I have written before on this blog about the antics of my cousin Karen’s cats, but this one really takes the cake…or catnip as it were.
In spite of careful planning on Karen’s part and talking to experts before bringing a new kitty (Tank) home to the “den” she shares with her main cat (Penny), all has not been smooth sailing since the brief honeymoon phase (see below and cue the awwwhhhs)
Brief Honeymoon Phase
In fact, far from it. Penny—the cat Karen’s had for years—has become skittish and less affectionate with her. Why? Because that adorable, playful, frenetic kitten appropriately named Tank has invaded Penny’s space and successfully competed with her for Karen’s attention. (One has only to watch Simon Tofield’s adorable video, “Double Trouble—Simon’s Cat,” to understand the gravity of the situation, or to see how Penny is more interested in scratching Tank than the scratching post, below.)
The “Bad Patch” (pre-intervention)
The Cat Behaviorist
Karen became so desperate, she decided to go out on a limb and call in a cat behaviorist who spent an hour and a half in the home, paying complete attention to Penny and ignoring Tank. She played a CD during her visit (ocean sounds, humpback whales), which she instructed Karen to play on repeat for the next several days, especially when she wasn’t around, to “continue the desensitization.”
“You have to run everything by Penny first,” said the behaviorist. “If you want to snuggle with Tank, check with Penny. If you want to feed Tank, check with Penny. If you want to play a game with Tank, check with Penny.”
Surprising though this might sound, Karen was instructed to praise Penny when Tank behaved well. Yes, you heard that right. For example, “Penny, great job teaching Tank how to wait patiently while you eat!” Or the opposite—Karen and Penny teaming up to give Tank a time-out if he became really rambunctious.
United front. Karen and Penny: a team; Tank: odd man out. Sounds cruel but is really a matter of readjusting the hierarchy with Penny the Elder reigning supreme and Tank the Toddler falling in step.
“The New Normal” (post-intervention)
Karen says, “It sounds absurd but we have had a complete and total turnaround. And a month later, it’s still sticking.”
Now, when she comes home, she makes a point of initially ignoring Tank, even if Tank is jumping up to say hello, warmly greeting Penny first.
How about you? How have you integrated a new arrival in your home?