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Old 07-22-2010, 01:36 PM
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Default Got a question or two (kinda long)...

and it's about a cat. Yeah, I know, dog forum... but... here's the background: A friend has a 7 month old European Burmese and she's hoping to show him, mostly for fun. She's been trying to get him used to strangers handling him, crowds, etc. by taking him to Petsmart and having friends/family come over and handle/hold him. He was doing pretty well - until she took him to his first cat show a couple of weeks ago. He totally stressed out at all the other cats and started hissing/biting at any person who came within reach, including her and the judge of the only class he was in. A big no-no in the cat show world...

She was advised by various breeders at the show to 'not let him get away with' this behavior and to keep showing him until he learns to behave. Problem A: There aren't that many local shows (which aren't that inexpensive with the benching fee) and she can't afford to show him every weekend, especially out-of-town. Problem B: He's become even more reactive to the sight of strange cats (she recently took him to Petsmart during one of their adoption days). He did let one of the volunteers hold him and did wind up relaxing a little.

I just don't think dragging the kitten to shows and stressing him out is gonna solve anything. My suggestion was for her to treat him like a reactive dog and also start clicker training him, rewarding him for ignoring strange cats/looking at her and not disciplining him for reacting badly. Does that sound reasonable?

Don't know if anyone has been to a cat show but the cats being judged are placed in a line of cages, with each cat being pulled out individually to be judged. Even though the cages are cleaned between classes, her kitten was also reacting to the smell of other cats and disinfectant. So I suggested she contact one of the local cat clubs and see if she could rent/borrow one of the cages they use for shows to practice with him and show him it's a fun place to be.

I finally suggested she read some books on operant conditioning although I could only think of dog book titles... She could still apply the principles, couldn't she?
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Old 07-22-2010, 01:53 PM
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Yeah, taking him to the show, with all that high level stimulation was too much too soon. Your idea is good....to gradually introduce those stresses, little by little. And when he is comfortable with just a few cats and just a few people around, and only then, add a teensy bit more pressure. The clicker training is a good idea to help with desensatization. It may be too, that he didn't get enough socialization during that critical period, (which I don't know what it is in cats) and he may never be happy showing in such a chaotic environment. I would never dream of forcing him and flooding him with all that fearful stimuli. It isn't healthy physiologically OR emotionally...not for ANY animal. If she can't take it slowly, how you suggessted, she should just enjoy him as a pet. Maybe she could read up and plan on a future cat to show....where she introduces the kitten at a VERY young age to that kind of envirnoment, but still not bombard or over-whelm a kitten.

I can't beleive those peoples' advice. Do they really think their cats are having a wee of a time after being flooded and forced with over-whelming disorder? Or is showing and ribbons their end all? Nevermind the cat. Some dogs don't enjoy showing, even after careful grooming for it. They're just not into it. Their temperaments aren't cut out for it. I think people need to respect animals and their needs.
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Old 07-22-2010, 04:27 PM
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It would have been much better if he was socialized to other cats earlier on. My brother's girlfriend brought her kitten to my house, her mother's house, and her friends' houses starting at eight weeks (I have cats, her mom has a cat and a dog and some of her friends have pets as well). This cat does very well with new cats, dogs, and places because of this, has NO problems. Does she know show people that would be willing to let her bring her cat over to their homes to socialize? Most adult cats would be very upset about another cat in the home, making the experience very bad for her cat, but maybe other show cats would be used to cats coming and going and would welcome her. Or if someone has a kitten/kittens, they wouldn't mind another cat, they are too young to care.

Socializing cats to cats is hard, sorry I can't be of much help lol.
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:05 PM
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Thanks for your replies. She started socializing him as soon as she got him but he was already nearly 5 months old (the breeder keeps her kittens until they're 4 months old and with the logistics of traveling across 2 states and coordinating schedules, my friend couldn't get him any sooner). She has 2 other cats and they were more stressed out about his arrival than he was; although they all get along now.

It's kind of ironic, she stopped trying to show her Tonkinese because the kitty didn't enjoy it. She was hoping to show this little fellow but won't if he keeps being so upset... Also, most cat shows don't allow young kittens in the show area - they have kitten classes but they have to be at least 6 months old. I asked my friend to find out if cat clubs are anything like dog clubs where they might have confirmation classes for newbie cat owners and cats/kittens. You'd think they'd have some kind of class to acclimate cats to a show environment...
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