Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

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Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:05 am

Brief background - when we brought Chai-Kitty home it was because she was totally unphased by dogs, people, or travel. She ruled this house, even Beamish with his high prey drive. For some reason, she can't deal with Pixel. Don't know if it's because she's older and creaky or because he's more her size or if she senses he's actually a working vermin dog, but she's shrunk her world to the size of the 2 kids' bedrooms.

Paul wanted to rehome her because when the kids forget to close the gate separating the dogs and Chai, there would be hissing and shrieking and chaos for a few minutes and it got on his nerves. As proof that I was willing to compromise and because I saw how shy Chai had become, I agreed to rehome her as long as we never would put her in the shelter - she'd always live with us until she had another home.

Fast forward to now. Paul is no longer an issue, but Chai is still worried. She has expanded her range a little bit more of the dog free zone, but not much. Unfortunately, now that the kids spend half their nights at Paul's, this means Chai doesn't have company for half of her nights. Adopting a 14 year old cat as an only pet with past litter box issues is not at the top of anyone's list. (Although she's been doing much better with the litter box after I made some changes.)

The kids will randomly tell me that they wish we could keep Chai. She is very affectionate with them and alternates which bed she sleeps in. So today I started the least stressful training program I could come up with. In a mostly empty room with only a chair and a trunk, I put a wire crate with Pixel in it. Then we brought Chai in while we distracted Pixel so he wasn't instantly shrieking when he saw her. Chai hid behind a chair and every time Pixel quietly looked in Chai's direction, he got a high value treat.

Chai was offered chicken baby food, but she wouldn't take it. She was clearly stressed and shaking. Bug held her at the far end of the room and I shoveled treats into Pixel's face for looking at her, then me. I thought Pixel was doing well and understood the game. But Chai never got less stressed. We kept it pretty short, maybe still longer than we should have, then let Chai run to her safe zone before releasing Pixel.

I can't figure out a way to keep Chai below threshold while still being close enough to be effective for Pixel. Bug was almost in tears seeing how stressed Chai was. I don't know what's worse - doing this training in short bursts even with her extremely stressed, or continuing to try to find Chai a home. We move in 5 weeks and I have a plan for a cat-safe area for Chai, but there won't be additional human interaction. So the cat will be moving one way or the other. Is it better to do this training with her stress so high or just leave her be to handle the stress of moving from the house she's known for 12 years?

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby emmas_mom » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:43 am

I probably would not do the training, especially not at this time when Chai will also feel stress from seeing boxes being packed, possibly feeling the kids excitement about moving, etc. If Chai is happy in the two kids' bedrooms, and you have a plan for the new home even though it won't increase the interaction with her, one way to think about this is "how can we make the interaction she does get with us quality time?" and "how can we create a cat-happy environment for her in the space she is in?". I recently read an article that talked about cats being content with about 15-30 minutes of one-on-one human contact a day, as long as they also have a stimulating (ie changing) environment. This doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but should involve novel things that change: adding a cardboard box or paper bag one day, moving a piece of furniture like a desk or a chair another, tossing in a few new toys frequently, sticking something unusual like a ladder in the room for a couple of days, hanging a mobile just outside the window for a few days. I keep Allie's toys in a container of dried catnip to 'refresh' them, and pull out one or two from the container whenever she's going to be alone for a while - she thinks they are brand new! The article also mentioned offering 15-30 minutes of human contact in the form of direct play or a lap to curl up on each day, even if the cat sleeps with the kids. I notice Allie sleeps with me, but still demands 15 minutes of lap time every morning and every evening.
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Sun Oct 11, 2015 9:56 am

That's good to know, Jean. The area Chai would have in the new house would be the "parlor" (the house was built in 1929 so I'm using parlor instead of living room) and my craft room, which may also be my office. These face the street and I planned on putting bird feeders out there anyway. The parlor will have my reading chair in it, so forcing myself to sit there for 15-30 minutes a day to read so Chai can hang out with me is no hardship. ;)

I've been trying to see how I can build a cat highway from the parlor to the upstairs so she could sleep with the kids if she wants to. I'm thinking I could potentially do floating shelves with crown molding on the front so they look like display shelves, just without anything on them. Chai will be my last cat, so I can actually display things on the shelves when she is no longer around to use them.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby UpwardDog » Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:14 am

So I guess Paul doesn't want to take her? That seems like an easy solution if he would. the kids could still see Chai and he wouldn't have to live with a dog who terrifies him. I think the odds of rehoming are slim to none, so i wouldn't make plans around that happening.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby KatrinH » Sun Oct 11, 2015 1:21 pm

I like the idea of the shelves, I think cats enjoy being up high much more too than down low. If you watch the cat whipserer stuff he always recommends shelves in fear situations too! May be an idea for training too, but I would also not continue training until moved and settled again. It may be okay to have them just seperate too and with the shelves Chai may be comfortable enough roaming some of the house even when Pixel is around.

