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Rehome or keep trying???

Background's long, but important to the current situation, so bear with me. 2 years ago we adopted a Cornish Rex who probably should have never been born - her parents had to have had health problems, because she had genetic dental problems that caused her to need all her teeth extracted right after we got her, at 2 only years old (her breath smelled like sulfur....guests would say "phew!  she farted"  and I would say...."no, she yawned".  Not kidding.)  She was always anxious and nervous.  Since she came from a breeder (using that term loosely) I thought she should have a cat companion, so we also adopted a meek and mild (but healthy) 3 year old Devon Rex.  They got a long fairly well - they curled up together frequently for naps.  The cornie also ended up  several other health problems and became very sickly, and she is no longer with us.  The Devon seemed confused at the loss of her housemate, so I of course bought a kitten from a fantastic Devon breeder.  The breeder suggested I get a female kitten since our adult was pretty shy, but I she had CUTEST little boy and I didn't want to wait 6 months for the next I impulse purchased lol.  It has never been a match made in heaven for these two, and I should have taken him back to the breeder sooner (she offered all along to take him back if it didn't work out).  He's now 8 months old, and he CONSTANTLY chases the adult.  If he sees her, he tackles her.  If he doesn't see her, he looks for her.  He's not aggressive/mean, just loves to make her run.  And boy does she run....which makes him want to chase her more.  Primrose has always been a shy girl, who gets anxious around sudden loud noises or movements.  She has never been comfortable around my young children, and prefers the company of the quiet adult humans.  Fezzik thrives in our active household and joins in the kids' games of running and playing.  We have every toy you can imagine, Feliway, cat trees, window seats, etc.  We are keeping them separated and rotating which cat gets free roam of the house.  Her anxiousness is not improving.

I took Primrose to the vet this week to ask her advice.  I was resigning to the idea of rehoming Fezzik, but my vet thinks otherwise.  She does think we need to split the cats up, but she thinks we should rehome Prim because she's never really LOVED living in our house anyway.  She'd prefer a quiet home with a retired couple, for example.  I feel dedicated to Prim because she was here first, and she's so snuggly with me once the kids are in bed (she never leaves my side at night).  The kids adore Fezzik because he's rough and tumble with them, though he's not snuggly (too busy playing I think).   I CANNOT make myself choose a cat to rehome.  I see the logic behind finding Prim a quieter home and then getting a more active playmate for our boy, but I need other Devon owners' advice.  

The breeders are both being supportive and helpful also.  They are both on the other side of the country though, so taking one of them back will be quite a journey.  If I rehome, I would rather find someone closer to where I live (Indiana).  

Am I giving up too early?  Prim is regurging undigested food (out of anxiety most likely) and is becoming more and more skeptical of everything.  Fezzik is becoming more and more interested in chasing her.  Neither of them is doing anything wrong.  I do NOT want to medicate them to change their personalities.  

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  • Oh that is such a hard call Nichole & wouldn't like to advise one way or the other.  I have one cat who is now nearly 16 but she has always disliked any other cat we have had & when she was about 11 the vet also suggested that maybe re-homing her might be a solution, but after after her from 12 weeks old, how could I.  We keep her separate at night & she has her special place & if the other cats go near her she growls so we come to her aid quite quickly.  We also bought a large crate so that when we are away through the day we put her in there so she is safe.

  • What a stressful situation for you. I am a vet nurse, and I agree that vets offer invaluable behavioral advice, but they only get to see and hear a "snap-shot" of feline home life so I wouldn't completely base all of my decision on what they recommend if you and Prim are very bonded. There are behavior modifying drugs available, but it sounds like your cats are both probably completely "normal" just not a great match for each other, so personally I would steer away from them if they are discussed. The only advise I can think of is trying to assess how you think each cat would cope with being re-homed. After being with you for a long time Prim might just not cope well at all ....however if she is getting stressed by your kids then maybe she might be overjoyed to live in a kid free environment. Hopefully you will be able to predict this better than anyone else.

    If you do keep Prim then it doesn't mean that there aren't other cats that she will get on with. Your best bet might be to either try another adult Devon who is a similar age ....then you don't have to wait months to find out what their personality will be like as an adult, or go through a good breeder (sounds like you have one) and explain exactly the kind of personality that you are after and trust them on their recommendations (ie. try not to be lured by amazing cuteness :) ...and go with the kitten that the breeders say is the most "relaxed and carefree" from the litter, and bred from their most relaxed breeding cats (at least some of a cat's behavioral tendencies is inherited).

    If the problem was only mild then you could try persisting as kittens will obviously relax a bit when they age, but it sounds like your situation might just result in higher stress levels for Prim if left as it is.

