Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Cat Vs. Cat

When God puts something on your heart, sometimes it means He wants you to be the person to do something about the situation.

About a year ago, I got involved with a local Trap-Neuter-Release group. Going into the group, I took to heart the advice that most adult feral cats never make the transition to house cat. In other words, I made myself accept that the cats I helped feed would have to live out their lives on the streets and never be rescued.

This past spring, that resolve got shaken. The reality is that while TNR might typically be the best option, some colony cats do turn out to be people-friendly. Such was the case with a cat named Bootsie. Therein lay a dilemma. Bootsie seemed to have potential to be someone’s cat, but first someone would need to step forward and show her how to be a housecat.

Originally, my husband and I had no intention of taking in a second cat. But the more I pushed for the group to find her a foster home, the more I felt God telling me that my husband and I should be the ones to take her in. And so finally, after a flood threatened her home, we became her foster parents.

In May, my husband I began the adventure of introducing Bootsie to Cinder. A feisty Tortoiseshell, she is our two-year-old cat whom we adopted from a no-kill shelter in December 2013. During this whole process, Cat. Vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett became a critical guide.

To start, we set up a sanctuary room. Bootsie got delivered to us in a dog crate. Inside was a cardboard box with a cozy blanket. There were also essentials such as water dish, food dish, and litter box. We added toys. The dangler proved key, allowing us to interact with her at a comfortable distant. After a few days, Bootsie made clear by her growing agitation that she wanted more freedom, and so we opened the door of her crate and gave her the run of the library.

Then began the process of preparing the two cats to meet. A huge part of this step involved exchanging scents. First, I started with socks. By rubbing the socks on their fur, I put Cinder’s scent on one pair and Bootsie’s scent on the other. I then put the Bootsie-scented socks in Cinder’s favorite areas, and vice versa. Cinder reacted mildly, hissing initially but then going off to play, while Bootsie showed no interest at all. Encouraged, I moved on to swapping beds, toys, and even litter.

The cats’ reactions remained mild. I moved onto one last exchange, that of rooms. Cinder was deposited in the library, while Bootsie was invited to explore our living room. After a few hisses, Cinder simply settled into taking naps on our printer, chair, window—all her favorite library spots. Bootsie remained undisturbed by Cinder’s ever-present scent, but she did quickly become overwhelmed by the large unfamiliar space. After a short time, she snuck behind our recliner and hid for the rest of the evening.

Finally, the day of introductions arrived! We put a partition between the library and the hall, to limit their exposure to each other. At first, the library door was only opened about a foot. After about a week, we opened the door further, so that the two cats could sit across from each other. We let them eat and play within sight of one another. After a few days, Bootsie had enough of even this confinement and tried to climb the partition. Time for the next adventure!

BootsieCinder_TowerAnd so the partition was finally removed, allowing Bootsie and Cinder to share the same living space. Some of the time. At night and when we both have to leave the house, we return Bootsie to the library.
The results have been mixed. There have been no fights. But Cinder is not happy about Bootsie’s presence. Often she will hiss at Bootsie, even lunge towards her. Other times, food proves a strong motivation, causing Cinder to push past Bootsie to coax from me. Then are even moments when the two share a space on our bed or recliner. The two girls even use our one cat tower. A lot of this success is due to Cat Vs. Cat.

It’s also due to two special cats. Even just a few short months ago, Bootsie knew nothing of indoor life. She clearly wants to learn. Cinder has begrudgingly accepted the presence of a second cat. I tell her daily about how Bootsie’s colony had been in danger of being flooded, and so she needed a home. Maybe Cinder’s listening to me. Whatever the truth, my husband and I are fosters again.


Even if you already own several books about cats, you should add Cat Vs. Cat to your collection. This guide by feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett focuses on the specific topic of multi-cat households, along with also providing information about the territorial nature of cats. In doing so, Bennett has written an interesting and thorough handbook on how to create and maintain a peaceful household when you live with more than one cat.

The feline hierarchy is important to understand because, unlike dogs who are pack animals, cats are more particular about their social structure. While they can indeed be social, they don’t view themselves as equals, and therein lies the dilemma. What further complicates the matter is not only do they have a pecking order, but this may change depending on who is in the room and what events are taking place. Bennett explains in great detail how to pay attention to each individual cat’s communication to best avoid conflicts. She covers every possible aspect of it, including how cats use their eyes, ears, tail, whiskers, hair, and even vocalization and posture when taking their defensive or their offensive status.

