September 29, 2011
Social facilitation: Why aren’t other cat behaviorists aware of it?
Remedy? Study cat behavior.
I had the pleasure of co-hosting an episode for Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats with John Fulton. As the Cat Behaviorist (or as they called me, Cat Whisperer) on the episode, we worked with a client of mine in Newport Beach, California. My client has recently become engaged to his Russian girlfriend, Ala, who owned a lovely hairless Sphynx, Luxora, she brought with her from Russian. As the story can commonly go, his two cats did not get along with Luxora. She only wanted to play, but sometimes was a little too rough and triggered fear behavior. The owners also reintroduced the cats much too quickly which created confrontational and threatening feelings that led to this fear. My job was to show the owners how to reintroduce the cats in a very positive and non-threatening way.
Social facilitation (sadly, a behavior technique left out by most behaviorists) is critical in getting a multi-cat household to exist peacefully. Without a group scent = TROUBLE. Cats primarily rely on scent and a group scent helps the cats feel affiliated with one another and can decrease hostility between them. It’s not enough to merely have the cats’ scents spread out throughout the home. The cats must all smell alike or you’ll create factions or cliques of cats throughout your home and territorial thinking. In fact, here is a USA Today article that proves my point and I wish this lack of understanding wasn’t the case, but unfortunately, there is advice out there that is really incompetent. All one needs to do is read a vet behaviorist book and do some research to stay on topof the latest in cat behavior. http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-01-12-pet-talk-cats-smell_N.htm
If done correctly (gradually and with pleasant associations) this technique is very beneficial to cats and helps in eliminating aggression between them.
Another very important technique is creating an environment that decreases territorial disputes and aids in time sharing important resources. A land-o-plenty is critical when it comes to keeping the peace in a multi-cat household. But more on that in my next blog!