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Cat keeps returning to previous owner

Discussion in 'Cat Chat' started by rafoster83, Jul 4, 2017.


  1. rafoster83

    rafoster83 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi

    This is my first post on here and I'm really hoping someone can help!

    2 months ago I took ownership of a cat (Charlie) from the mother of my children (with full agreement from her I should add!), as she was looking to give him away and my eldest felt he would be happier with me as well as obviously not wanting to part with the cat she's had almost her whole life. He is a 11 year old neutered male and I already have a 1 year old neutered male so after a few days of doing it the wrong way and trying to get them used to each other (and a few trips to retrieve Charlie from his old house), I took advice from my vet who suggested keeping Charlie in for 6 weeks and keeping them completely separated, as well as investing in the Feliway Friends plug ins (I have one in each cat's main room they spend their time in). I did this and have started letting Charlie out again over the past couple of weeks, although he will only actually leave when he thinks I'm not looking and will not come near the door when I open it for him, and the two cats are still separated. However, every single time he goes out, no matter what I do to make an escape beyond my property difficult, he refuses to come back inside and still eventually escapes and returns back to his old home every time.

    When he goes back there, my ex-partner and my kids are under strict instructions not to feed him, not to let him in the house, and I've asked her to be the one to return him rather than me collecting him as after a few retrievals he runs away whenever he sees me approaching. I've also asked her to do this as soon as possible so he spends less time re-settling there, but she isn't sticking to this part of it and has been there for over 24 hours as I write this (I tried to retrieve him myself just now but he was hiding out of sight somewhere).

    I've put a lot of effort over the last 2 months into trying to make him feel at home, with lots of attention, treats, etc., but despite him becoming more affectionate towards me than he has ever been before, nothing seems to be working and I'm completely out of ideas. Can anyone help???
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hello @rafoster83 and welcome. :)

    I am puzzled as to why, when Charlie returns to his old home he is made welcome or is at least tolerated and not returned to you promptly,? Why was your ex trying to find a new home for him? It sounds as though she may feel ambivalent about rehoming him, perhaps she regrets it, or perhaps your kids have been begging her to allow him to stay? Worth investigating closely I think.

    The fact is you are not going to get anywhere with getting Charlie to settle if he is being encouraged to stay even for a few minutes when he goes back to his old home.

    But also cats are very attached to place, and it is a big ask anyway to expect a cat to settle without his owner in a new home that is near the old home. You would need to be at least a couple of miles away to have any chance of getting a neutered male to give up his old territory. (more for an unneutered male).

    On top of that you already have a resident cat, so Charlie has had to come into another cat;'s territory, never an easy thing to for either cat cope with. From what you say the introductions were rushed and thus did not go well and this has inevitably impacted on poor Charlie adding to him not wanting to stay in your home, when as he sees it he has a perfectly good home down the road with your ex. The fact he runs away from you when he sees you is evidence he does not feel happy in your home.

    Can you ask your ex if she really and truly wants Charlie gone? If your kids are fond of him it seems very unkind of their mother to deprive them of his affection and company and to deprive Charlie of his home. Is there any way you could help with whatever support is needed to enable Charlie to go back to his old home?

    If your ex is adamant that she does not want Charlie then I actually think it would be kinder to the poor fellow for you to have him re-homed a good distance away, several miles at least. If you can say which part of the country you are in (if in the UK) we can advise you which Rescues to approach for a place for him. A Rescue will look after him and make sure he goes to a good home nowhere near you,

    Given the chance of a new home well away from the area, Charlie will adapt and in time find contentment once more. But at the moment there is always the lure of his old home to call him back there, and it is going to make him constantly miserable and distressed if he is repeatedly rejected over and over by your ex. Surely your ex can see this if she is a cat lover?
     
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  3. rafoster83

    rafoster83 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for your reply, so happy someone responded!

    She definitely doesn't regret rehoming him and is frankly happy to be rid of him, she just seems to think not feeding him is enough to make him see he doesn't belong there anymore and doesn't understand why I'm making such a big deal of it. I'm not going to be too harsh on her, we just have different views on it. I should point out he lived with us for about 6 years when were together in the house I am in now, and has only lived in her new home for the past 2.5 year so he has spent far more of his life here than he has there.

    I guess the thing that I'm most struggling to understand is how he can be so affectionate towards me in the house and seem happier than I've known him in a long time, but then be so different towards me when he sees me in a different environment.

    Do you think trying introductions with Jasper again with a view to Charlie not being restricted to 2 rooms in the house might help? Probably not but it's one thing that has crossed my mind. I definitely made a mess of things when I first took him in, I wish I had done things differently, but I honestly thought he would settle reasonably well given he has lived here for so long previously.

    He's back now by the way and after half an hour of sulking he has just licked me so doesn't seem too upset with me! Also just mentioned to my eldest about rehoming him elsewhere and she was devastated at the thought of it. I can't do that to her so I really need to find a way to make this work...
     
  4. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I think Charlie may have settled back with you fairly easily were it not for Jasper's presence. If Charlie had been returning to a home with his scent around the place (albet rather faded after 2.5 yrs) he would have felt a sense of belonging. As it is his scent had been overlaid with Jasper's scent and in the cat world Jasper has more right to the territory than Charlie who had 'given up' the territory by leaving.

    When I made my last reply I had momentarily forgotten that Charlie is aged 11, so not a good age to be going into a Rescue. Most people adopting from Rescues want young adult cats or kittens. Though sometimes older people want an older cat so the cat is less likely to outlive them. But to rehome Charlie at his age, on the verge of his senior years, would be a big upheaval for the poor fellow. :(

    Added to that your eldest is devastated at the thought of him being re-homed, so I agree it is not really a feasible proposition to rehome him elsewhere and so we need to find a way to work things out in your home.

