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Questions for Marilyn, the Cat Coach, on Savannah Cat Behavior

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#21
Hi Marilyn:

So I have a couple questions, actually and I apologize for the length! I have 1 and a half year old F5 neutered male SV, Gilliam, and a 10 year old unknown generation neutered male Chausie, Kubrick. They get along fairly well - but not great. Gilliam will groom Kubrick, which Kubrick seems to enjoy - but Kubrick never grooms Gilliam. They will sometimes curl up next to each other, pressed against each other - but never totally together. They play together - but fairly often it turns into true wrestling, roughhousing and both are so powerful....no major injuries yet, but Kubrick gets pretty upset sometimes. Perhaps as a result, Kubrick started mounting Gilliam a few months ago. He only does it when we go outside to the back porch (the door is glass and they can see us). Gilliam will run up to the door and watch us, sometimes howl, through the glass - Kubrick will come up from behind, making this awful wailing noise, and mount Gilliam. We've tried spraying him with water but it does not matter one bit. What to do? Why does he do this? Is it a dominance thing?

Also - both cats are exceedingly needy and demanding. Gilliam has to follow me absolutely everywhere. If he can't be where I am, he howls. If I shut any door between us, he howls. If I don't pay him enough attention, he howls. It doesn't bug me all that much but it drives my husband batty as he has got a MOUTH on him. Kubrick used to really beg for my husband's attention, but over time has shifted to demanding mine, as well - almost like a jealous reaction to how much time I spend with Gilliam. So now he's very needy too - though not as much as Gilliam. But if I pet Gilliam, I have to pet Kubrick. If Gilliam is laying on the bed, Kubrick has to be on the bed too. I'm just not used to it - because before Gilliam we had a DSH, Java, who was "my" cat whereas Kubrick was my husband's cat. Now neither want anything to do with my husband and are competing for my attention which is getting frustrating! What can I do about the neediness? Anything?

Thanks!!!

Angelic
 

Per Lausund

Moderator
Staff member
#22
Hi, Marilyn, and it´s good of you to spend time with us here on the Savannahcatchat. It´s appreciated!

Now, just a short one: how long would you expect it to take for a four month old kitten to get used to its new environment when it moves to a new slave family, and will it take longer if they are two kittens moving in at the same time?

Thank you,
Per
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#23
Hi Marilyn,

My Ragdoll cat, Solo, has a strange obession with scratching smooth/shiny things...usually vertical areas. He doesn't use his claws to try to actually "scratch" them. The one thing in particular that drives us nuts is our closet door. He will paw at that for several minutes sometimes and we have no idea why! It's funny and sometimes annoying if he decides to do it in the middle of the night.

The other things he loves pawing at is the laundry basket. He jumps inside and will paw at the bottom or the sides for several minutes. The last things we see him paw at are windows... for windows we figure he wants outside, but then again when he does this to the laundry basket or to the closet door, we can't say for sure if he really wants outside. I can leave our front door open and he will not go outside due to his fear of the unknown.

Why do you think he does this? He has never pottied outside his litter box, but a funny thing about him too is that he does not cover his pee or poop. Solo has always scratched vertically in his box, which is why at first we thought him scratching at the door or in the laundry basket meant he wanted to go potty in those places, but so far he hasn't. He has done this strange behavior for about two years now.
There are a few reasons that could be causing the behavior. First of all, it's possible you are reinforcing the behavior by responding to him when he paws and scratches. If you do respond, he may have figured out that when he does that behavior he receives attention from his favorite people.

Also, cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws. When they scratch, they are marking their territory. They scratch for other reasons as well, I won't go through them in this thread. Regardless, provide him lots of horizontal scratching mats and scratching posts. Place them in front or on top of the areas he's scratching. Some of the areas you can block with double sided tape. But... if you are blocking an area, make sure to give him something appropriate to scratch.
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#24
Hi Marilyn,

So nice of you to answer our questions! Thank you!

I have a neutered male savannah (kingston) who used to roam the house freely with the other cats including my 2 savannah queens. Well, one day, he went into the kitten room (snuck in behind me) and growled at the kittens. You can imagine how that went over with the two moms. They chased him all over the house. We kept them separated for a week or so and then we tried to introduce them again and the mom's HATE him now. Question is how do I get them back together? Currently, if I let the girls out, he and Sophie go in my daughters room and if he and soph are out, the moms (no kittens left at home) go away into their room. I worry that Kingston might scoot by me one day and start an all out war.

I should mention he growled because he was scared. He is now afraid of them. If he stood his ground they may back off but he runs away and they are glad to chase!

Anyway, that is my sob story. Any ideas would be appreciated. (i did try treat therapy for a while but one mom wouldn't fall for it).

Kathy
Maternal instinct... hormones are so strong. The queens now see him as a threat and dangerous. Changing their fearful, danger perception/association with him can be a challenge w/queens who will become moms again. Eventually, you may be able to reintroduce them, but for now, do keep them separated. Reintroducing them is done very gradually, can take months and monthse.
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#25
These answers are so useful, we appreciate it!

I wonder if its okay to ask even though we have not received our kittens yet... But I know others have had the issue before of door dashers.