    I took on a rescue Cornish Rex a while ago thinking that my Devon would like the companionship. It was a disaster! My Devon wanted to be mates and the Cornish wanted none of it. I was really scared to re-home the Cornish as she has gone through a really tough few months on the street before being rescued and I new that re-homing her might just increase her stress. I eventually decided that I had no choice, but I was super fussy with where she went. Literally within hours of her being in a new pet free home the Cornish was happy, settled and purred every time any of the family spoke to her. It was such a relief! I totally understand how stressful this decision is for you!!! ....But remember that some cats get to find their purrrfect home and family when they re-homed.

    In the mean time, perhaps keep them comfortably separated for "quite time" for a good 40 minutes when feeding them (if Prim is happy with this), so that she can eat and digest feeling un-rushed!

     If you need more help deciding you could get a second opinion from another vet (not at all suggesting that the first one was incorrect, just a second one with either the same or different opinion from the first might help you to make a decision) ....or contact a behavior expert who has extensive experience with cats for a in-house consultation.

    Good luck to you, your cats and family with whatever to decide to do!

  • I think you need to check out Jackson Galaxy's pages. You can find him on Facebook and he's just an absolutely wonderful resource for people with problem "children". I'm not an expert, but it sounds like your little guy is indulging in play-aggression. You need to give poor little Primrose an escape route. And you need to wear out Fezzik with play. I mean WEAR HIM OUT! Get him to play until he's panting. He's got SOOOOO much energy, you need to wear him down so that he's too tired to go after Primrose. You know how Devons are - little balls of fire! Plus he's a teenager! Plus he's a MALE teenager who is determined to drive his older sister nuts. Good luck!!!

  • Thanks for the comments.  We try our best to wear  him out in the evenings when we are home (they are separated all day while we are gone) with laser pointers, feather toys, you name it.  He either loses interest, or he plays till he's worn out but a 20 minute cat nap (haha) revives him enough to still want to tackler Prim when he sees her.  I do think things have gotten the slightest bit better since we've been separating them, but the juggling act of closing one cat in to the room during the day, then rotating when we get home, and taking turns with who is closed into which room at going to get old and it's not really good for neither of them to ever have a companion cat during the lonely daytime hours either. 

    Do male Devons ever grow out of this dominance play phase?  I know they retain energy, but do they become less aggressive in their play when they get older?  I think he needs to play with a cat who will put him in his place rather than enabling him by being a weak victim.  I wish Prim would just let him have it - she has a good 4 pounds on him right now.  Come on sister!

  • I’m so sorry Nichole. It must be so stressful for you. It sounds like a terribly difficult situation, I really feel for you.

    Re whether things might settle down as your cats get older – I don’t have a lot of experience with cats (our two Devons are the first cats I’ve had – I had dogs growing up), but I’ve found, for us, the dominance thing doesn’t seem to improve with age.

    We have a boy and girl Devon (siblings – 3 years old). We got them at 12 weeks and I’ve actually found that they got along better when they were kittens, when they were small/similar in size. When they were young, they were always together. They still live pretty harmoniously but I did find, as they grew (and the boy got much larger in size relative to the girl), he started throwing his weight around a bit more.

    Luckily, our girl’s personality is quite bold. She’s not overly sensitive in nature. So when I noticed the bullying happening, she seemed to be able to hold her own & wasn’t too bothered by it (I can’t know that for sure). I think the fact that they’ve always been together really helped. The bullying now seems to be prevented by making sure we tire the boy out every day (with play), by lavishing over-loads of love on both of them and by reducing any competition over resources as much as possible - e.g. I have four large litter trays placed in two separate parts of the house so the boy can’t guard them, we have an oversupply of cat perches/beds & I feed them on different sides of the room. It sounds like you’re doing all of that though :'-(.

    I’m a bit of a pragmatist, and it sounds like there is only so much you can do (practically) to change things for Prim. I don’t know the situation but, from the sound of it, I’m guessing it might be a bit of an uphill battle.

    I do think animals are like humans in terms of relationships. Sometimes you can change things enough to make it work, but sometimes that isn’t possible. I’ve seen situations where people have brought pets home and things just haven’t been right for the pet. In those cases, people tend to stick it out but usually (from what I’ve seen) not enough is changeable on a practical level, i.e. everyone just seems to just stay stressed/miserable. It makes me think that, in some cases, there has to be a better way. I think everyone’s mental health (pet & human) is so important and I wonder, sometimes (in some situations) whether rehoming might just be the better option.

    I really like Tracy’s suggestions, especially hearing that rehoming can work well (if things don’t improve). I think the perfect scenario would be if you could find someone who’s wonderful, who’d fit either Prim or Fezzik’s personality, and who you could keep in touch with to ensure things works out (& also so you could continue being part of their life). I understand how hard that might be, particularly having to choose which one to rehome.

    I agree with Tracy that (if you do go down the rehoming route), I probably wouldn’t necessarily take one vet’s word as being 100% correct, i.e. in terms of Prim being the best candidate for rehoming. I understand Prim might prefer a quieter household but, it does sound like Fezzik might handle rehoming better. Again, I’m not all that experienced with cats, but my guess is that Prim might be ok if you had a one-cat household.

