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5 Tips for When Your Cat Is a Bad Houseguest

I never imagined my sweet Ghost Cat would be a bully, but staying with friends and their cats taught me how to deal with behavior problems.

 |  May 6th 2014  |   6 Contributions


When we needed to move to another city weeks before we could get possession of our new home, my husband and I faced a dilemma. Because of allergies and intense dogs, none of my family members in town could host us if we brought Ghost Cat, but luckily our cat-friendly homies stepped up. Despite having two kids, two cats, and a dog of their own, they opened their home to us. It’s a full house teeming with pet drama. Here are some tips I’ve picked up for dealing with the chaos.

1. Make introductions slow and cautious

Ghost Cat and Kahleesi stand-off.

Going slow is a good thing when it comes to introducing stranger kitties. Knowing what we know now, I am very glad we didn’t just throw the cats together. I’d hoped the three cats would become fast friends and assumed Ghost Cat would be submissive. My husband, on the other hand, kept his expectations low and himself on guard, just in case he had to break up a scratch match with Mia, the most well-established cat of the house.

Ghost Cat can spot poor Mia from a mile away.

No blood was spilled, but Ghost Cat made it clear she wasn’t about to respect Queen Mia’s reign or give any respect to the polydactyl Khaleesi. Ghosty chased them out of their favorite spots, attempting rule over every animal but the dog. Poor Mia hid high up on the kitchen cupboards to escape the newcomer, while young Khaleesi hissed at Ghost Cat, the insubordinate upstart. My husband and our friend were able to cool all the animal jets before things got too real, and move on from the ice-breaker phase to the isolation phase.

2. Keep ‘em separated

Ghost Cat stands at the door, taunting the other cats

For the safety of all cats involved, it’s better if everyone keep to their own corners in a situation like this. We decided to keep Ghost Cat in the guest bedroom when the other cats were out in the main part of the house. Despite Ghost Cat’s bad behavior, our friends were still wonderful and welcoming to her. Our hosts’ cats like to take daytime naps in the master bedroom, so Ghost Cat would get to come out into the main part of the house while the others were resting.

The freedom of the common spaces did not satisfy Ghost Cat, though. My little princess was out for blood, stationing herself in front of the shut bedroom door, taunting the other cats and proving to everyone exactly why we were isolating her.

3. Pills might be necessary in extreme cases

One of these and she went from lion to lamb.

In some cases, cat stress can be so severe a supplement is necessary. I needed the help of a little blue and white pill late one night when I heard an unholy yowl from the window sill. Ghost Cat was still screaming while I pulled back the curtain to reveal her trying to fight her way through the glass to kill the stray cat who was staring in from the other side. I knocked on the glass and scared the stray away, but Ghost Cat wasn’t so easily silenced. Even after I pulled her away from the window she kept screaming, freaking out and running around the room in the craziest way.

After like 20 minutes of a traumatizing freak out I remembered the three little Zylkene pills I had in my purse. My husband got a bottle of the milk-based supplement from the vet before driving more than 300 hundred miles with Ghost Cat in a U-Haul. I opened up a 75 mg capsule and dumped it onto a clump of wet food. About 10 minutes after she ate the medicated food, Ghosty was sleeping on my legs, totally out cold.

4. Try calming cuddles

Ghost Cat getting her cuddle.

Being in a strange space with strange animals is weird enough for a kitty, so it’s important that cats still get plenty of cuddles -- a hug from the right human is the original calming aid. Speaking of calming aids, after the success with the pills, I went to the pet store to see if I couldn’t find something a little lighter to lull Ghosty to sleep.

I found a gel treat containing tryptophan, so I figured I’d give that a go. The instructions said cats love the flavor and don’t have to be enticed into eating it, but fickle little Ghost Cat wasn’t a fan. She would only eat the gel if my husband mixed it into her food. The sticky gel has a hardly noticeable calming effect on my crazy cat. Just giving her a regular can of wet food and a good cuddle session before bed seems to be more effective. She’s cuddled on my lap as I type this.

5. Opt for a leash (indoors and out)

Watching TV while on leash. Calm as a cucumber.

Ghost Cat’s never been outside on her own since we got her (I feel like she had enough of that during her time as a stray), but we do take her out for adventures on a leash.

During our stay in our friends’ basement we’ve made an effort to take her outside for fresh air often, and my husband decided the retractable leash may be the solution to our indoor problems, too. As soon as he puts her into her harness she calms down -- I think she thinks the harness is hugging her.

The retractable leash is perfect for indoor use because it means she can be upstairs on the same level as our friends' cats without us worrying about her sneaking away from us and attacking. If we harness her up she mostly just sits around on the couch with us, walks along the backs of the couches or jumps down onto the living room floor to visit with the dog.

Ghost Cat and the resident dog: no problem.

There are some drawbacks to using the leash indoors -- she’s nearly tripped people and almost got people caught in her line, so the person holding the leash really needs to be paying attention. If you want to watch Game of Thrones, the leash will not do -- it’s best to stand and rock Ghost Cat like a baby (even if she is being a total Joffrey to the other cats).

Have you ever had to bring your cat to crash with friends? How did you deal with clashes between the resident kitties and the newcomer? Let us know in the comments!

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About the author: Heather Marcoux is Ghost Cat’s mom. She is also a wife, writer and former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts GIFs of her cat on Google +

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