We are looking at best methods to keep the Savannahs away from trying to run out the doors when we may go in and out of them for work. Instead of using such things as scat mats and compressed air etc, is there a way to deter them or train them not to try getting out the door so they're safe?
I do not recommend using scat mats and compressed air. I do recommend training them. In my book I have a chapter dedicated to the door darter. It goes through step-by-step how to stop the behavior. In a more general description, each cat needs to have a default location, such as a stool where she will be taught to sit and stay, using clicker training and other force-free methods. Kittens are worked with in short sessions and they learn fast.
I know many of you don't know what clicker training is. Instead of writing a long description, I'm going to include a link to one of my columns: http://www.catchannel.com/experts/marilyn-krieger/will-clicker-training-help-my-cat.aspx
 

AundreaLea

Site Supporter
#27
Marilyn - How does one train a cat to allow for nail trimming? I usually have to catch my boys when they are sound asleep to trim a couple of nails at a time. It takes a while to get all 36 nails done and with a third kitten joining us in June, I don't think I will be able to make it 54. I play with their feet, but they pull back when I go to cut when awake. Thanks for you help.
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#28
G' day Marilyn. My F2 & F6 prey upon my 18yr old DSH female in different ways and I would like advice on altering the behavior of each.

F2 grooms her but does not respect her boundaries when she says she has had enough. He will try to engage her in play with the same result. When she gets angry and swats him, he gets perturbed and starts a wrestling match resulting in much DSH screaming (she's not being hurt, she's angry). F2 always comes out on the losing side and I've had to treat him for 2 abcesses in the past 2 mos.

F2 also chews incessantly on certain parts of my F6 and over grooms him. F2 & F6 have been together since kittenhood.

F6 is has no respect for DSH. He bullies her and starts fights. She's never been hurt, but F6 definitely doesn't hold back. F6's behavior started at around 1.5 yrs and has continued to escalate. He is now 4.

With both SVs I've tried time outs, scruffing with a loud "NO", water bottle, redirecting the behavior, and applying Yuck to parts that are over groomed -- all to no avail.
Not only is there the age difference between the 18 YR old DSH F, and the Savannahs, but the needs of an 18 yr old DSH is far different then 4 year old Savannahs. The youngsters want to play and are easily bored, whereas the senior only wants to nap...

The two youngsters need to be given other activities to do, including play and clicker training. Clicker training is mentally stimulating and can keep the cats focused away from the older cat. Also, make sure you have lots of vertical territory... high vertical territory, plenty of scratchers and lots of interactive toys. Puzzle boxes where you hide treats, ball and tract toys will keep them entertained. Savannahs are so smart... you may want to set up a iCat agility course in your living room and train them to navigate through it. Also, the senior cat may benefit from having her own Savannah-free sanctuary room.

As far as the over-grooming... could be boredom, not enough stimulation, or there could be a medical component to it. Has the F2 been checked out by the vet?
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#29
Hi Marilyn, thanks so much for taking the time out of your week to share your expertise with us!

So I have a newly developing issue that I want to work on stopping before it becomes habit. Before bed every night I stick to my routine of playing with Keljin to make sure to get him tired before bed. Usually he sleeps through the night with me with little to no disturbances. Now this past week, I have been awoken to him scratching at the carpet and underneath the closet door furiously, making a desperate attempt trying to open it. My ferret's cage is inside the walk in closet, and I close it at night to make sure he isn't pawing at her or trying to eat her food. He has never scratched at carpet, or anything in that fashion ever before so this is a new behavior.

At first I would just sit up out of bed and scold him, and he would scamper away out of the room as fast as he could, recognizing that he got caught doing something I was not happy with. Well, that didn't stop it. So these past 2 nights I decided to go further to shut him also out of the bedroom entirely. It was sad because I missed our regular night cuddle time, but it also made things worse. Now instead he was scratching underneath the bedroom door all night, he also was wailing and howling long loud drawn out meows. I didn't give in and did not let him in, but unfortunately this did not make any improvement. Help! I want to be able to save my carpets, and my sleep!

Breanna
Is there another safe area you can put the ferret at night? Perhaps the ferret can have night time quarters that are more inaccessible to Keljin and out of the bedroom.

If Keljin is trying to get at the ferrets food, get an auto feeder and time it to open a few times at night. There are some available that have ice packs in them. The one challenge with some Savannahs and Bengals is that some figure out how to break the feeder in order to reach the food. So, if you do get an auto-feeder, it needs to be Savannah proof.
 

The Cat Coach

Marilyn and Maulee Krieger
#30
Hi Marilyn, thanks so much for taking the time out of your week to share your expertise with us!

So I have a newly developing issue that I want to work on stopping before it becomes habit. Before bed every night I stick to my routine of playing with Keljin to make sure to get him tired before bed. Usually he sleeps through the night with me with little to no disturbances. Now this past week, I have been awoken to him scratching at the carpet and underneath the closet door furiously, making a desperate attempt trying to open it. My ferret's cage is inside the walk in closet, and I close it at night to make sure he isn't pawing at her or trying to eat her food. He has never scratched at carpet, or anything in that fashion ever before so this is a new behavior.

At first I would just sit up out of bed and scold him, and he would scamper away out of the room as fast as he could, recognizing that he got caught doing something I was not happy with. Well, that didn't stop it. So these past 2 nights I decided to go further to shut him also out of the bedroom entirely. It was sad because I missed our regular night cuddle time, but it also made things worse. Now instead he was scratching underneath the bedroom door all night, he also was wailing and howling long loud drawn out meows. I didn't give in and did not let him in, but unfortunately this did not make any improvement. Help! I want to be able to save my carpets, and my sleep!

Breanna
Also, Make sure to feed him right after you play with Keljin.
 
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