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Elderly rescue cat problems

(30 Posts)
Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 20:28:11

I rehomed a cat from a rescue centre 6 months ago, he's a 16 year old male found as a stray. He is always pretty friendly towards me.
These are the problems: I have two spaniels, the cat will not tolerate them at all and basically lives upstairs with the dogs downstairs - baby gate on top of stairs. When they all meet at this baby gate it's like world war 3!
Secondly, the cat has gone to bite my toddler twice now, both times toddler hasn't done anything to cause this, has just gone to touch cat possibly too quickly.
So, any ideas on what I should do? The cat has had six months to get used to the dogs already so that will never happen, it's a shame for the dogs who I've had for 9 years since puppies. I can't tolerate the biting, not when it's totally uncalled for.
Is this cat unsuitable for our home set up? I'm reluctant to give up on him but feel like I've given him a fair crack of the whip and nothing's improving.

MillyBlods Fri 21-Feb-14 20:35:18

O bless.....he is quiet an old cat and possibly not very tolerant of children and noise preferring to be somewhere quiet and just to go to people when he wants to snuggle. I am surprised that a rescue centre allowed you to have an elderly cat to be honest given your home set up. They usually check out the home and family situation first before making a decision. Have you had the vet have a look at him to make sure that there is nothing wrong with him in any way?

Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 20:45:07

I explained fully the situation with the dogs and the kids and it was agreed that they all be kept desperate using the baby gate for a couple of weeks until they got used to each other / that is just never going to happen.
Due to the cat living upstairs the children only see him after bath time, tonight we were all in bed and the cat came for a stroke, toddler went to put a hand on his tummy and that's when he bit him.
I want to give him a home for the rest of his life but I don't know if our home is too unsuited to him and like I say the poor dogs have been relegated to downstairs.

Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 20:46:04

He was vet checked when we got him, he's eating and a good weight. Don't think his personality has actually changed, it'd just him.

thecatneuterer Fri 21-Feb-14 20:50:13

I really don't know the answer to this. And I would speak t o the rescue to see what they suggest.

However you said that the cat bite when the toddler touched his stomach. That is very, very common. Many cats hate having their stomachs touched and it's something that can make even the most placid of cats bite.

Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 20:55:31

Thanks for the advice.
He had been in the centre for a long time so I think they were keen for him to be rehomed, maybe not ideal circumstances but better than staying at the shelter.
They also told me not to let him outside which I don't know if that's making him miserable. He's been a stray so will be used to being out and about.

Fluffycloudland77 Fri 21-Feb-14 20:57:31

With rescues you only know the history the shelter knows.

Our rescue hated men. Her male owners used to beat her, they also starved her. She was always ready to scratch first because of this.

timtam23 Fri 21-Feb-14 21:04:44

Poor old boy. Unless he came from a home where there were dogs & small children, I'd say your house was not going to be a straightforward placement for him - and I suppose the centre didn't know his history, if he was found stray. They were probably desperate to rehome him ,given his age, but I'm amazed they thought he would settle with the dogs after 2 weeks! I had 2 very old cats (now down to 1) and my kids are still young although not toddlers, and it's taken years for the cats to get used to the children never mind a dog as well!
Cats tend to be very wary of being touched on their tummies - it is where they feel most vulnerable - so I'm afraid a bite would not be unexpected if a child makes a move to stroke a cat's tummy. Toddlers moving quickly towards an elderly nervous cat - I've been there and to be honest I have been very firm with the children about touching the cat & being gentle with him. Also if he lives upstairs (which mine tended to do, and my remaining old boy still does - asleep on the bed) he is probably preferring a quiet life. My oldest cat was never fond of the children & was nervous around them, I always always closely supervised them around her as they would try to stroke her but might ruffle her fur the wrong way or stroke her somewhere she didn't like - and she would then get upset, understandably, but I didn't want her to get distressed or the kids to get clawed/bitten
From my limited experience of old cats and small kids it can be possible to combine the 2 and still give the cat some peace & quiet. Absolutely no idea how to manage the old cat/dog issue though, sorry. Have you tried contacting the rescue for advice? I'm also sure many of them have clauses in the rehoming contracts where they will take the animal back if the placement fails?

cozietoesie Fri 21-Feb-14 21:05:54

He sounds a bit under-confident to me. Who knows what his past has been.

I wouldn't worry about him and the dogs. They'll work things out one way or another - but I suspect he'll take longer to adjust to the toddler and vice versa. Was the bite a real bite or a warning bite ? (The latter would do no real damage although it could frighten the little one.) And does he ever use his claws? (eg on a swipe.)

Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 21:21:18

Fluffy do you think it would be wise to return him in the hope he can find somewhere better suited to him, or persevere and let him live out his days here?

