Pobel and Dolk are really cool cats that live with a pair of really cool humans. These polydactyl littermates were adopted together from the SPCA as kittens and spent every day inseparable. Then one day in September 2018, the humans came home to find a disaster scene in their kitchen. Dolk had Pobel cornered, hissing, and Pobel was scratched and covered in bodily fluids, terrified. There was no clear indication as to what had happened but it must have been incredibly traumatic, and Dolk continued behaving aggressively to Pobel thereafter.
While cats aren't my primary clients I do have education and experience with cat behaviour, and I also have a cat pro to consult - if you don't know something, find someone who does! We speculated about what might have caused the incident - a crow or neighbour cat triggering from outside the window? Did one cat have a seizure? We will likely never know, but piecing together potential environmental factors helps us watch for more clues as we decide how to proceed.
Further complicating the matter, these cats are incredibly shy so my coming to their home may just add to their stress. For this reason we relied primarily on remote consulting, a great option for cases where a stranger's presence could do more harm than good. Especially as these cats had gone from best friends to mortal enemies seemingly outof nowhere, it was doubly important not to add any stress. Kelly (the cats' primary human) sent me messages, photos, and videos frequently so I could assess behaviour and adjust our training plan as needed without the cats having to endure a visitor.
The photos here show some parts of our progression. From total separation to limited visual access, to full visual but no physical access, and eventually progressing to protected and then free contact. Kelly and Fergus were the embodiment of "doing the work" at a very high level. They used food and play reinforcement, calming pheremone sprays, a XXL dog crate, a harness and leash... patiently watching and adjusting. It wasn't a quick fix - 8 months! - but it was worth it for those snuggles to return
Endless high-5s to these awesome, patient, observant and dedicated cat owners! - 2 hours ago