DAISY AND MABLE
We adopted Daisy (pictured left) & Mabel (pictured below) from the RSPCA in May 2006 and they settled in with us & our 1-year-old daughter very quickly. For several months we all lived in harmony but as the summer progressed we noticed that one or other (or both?!) was occasionally spraying inside the house and that both cats were becoming quite reluctant to go outside. By the autumn the spraying problem had accelerated and we decided to research the subject using several cat behaviour books. The neighbourhood has many domestic cats in a small territory as well as a family of feral cats nearby. Following the advice we went back to stage one and treated the cats as if they had just arrived with us, restricting their access within the house & keeping them indoors. We covered the windows with newspaper so they couldn’t see any other felines and therefore shouldn’t need to spray to mark their territory.
Things improved and the spraying seemed to calm down (we were never quite sure if it was one or other or both or the cats). Daisy and Mabel seemed very happy & loving in themselves, they ate well & were extremely tolerant with our toddler. Occasionally they would have a little scrap & hiss at each other but they never showed any aggression towards us.
During the winter Daisy & Mabel stopped going outside altogether, if we put them out they would start crying to come in within minutes. One or twice a week I would find areas of spray on the skirting board or near a window or door. We decided that as long as they seemed happy & healthy we could cope with it.
By the beginning of spring 2007 I was heavily pregnant with our second child. Suddenly Daisy & Mabel began to spray everywhere. On kitchen worktops, on beds, curtains, fireplaces, doors, windows & even on a laundry basket of clean washing. It became totally intolerable. Still following the advice in the books I was scrubbing floors & surfaces with biological washing powder daily (a nightmare for me being 8 month pregnant & allergic to detergent!), laying down tin foil & orange peel to deter them and spending a fortune on Feliway diffusers. With a new baby imminent the situation was impossible. Heartbroken & at our wits end we phoned the RSPCA to ask if they would take Daisy & Mabel back. The nurse we spoke to said of course they could be re-homed but suggested we spoke to Elaine Hart first as she may be able to help. I called Elaine & she agreed to visit that week.
Elaine came round one morning and observed the cats for an hour or so. She asked questions about their behaviour and how they were treated, what food, toys, attention etc. By the end of the session she had advised that we remove use of the cat flap and put the cats out between 8am & 5pm daily (I recall she said they needed to be treated like real cats and not soft toys allowed to lounge around the house all day!). She also wrote a list of other useful advice.
Within a week the spraying had stopped and the cats were spending most of the day outside regaining their territory. By the time our second daughter was born in mid April the problem had totally gone away and household harmony returned.
Daisy and Mabel continued their good behaviour and lived with us very happily until sadly we had to have sweet Mabel put to sleep this January after suffering from chronic anorexia. Once again Elaine was extremely helpful and supportive, suggesting ways we might try to feed Mabel and foods to stimulate her appetite. Unfortunately Mabel was diagnosed with a tumour in her intestines that she just couldn’t recover from (but she gave a good fight!)
Initially Daisy was quite lost without her best friend and really quite clingy, but with extra cuddles & playtime she’s doing really well solo. For a long time she wouldn’t go outside without one of us with her but now she’s chasing off the neighbourhood cats and has claimed all the ‘top-cat’ spots in the house!
We still all really miss Mabel but are so grateful to Elaine as without her help we wouldn’t have had Mabel for so long or have Daisy with us now. We’re so glad we contacted Pets Behaving Better & didn’t give up.