bits of fur off him until Bailey was too scared to come in the house. Peanut came to us as a 4 year old cat with a lot of emotional baggage so perhaps you will have an easier experience - I have not had such an issue introducing 2 males before - this was the only time I have had issues (I had done it 4 times before) so I am sure you follow the normal steps and make sure that they both get equal attention and positive associations i.e. lots of kitty treats in front of each other, you will be fine.
 
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