Depending on Chai's character I don't think she will mind all that much being by herself, as long as she has other things to do, especially since she does have the kids around every other night and you could talk to them about being particularly attentive to her when they are home (play and cuddle with her). I like the bird feeders and that she is able to watch the outdoors. My cat at home loves to sit on the couch and watch the birds for hours. You may also want to consider getting a small fish tank with either fish or land creatures (butterflies, geckos, etc.) for her to watch? Otherwise different toys or even just boxes, etc. are good ideas. Probably can fill with treats or even just outside things like leaves or earth, etc. for new impressions.

I think if you cannot find her a new home that you are satisifed with, this may be a good solution and she wouldn't be really unhappy. It sounds like you are very concerned for her to get all she needs and that and some little time and work in setting things up are surely appreciated by her!

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Sabine » Sun Oct 11, 2015 3:10 pm

When Dax was still really crazy about the cats, I made lots of spaces for them where they could be high up, out of the way. And not just 5 or 6 foot high, but we are talking about a 3 pole cat tree with one platform a foot or so from the ceiling.

I don't know how mobile Chai is, buy my two boys (now 15 1/2) run and jump like cats less than half their age, so even though Dax is mostly ok around them now (18 months of hard work after I brought him home), whenever they get the zoomies, Dax wants to join in and it's important that they can get away and feel safe. I can't block anything off just for the cats to go through, because Dax is their size, so a lot of work had to be done with him (on self control) rather than with the cats to feel safe to approach him. Usually they will still not walk by him in the hallway if he's laying there - not enough space for them to go around.

Do you have anyone in your circle of friends who has a dog savvy/friendly cat you could work with in the beginning? Or is it just Chai Pixel is going nuts over?
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:11 pm

Pixel goes crazy over all cats, but he stayed with a friend and her Maine Coon Cat. Even though the cat is bigger than Pixel, Pixel still went into shriek mode. My friend made good strides with him not chasing Peaches to the point that Pixel would stare a Peaches and then stare at my friend until she gave him treats. So maybe more playdates at her house since Peaches doesn't really care much about Pixel.

And now that I think of it, another friend has some dog savvy cats and one would probably remove Pixel's nose if he didn't respect her space. It's funny, though. Pixel met "Grandpa" a 16 or 17 year old cat at the vet and Pixel wouldn't go near him. Of course, Grandpa wasn't moving very fast, so it makes me think it is the movement more than the fact that the animal is a cat that gets Pixel going.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Paige » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:53 pm

Whew, I remembered my password!

I tend, on one hand, to agree with Jean. She's an old lady and with some interaction everyday, I bet she'd be happy. On the other, I definitely get wanting to integrate everyone. It is a hassle if you have to make a separate issue to go and spend time with a recluse animal.

As for cs/ds, for Chai, I think you started to fast. Cats are very territorial (more so than dogs) and taking her out of her safe spot was too much. I would start working in her space, without the dog. Also, I find that thinking of cats as prey animals will help you predict how they are going to act. In my opinion, as much as a cat is a predator, they're as much prey.

I would start super basic because you have a large chasm of Bad Feelings to cross. In her space, I would bring in a heavily scented dog item (his bed or whatever) and set it down on the other side of the room and treat her, if she's food motivated. Also, remember a lot of cats won't take food from your hand so you may need a tongue depressor to offer canned food or a plate that give her a lick or two from. I would move her close or the bed closer a little bit at a time, as long as she is comfortable. Take it away when done, especially if she got more nervous with it around. I would progress in this manner, and have Pixel on leash/covered crate in another area and reward Pixel for being quiet and reward her for any curoisty towards the door. She won't leave for awhile, but it's imperative that her safe area continues to be safe area and the dog is not allowed in.

Once she's comfortable, then maybe uncover a portion of the crate while she's having her evening constitutional and treat him for being quiet and progress in that manner a little bit a time. You really have to go very slowly. Cats don't do change very well (prey animal stuff).

The other kind of third option that I just thought of is teach her to come out of her room for a little bit every night while Pixel is stowed away, and then she goes back to her safe spot after a bit then Pixel can come out.

Anyway, I'm nearly sure none of this makes sense, LOL. I hope it helps a bit.