    Trying again with the reintroductions won't be easy, but is worth a go. You'll need to go very slowly and carefully and be guided all the way by Charlie's and Jasper's reactions. Let them set the pace. Do not on any account rush the pace. Be prepared for the long haul. Last time I introduced a new cat to my resident cats it took 6 mths before I could allow them in the same space.

    Having had the previous introduction fail, you can't afford to let the next one fail. Because it's probable there will be no more chances after that. Cats are not very forgiving of each other if they fall out and two failed attempts could mean a permanent falling out.

    Your most likely chance of success is to divide the home in two and fit a semi permanent dividing door between the two halves. Each cat has one half of the house and neither has access to each other's territory. Usually I make the divider a screen door so the cats can see each other and smell each other's scent but not have direct contact. They feel safer this way. But as there is already 'bad blood' between your two a screen door may not work (at least for a while) and a non-see through divider may be wiser.

    If both cats want access to outdoors you will need to operate a time share arrangement so both aren;t outdoors at the same time. This may sound complicated but I promise you once you get into the routine it is not too bad. I have operated such an arrangement for 5 yrs as one of my male cats does not get along with my other two males. (long story) .

    But if both cats can be trusted to get along outdoors sat the same time without fighting or aggressive chasing with each other you may get away with just installing an extra cat flap so they don't have to both use the same one. Depends on the logistics of your house, and how you can divide it up best.

    The long term aim would be that you may be able to have both boys sharing the whole house but keeping out of each other's way. This can happen if you're lucky. But you need to go into it prepared for the fact it might never be possible to have them sharing the same space without one or both being distressed and anxious. Basically it is a case of what is going to bring the biggest amount of contentment for the two cats and it that is keeping them separate forever so be it. Charlie is not a young cat, and he needs a peaceful old age.

    If you do reach the point where both boys can share the same space without aggression or fear, then I advise you to always provide multiple resources to reduce competition. For a start they would each need their own feeding station at least 10 ft apart and out of sight of each other.

    Then, at least 3 litter trays around the house, several water bowls spread around. Plenty of cat scratch posts and pads, several to every room and always one by every door for them to scent mark with their claws as they enter and leave.

    Plenty of high up places to sit and snooze, and beds tucked away behind sofas etc.

    As I say, this is when you get to the point of the cats being able to share the same space. Until then they will have their own separate things in their half of the house.

    Good luck. Please let us know how things go. :)

    EDIT: if he keeps on going back to your ex's house your only options maybe to keep him indoors and maybe build him a run in the garden, or to cat proof your garden with special fencing so he can't get out. If you want Jasper to be able to roam you may need to put a microchip cat flap in the garden gate or fence etc so he can get in and out and Charlie can't.
     
    #4 chillminx, Jul 4, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
  5. rafoster83

    rafoster83 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks again, really helpful! :)

    The layout of the house doesn't really support a 50/50 split sadly. At the moment Charlie has the living room and kitchen, Jasper has the other 4 rooms in the house (inc bathroom) and the hall, stairs, etc. so it isn't a fair split but it's the best I can manage. There's a door in between their 2 zones which is permanently closed unless passing through (my 3 kids have been great with this on the whole, only slipped up a few times and only resulted in contact once which was swiftly dealt with).

    Jasper has access to outside when I'm at home via the bathroom window as he is better able to climb walls etc., Charlie has a cat flap but I've blocked it off and only allowed supervised roaming until the last few days, but at the moment I think the lack of freedom is the biggest issue for him so I want to let him have that freedom if I can. Unless you think another period kept inside is needed? At the moment I'm thinking to only let him out when I'm home, then at least I can better ensure he is returned here quickly if he does go back to his old home. I haven't allowed them out at the same time up to now but was thinking re-introducing them outside might be better than inside? They both have their own food, water, litter tray, scratching posts (not that either will use one) etc. in their own areas and both have places they can climb and rest. Just to give you a really thorough picture of where I'm at!

    It sounds like I'm mostly doing the right things and I can cope with maintaining the divide if they won't get along. Feeling much better about it all now so I'm really grateful for your advice!
     
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  6. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    An 11 year old cat has habits that will be hard to break. Keep him inside or cat proof the yard if you want to keep him in the family.. It's the only way. He'll get used to the kitten. It's certainly better than taking him to a rescue, at his age.
     
  7. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I agree. He might spend a long time in a Rescue before being adopted unfortunately. :( Best avoided if possible.
     
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  8. rafoster83

    rafoster83 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi @chillminx @lorilu

    Just wanted to say a massive thank you for your advice on here. I 'Charlie proofed' my back yard a few days ago and he has now had access to outside for 3 days without escaping! The first couple of times he went out he was clearly looking for an escape route but over the last couple of days he seems much more relaxed out there and keeps lying on his back rubbing his cheeks on the ground which I understand is a way of him marking his territory so I'm taking that as a good sign! He's marking his territory in the usual way too which again I'm assuming is a good thing.

    Still some way to go in terms of reintroducing him to Jasper, they've yet to cross paths outside (they would be able to see each other but not come into contact) but I'm hoping them getting used to seeing each other outside will be the first step before doing anything inside the house.

    Thanks again, I was at my wits end a couple of weeks ago but things are definitely moving in the right direction now.

    Ross
     
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  9. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @rafoster83 - many thanks for the update Ross. I'm pleased to hear the good news! Sounds as though Charlie is already feeling happier. Well done! :)
     
    lorilu likes this.
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