I recently adopted a 9-week-old kitten we named Sonny. I have two older female cats, Dolly, who we have had 10 years, and Charlotte, who we have had eight years. My problem is Sonny chases after the female cats, and they run from him. He has tried to jump on their backs, but they are faster and get away. I tried putting them in carriers and making them look at each other, but it hasn’t helped. The girls just hiss at him. How can I help them connect? Will it get better as he gets bigger? Any advice would be appreciated. How can two big cats be so afraid of a tiny kitten? — Linda, Long Island, NY
The good news: they will eventually tolerate each other. They are not fighting, but Sonny is definitely establishing his territory at a young age by chasing the other two cats away. Make sure you have multiple litter boxes in the home so he doesn’t chase them away from a litter box, too.
Your cats could probably benefit from a slower introduction. Put Sonny in a bedroom for a little while each day for about two weeks, so that Dolly and Charlotte can wander around the house as they usually do. Then scent swap with the cats. Bring items that your two adult cats have slept on (cat beds, towels, blankets) into the room for Sonny to smell, and vice versa. By going slower with the introductions, everyone should be more at ease when they are together.
Next, when Sonny chases the girls, redirect his energy by tossing a pom-pom ball across the room or pulling out a feather wand to grab his attention. Over time, he should learn the girls are not his playthings and that he should leave them alone.
Finally, get a vertical cat tree so the cats have more spaces to get away that are not always out of the room.
Just know, whenever you bring a new pet home, the animal hierarchy can change, and the newest member of the family could turn out to be the top dog in the house. But don’t let Sonny bully or chase the girls. Keep redirecting his energy until he is old enough to know better.
I have two feral cats. Pigeons are trying to take the cat food. I have to bring it in before the cats can finish. Also, do you have any suggestions for better food? I give them “complete” dry food twice a day. When I give them canned food, the cats suck out the juice and leave the rest. Sometimes, they will eat chicken. I have had them for seven years so far, but they are much too thin.— Mary, Las Vegas, NV
Food left outside will attract other animals, but there are a few things you can do to protect it from interlopers.
First, set up a bird feeder. When given a choice between cat food and seeds, fingers crossed, the pigeons choose the seeds.
Second, if these feral cats are in your backyard or if these are the only feral cats you feed daily, you should feed them at the same time every day. You also want to stick around and watch them eat, so you can pick up the food when they are done. It may take a few weeks, but the cats should learn to show up as soon as you arrive and to eat before you go.
Finally, put the food bowls in a small dog house or use a large upside-down plastic container with an entry hole cut into the side that is large enough for a cat to enter. Most birds will not feel safe venturing into such a closed space, so it will give cats a private area to eat. You can leave the food out longer if it’s protected, but don’t leave it out all night as that might attract rodents to your yard.
As for food, feed feral cats the best dry and wet foods you can afford. Break up the wet food, so they don’t just suck out the juices and will actually eat some of it. You can offer them human grade tuna fish and Mackerel, boiled chicken, and turkey as an occasional treat, but don’t feed it to them all the time. They need nutrients, especially taurine, which are found in commercial cat foods.
If they look sickly, you may want to trap them and take them to the vet. Many illnesses could make them lose weight and look malnourished.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.