Aloneandnowwhat Fri 21-Feb-14 21:24:18

Cozie it was definitely a warning bite and he's never used his claws. I think I posted this almost as a knee jerk reaction to that. He is a lovely cat generally and they only come into contact for maybe half an hour a day, it might have helped teach the toddler to be more wary because he's very confident around cats and dogs.

MillyBlods Fri 21-Feb-14 21:32:45

Keep him and teach your little one to be wary and let the cat come to him. Most cats give warning nips. I think its brilliant that you adopted him, really do.

cozietoesie Fri 21-Feb-14 21:43:29

I think it will be OK, even though you may be a bit despondent at an apparent lack of progress after 6 months.

The dogs are probably just playing even though it may sometimes sound like the Last Trump. (Who knows what his experiences of dogs are though - many of the cats in my previous garden would run from my old collie who wouldn't have touched a cat except to lick them. But they didn't speak his body language.) Maybe a few firm words to them - are they dogs which mind you?

As to the toddler, supervise contact and reinforce the 'no touching the cat' rule. (He should learn fairly fast if he's young.) And if he obeys the rules, the cat should also ease up eventually - remember that with a young kiddie, the cat is having to make as many constant adjustments to changes in behaviour as you are. Except he's old and it may take him a little longer.

Fluffycloudland77 Fri 21-Feb-14 21:57:25

I think you should try keeping them apart at bath time, it's too much excitement.

Is he allowed on beds? He could be better once they are in bed with a story book.

timtam23 Fri 21-Feb-14 23:50:35

I really hope you are able to find a solution that lets you keep him, as it's fantastic that you've taken on an elderly cat - so many of them are unwanted in rescues and in fact they're often delightful pets - my 2 old ones (until they started to get more old-age ailments) snoozed all day and would then pootle around for some food and some strokes.

Aloneandnowwhat Sat 22-Feb-14 07:14:41

I think we'll just plod along as we are, reinforcing to toddler that cat is not to be stroked on tummy etc. and keeping dogs separate still. They do listen when they're told off for barking through the babygate.
I was reluctant to return him I just worried it was a stressful situation for him. Saying that, he gets to lounge around all day with a full tummy, then sleep curled up on the bed all night so it can't be all that bad!
Thanks everyone for the advice, it's been really helpful.

cozietoesie Sat 22-Feb-14 08:02:16

Does he show signs of trying all ways to get outside again? (That would be a real giveaway.)

Aloneandnowwhat Sat 22-Feb-14 15:13:03

No he just sits on the windowsill and if the window is open he'll try to get outside.

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 22-Feb-14 15:17:08

Did they give a reason for him not going out? Indoor cats who want to be outdoors can go a bit dotty.

Aloneandnowwhat Sat 22-Feb-14 15:26:44

No reason given, could it be in case he wandered off? He does have mad moments of hoolying around upstairs!

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 22-Feb-14 15:59:04

If it was me I'd let him have a wander in the garden. My cats always in a better mood when he's been out.

Aloneandnowwhat Sat 22-Feb-14 16:13:50

Fluffy should I get a harness for him or will he just come back? Garden is easily escapable for a cat!

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 22-Feb-14 16:46:31

Cats come back, I tried a harness on mine but he hated it and I don't think it was down to the fact it was pink with diamante either.

Let him out hungry and it gives them an incentive to come back. Keep the dogs in though so he doesn't get scared of them. It sounds like he hasn't realised that dogs are all mouth and no trousers.

Ndn German Shepard tried barking at my cats but they would just sit there giving him the "you are a lower life form not worthy of my attention, you ball chasing cretin" look and he'd get bored and go away.

cozietoesie Sat 22-Feb-14 16:53:25

I remember reading a lengthy article by an animal behaviourist once - the upshot of which was that cats who have been used to nothing but indoors are fine indoors but that cats who have been used to going outside and doing their own thing can be psychologically troubled by being forced to stay inside. (That's assuming you play with them properly and do all the good things.)

It's a difficult one. Outside-going free ranging cats come back because they want to and there's nothing to make them. You can emphasize to them what a great billet they have by giving them lovely food a day or two beforehand and letting them go out hungry the first time (and being out in the garden rough-supervising them for the first few escapades) but in the final analysis they'll come back because they like their life with you and nothing else.

If he's trying to get outside via any open window (and bear in mind that he's been with you through some winter months and rotten weather (if you're in the UK) then I think you may be in some difficulty once spring and summer arrive and there are things a-doing in the garden and sunshine. Unless, unbeknownst to you, he was FeLV positive or something like that, I'd be considering letting him have a wander.

MillyBlods Sat 22-Feb-14 17:27:40

Unfortunately some older cats can suffer from memory problems though and can wander off to far and not find their way home, even worse if the cat has not lived there long. I would use a harness as if he did wander off you would then spend hours looking for him and worrying where he might be.

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