    I’m so sorry. I know it would never be an easy choice, and things might just work out as they currently are. Other people here may also have a different experience/viewpoint.

  • Hi Nichole,

    I've been feeling really bad about how pessimistic my previous post was, re whether you should keep trying to get Prim & Fezzik to get along :-(. I'm sorry about that. I don't really have enough relevant experience. It might just be a case of waiting for Fezzik to grow out of his kitten stage & for Prim to get used to seeing him as part of the furniture. Maybe then the usual techniques that people suggest (for addressing dominance issues) might work. They worked well for my cats. Our guys are back to being terrific company for each other. Also, I think, when you have more than one cat, you're always going to have a pecking order/dominance issue. I think it just then might depend on whether their personalities are suited enough to make it work.

    I don't really know. I hope you can find someone (here or on another forum) who's been through something similar to you.

    I guess, the point I wanted to make is that, if it does come to the point where rehoming looks like the better option (& I know it would be terribly hard for you on a personal level but...) I just hope that you don't feel bad/guilty about it. I just think, if it leads to happier cats & a better environment for everyone, it's gotta be a good thing. 

    I'm just so sorry for what you're going through :-(

    • I do not think you were pessimistic.  You're a realist, and honesty is exactly what I was wanting.  I work in dog rescue, and I get so exhausted of all the lame excuses for rehoming (wife is pregnant, no room for our 8 year old dog now, puppy peed on the floor twice, etc.).  I have become bitterly judgmental (sorry to say) towards people who rehome for every little issue. I really wanted to have other people tell me if I was being one of those ridiculous rehomers myself.  

      I do not see things improving as they get older.  It's now instinctive for him to chase and her to flee whenever they even *think* the other cat may be in the vicinity.  Even if he's sleeping on my lap, if he thinks he hears her, he perks up and runs off to get her.  I believe it is just his personality more than an immaturity thing that he will grow out of.  He needs cat mates who will put him in his place and play back rather than flee.  Not all people are compatible to live together in harmony, so why expect all cats to do so?  Why should I insist that they stick it out and just learn to live with it when they could be happier apart?  

      Though I do believe Fezzik is quite happy (too happy) with the current situation, I do agree that he may be the easier one to rehome.  I remember how Prim loved to sleep next to our previous Cornie, so perhaps we need to give her some time to regain confidence and then seek a mild mannered adult cat mate for her.  Or, if she seems happy (not acting crazy after being alone all day during working hours), maybe she will be happiest as the queen cat with no others.  

      Thanks again for helping me muddle through emotion versus logic :)

    • I just wanted to let you know that it really sounds like you are making the right decision for all the right reasons.

      Respecting that all animals are emotionally unique and therefore like and dislike different things from each other is so important. Cats can't change their environment like humans can. They can't quit their job or end a destructive relationship like us human folk can, so it is important that their humans understand how they are feeling and re-arrange their lifestyles for them when they are not coping. Sometimes the best way to do this is re-homing. Not all "bad" cat relationships are the result of humans doing something wrong, like not giving them enough time or not introducing them correctly etc etc. Many cats love feline company, but not all "arranged cat marriages/friendships" are going to work regardless of what we do.

      As you say, it is horrible when people re-home their pets lives because it is convenient for themselves  ......but it is compassionate and caring when people re-home their pets because they are doing it in the best interests of their pets! It is a big decision and it is obvious that you have given it the thought, time and consideration that it deserves (and probably stressed about it heaps too! :) ).   When I was in the same situation I lost so many hours of sleep worrying about it for weeks, but in the end I was so glad knowing that both of the cats involved ended up truly happier not living together.

      Best of luck! It sounds like you have a very sensible plan!

    • Hey Nichole,

      Oh whew, thanks. Yep definitely agree re ensuring you separate emotion and logic for the sake of the cats (always thought the term ‘emotional intelligence’ was an oxymoron :-).

      Agree with Tracy also, it sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

      Ya, it’s really heartbreaking that there are so many irresponsible people who get pets & then dump them at shelters as soon as they become inconvenient. I adore animals and I can't bear it when they're discarded or neglected. That shouldn't mean going to the other extreme and never rehoming a pet in any situation though. I think that loses sight of the original issue - i.e. the welfare of the animal.

      I think you need to trust your instincts & it sounds like your doing the right thing by the cats. A very brave & courageous & difficult thing to do, but I think it's the right thing. All the best of luck with it.

  • I hear your pain and I totally get it. We have two Devons who were brought up together and adore each other, and a newer arrival who doesn't leave our bedroom because No 1 gets so aggressive with her. We are going to try and rehome no 3 when my brother moves somewhere cat friendly - she is a lovely cat but her personality just doesn't suit our loud, busy household. In your situation I would agree that rehoming Prim is the way to go - it really sounds like she would be happier elsewhere whereas Fezzik is more a part of the family. While I LOVE and ADORE all my cats, I know that Magic (no 3) won't miss me for me than a few days when she has a house of her own! Good luck to you as you make the hard choices.

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