My most-applied chapter is “New Introductions”. Although you can find a variety of articles online about the topic, and many of these articles probably draw from the advice of Bennett herself, Bennett’s chapter pulls everything together in one place. There’s information about sanctuary rooms, the sock and room exchange, allowing cats to see one another, along with tips on what to do if things are progressing nicely or aren’t going well. Bennett even includes suggestions that I didn’t find online such as swapping litter scents. Every time I read even just this one chapter, I came away with new ideas.

Other chapters in Cat Vs. Cat build on the above ideas. In them, Bennett covers pretty much every situation imaginable when it comes to cat introductions. These include: food, play, litter box, scratching behavior, aggression, and stress. But Bennett doesn’t simply limit herself to how these topics apply to multi-cat households. No, she also throws in advice of what products are the best and how to care for them.

In fact, by now you may have noticed a common trait. Bennett doesn’t skim the surface with her advice but instead is thorough in her approach. She covers ground with so much detail that I’d actually suggest reading Cat Vs. Cat once for a broad overview. Then reread relevant chapters as needed. Doing the latter is how I realized that scolding my first cat for hissing at my second cat might inadvertently be increasing her negative behavior. Once I started using redirects, both cats became more playful and more open to sharing space.

Upon first reading, Cat Vs. Cat may feel overwhelming to relatively new cat owner. Each chapter runs around twenty pages and is fairly exhaustive, but the material is also vitally important. My cat has not only survived the introduction of a new addition, but is learning to feel comfortable around our foster cat. I credit Pam Johnson-Bennett with this success.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

When I first adopted cats in the mid-1970s, I knew absolutely nothing and there wasn’t much information out there to help me…. I didn’t know it then but I was about to begin a journey that would change my life.”

–Pam Johnson-Bennett, Pam’s Story


PamJohnsonBennettAlthough there was very little information available on cat behavior, Bennett figured if she read any book, magazine, or published paper on psychology and behavior, she would be better off than she currently was. Not only did Bennett began to read and research, but she also started to volunteer at every veterinary clinic, shelter, and rescue facility within 40 miles of her apartment. Bennett also did something that she considered ended up being the greatest learning tool of all. “I observed and learned from the cats themselves.”

When Bennett began her career in cat behavior consulting in New York in 1982, there was no such thing as a cat behavior consultant. According to Bennett, “one could find a dog trainer on just about every corner but the idea of anyone taking the time to go house to house and help people figure out the minds of their cats was laughed at”. Bennett was constantly advised to change her profession to cat sitting or cat grooming. During lean times, she did quite a bit of that, but Bennett also slowly began establishing herself as an expert in counseling owners on how to change their cats’ behaviors.

After Bennett started to enjoy a steady business in New York, it seemed to her as if the southern states were still far from understanding cat behavior and training, and so she moved to Nashville. After numerous attempts at other traditional jobs, Bennett eventually became a veterinary technician. Despite some negative press, Bennett soon found that Nashville opened its arms to her. In addition to a busy consultation business, Bennett began getting requests for endorsements from companies.



Fast forward to 2015. Pam Johnson-Bennett is now the best-selling author of seven books on cat behavior, host of the Animal Planet UK series Psycho Kitty, and one of the most sought-after cat behavior experts in the world. Considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting, she has influenced many practicing in the field today.

Along the way, she established many credentials. She founded the IAABC Cat Division where she served as its longtime chair for eight years. Bennett also served as the vice president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultant, as well as on the American Humane Association’s Advisory Board on Animal Behavior and Training, and worked with the Winn Feline Foundation. Currently, she’s a member of the Advisory Board for Tree House Humane Society.

In addition to her work on Animal Planet’s television series, Psycho Kitty, Bennett travels extensively to lecture on cat behavior at veterinary and animal welfare conferences around the world. She also makes numerous appearances on national television and radio.

Bennett owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior practice in Nashville, TN. A limited number of Skype consultations are available by appointment. Her office deals with all types of cat behavior and training issues.

Finally, Bennett was asked to be the behavior expert for Friskies. She has been touring and writing for them for many years. When they wanted an ultimate cat habitat designed, Bennett formed part of their original “Dream Team”.

All of this information came from the Cat Behavior Associates site. If you want to a fuller version, follow this link: Pam’s Story

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