The important parts:
Go super ultra slow
Cats think/act like prey animals
Territory
Change = bad (for cats)
Cash, LT and Soda. And some cats. Cats that are mean.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Sabine » Mon Oct 12, 2015 12:12 pm

Of course, Grandpa wasn't moving very fast, so it makes me think it is the movement more than the fact that the animal is a cat that gets Pixel going.
Definitely. Dax is really good with the cats if they don't move, to the point of even going nose to nose and just sniffing a little. But if they get too worried and run, he'll run after them, just like when they play with each other. At some point that chasing was with the intent of jumping them (playfully), but nowadays he will slow himself down to let them get away.

When my Mieze was winding down and just tottering around slowly, it almost seemed like Dax was concerned about her and he (respectfully) followed her around a lot.

If you can do the playdates, keep him a little hungry and see if you can feed him and the friendly cat next to each other and just keep the treats coming. I did many, many sessions of that, Dax in the middle of 5 cats and me passing out treats as quickly as I could. If he acted up, he got put away and I fed allllll the treats to the cats so he could see it. :sgrin:
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Mon Oct 12, 2015 6:38 pm

Thanks guys. Lots of good stuff to think about and work with! I mentioned something about Chai at the new house and Sprout says "Wait! What? Say that again!" and she and Bug both cheered that we may be able to keep Chai. Well, we'd keep Chai until the right home comes along regardless, but keep her without looking for another home.

Paul appears to be extremely grateful for two things. He doesn't have to see me daily and he doesn't have to deal with pets.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:21 am

OMG! Chai came almost all the way to the DMZ! The kids were gone last night, so she didn't have her bed buddies, and breakfast was a bit later than usual, so she was extra hungry. She came halfway up the stairs bitching at me to hurry up her food before she DIED.

I think part of the change is that she's lonely. I'm going to try to fit my desk into either the craft room or the parlor so I'm doing homework in her area and then I'll ask one kid a night who wants to sleep with her and I'll get her settled into the child's room before the dogs come upstairs. I think the other part is that Pixel hasn't had the chance to chase her lately. He'll be able to see her more, depending on where she chooses to hang out, but I think if she doesn't run from him, she won't be so fun.

I'm just trying to figure out where that litter box is going to go.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Sabine » Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:57 am

Yay for progress! And I've had the same experience, if you can stop the self-reward of chasing, the dog settles in and develops self control more quickly. When I brought home the orphaned kitten to my Ellie, I tied her to the radiator in the living room whenever I couldn't hold on to her leash in person. Within 3 days the cat-chaser was nursing the kitten.
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Sun Nov 15, 2015 6:44 am

We have another small success!!!!! I don't know if Chai is feeling brave since she hasn't been chased for awhile, or if she's really lonely, but she's been coming farther out of the girls' room more often. Last night I was bringing the dogs to bed and I always have them wait at the top of the stairs to be released so I can find the cat first. Chai just sat in the hallway and didn't move - she just meowed at me. So I pushed it. I went over and pet her and talked to her, right in the dogs' line of sight. I guess talking to her sounded like I was talking to the dogs because Pixel broke his stay with a shriek, but not as much as usual. I was able to call him off, put him back in his stay, and call him again.

This morning I opened the door to check for the cat before the dogs came out. The cat came out after I opened the door. She looked slightly concerned, but I went to stand next to her and encouraged her out of eye sight. Then I released the dogs to go upstairs and Pixel was slightly distracted (he definitely saw Chai), then ran right up! Chai was so comfortable after that she came 4 steps up to scream at me about how she was dying of starvation. Even a month ago she'd wait more quietly in the girls' room for her food.

I know hoping for harmonious living would be too much, but I'd like a fairly stable truce to be in effect.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby SherriA » Sun Nov 15, 2015 8:53 am

Hooray for progress!
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby emmas_mom » Sun Nov 15, 2015 9:14 am

So happy to hear this.
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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby EllaBella » Sun Nov 15, 2015 5:41 pm

Yay! That sounds like really good progress towards a stable, managed truce.

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby PofiMia » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:52 am

Really great news!!

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Re: Pixel vs Chai-Kitty Training

Postby Calypso » Fri Nov 27, 2015 8:27 am

Two steps forward, one step back. The dogs had been good about staying out of the basement in the new house. Then Havana heard Chai downstairs and chased her, which alerted Pixel. This happened twice (I foolishly thought after a good scolding the first time they'd get it.) The second time when I grabbed Chai one of the dogs, probably Havana, had grabbed her and her fur was all wet. So that makes me nervous. I changed where I put the gate so the dogs have no basement access - before it was just blocking off Chai's safe room. But when I went downstairs to check on Chai she was out and demanding as always, so she wasn't terribly traumatized. Still, it's not ok. I don't know if I'm going to be able to build the cat highway shelves I'd originally planned so she could be upstairs and happier from high up, but I can at least close off the dogs in a bedroom and let her have run of the house at night. I've been spending a lot of time on the phone at night talking to a friend so she has access to me then if she wants attention.


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