KitKat and Shadow: Kids Aren’t Always Easy to Live With!

KitKat and Shadow:  Kids Aren’t Always Easy to Live With!

A beautiful Siamese kitten found her person, Julie, in October of 2014. Julie named the kitten KitKat and says, “I didn’t rescue KitKat, KitKat rescued me.”

Julie and KitKat became best of friends. KitKat definitely loved being outside and this caught up with her in April of 2016 when she had a litter of 5 adorable kittens. (KitKat did get spayed as soon as possible after the kittens were born, so there will be no more kittens in the future.)

No cat could have been prouder of her kittens that KitKat and she was a wonderful mother. The kittens were so adorable that Julie had no problems finding homes for them as soon as they were old enough to be adopted. Julie thought that it would be nice for KitKat to have one of her kittens stay with her so KitKat had a companion to play with, so she kept one of the kittens — a black and white kitten that Julie named Shadow.

Good intentions do sometimes back fire!

Julie contacted me in early September 2016 and asked me to see if I could figure out what was going on between KitKat and Shadow. KitKat would hiss and growl at Shadow whenever he came near her. To Julie, Shadow seemed quiet and gentle. Julie just wanted them both to get along and couldn’t understand how KitKat could behave this way toward her own kitten.

When I talked to KitKat, she seemed quite grumpy and annoyed. Julie said that this was how KitKat seemed to her as well — which was not normal for KitKat. When I asked KitKat about Shadow, she said, “Why is he still here? Am I not enough for her?” I explained to KitKat that Julie’s intention was to have Shadow be a friend to her and give her someone to play with. KitKat said, “I want nothing to do with him.”

I felt that there was more going on than just KitKat not wanting Shadow around. I asked KitKat how she felt about her other kittens going to new homes. KitKat was very clear that, to her, it was the natural order of things — a cat has kittens, they are weaned and then the kittens are on their own. KitKat felt she should be able to go back to her own life, without kittens. But that didn’t happen because Shadow was still there.

From KitKat’s perspective, Shadow was always there, wanting to play and getting in her face. She felt like she was supposed to be responsible for him and didn’t want to be. I asked KitKat about growling and hissing at Shadow. She showed me she felt she had to be loud and clear with Shadow about wanting him to leave her alone — but “he still doesn’t listen or remember!”

KitKat’s solution to this was to spend as much time as possible outside away from Shadow. She showed me that she would make a loop through the neighborhood when she was out. If Shadow was being particularly annoying, she would make an even longer loop. But she always came home at night and Julie was grateful for that. When KitKat was in the house, she was very tense — always waiting for Shadow to pounce on her, which he did all the time. KitKat couldn’t wait to get outside every day. Julie asked me to tell KitKat that she was concerned that KitKat wouldn’t come back one day. KitKat said, “This is my home, where else would I go?” That helped Julie feel better about KitKat being gone all day.

All of this discord made Julie very sad. She just couldn’t understand KitKat’s attitude toward Shadow. I knew we had more to figure out.

Julie wanted me to ask KitKat if there was another reason that she didn’t want to be around Shadow. KitKat immediately said she thought that Shadow was “stupid.” When I told Julie that, we both started to laugh — it seemed like such an unlikely thing for a cat to say. Julie admitted that she’d gotten the feeling that this was the case. I asked why KitKat she felt Shadow was “stupid”. KitKat showed me that, unlike herself, Shadow was “not brave” when he was outside and stayed close to the house. Julie confirmed that this was true. I asked Julie if there were any “smart” things that Shadow did outside. Julie told me that Shadow sometimes climbed the tree in the yard and had figured out how to get up on the porch roof — which KitKat never did. KitKat smugly pointed out that Shadow only climbed the tree because he copied her and very grudgingly admitted that climbing on the roof was clever. KitKat said that Shadow “wasn’t smart about being outside” and she didn’t want to have to be responsible for him. We assured KitKat that she did not need to feel responsible for Shadow inside or outside — that was Julie’s job now. That took the pressure off of KitKat and made her feel better.

I felt that we had a good understanding of what was going on from KitKat’s perspective, so it was time to talk to Shadow. I told KitKat we would do that next and she told me to tell Shadow to “back off!” I assured her we would do our best to help Shadow understand. I told KitKat that she needed to give Shadow a chance and to try not to be so reactive to Shadow — to ignore him as much as possible and avoid him when she was in the house. KitKat said, “I’m not the problem — he is!” But she said she would try, even though it would be hard to ignore him.

When I talked to Shadow, his energy was totally different from KitKat’s. Shadow had very happy energy — and lots of it! I asked Shadow about his interactions with KitKat. From his perspective, he was just trying to get Shadow to play with him. He couldn’t understand why KitKat didn’t want to play and have fun. He showed me that he was very persistent and didn’t take “no” for an answer — even though it never got him anywhere. I explained to Shadow that KitKat really, REALLY did not want to play with him — she was just not that kind of cat. I told Shadow that if he wanted to play or get rid of energy, he could run around the house, play with his toys or come to one of the people and ask them to play with him. Shadow said, “Is it really so important to her [KitKat]? Then I guess I will try not to bother her.”

Julie wanted to make sure that Shadow understood how important it was for him to leave KitKat alone. Julie asked me to tell him (and she meant it) that if he and KitKat couldn’t get along, she would have to find a new home for Shadow because KitKat was there first. Shadow responded by saying, “Oh no! I like it here. I don’t want to go anywhere else!” He said he felt special because he was the only kitten that got to stay. He said he just wanted to play with KitKat, but he would try to remember to come to a person if he wanted play or get extra attention. He said it wouldn’t be as much fun as playing with KitKat, but he would really try.

We asked Shadow how he felt about going outside. Julie wanted to know why he stayed by the house, rather than roaming more. Shadow showed me being chased up a tree by a dog when he first started going outside. He said it really scared him and he thought he was going to “be up in the tree forever,” but he finally felt safe enough to come down. He said he never wanted that to happen again. He thought the outside was “a very big place” and it was safer to stay close to the house and only be out for short periods. Julie confirmed that Shadow only went out for an hour or so at a time. I asked Shadow what he thought of KitKat being out all day. He said she was “very brave” and he felt she moved through the yard “like a wild cat” — he was a bit in awe of that!

I reinforced with Shadow that if he wanted to stay in his home with Julie and KitKat, he need to leave KitKat alone. I reminded him that playing with his toys, running the house or going to the humans for play instead was the right thing to do. Shadow very sincerely said, “I will try.”

I heard from Julie again late in September. She reported that Shadow was doing a great job and was backing down when KitKat warned him to stay away. As a result, KitKat no longer had to be so “loud” about telling Shadow to move away. Peace was restored and KitKat was able to relax.

But an occasional issue had gotten worse — Shadow was peeing outside the litter box — not all the time, but way too often. When I asked Shadow about this, he said he, “didn’t mean to pee everywhere, but I just HAVE to go!” Shadow didn’t show me that he had pain typical of a UTI or bladder issue, but he did say that he thought his urine had a strong smell. UTI’s can have subtle symptoms in cats and I was concerned that Shadow might have a UTI. I told Julie that I would encourage Shadow to use the litter box, but if he continued to pee outside the litter box, she should have Shadow checked by the vet. Julie agreed to follow up with the vet if needed. I showed Shadow that it was very important that as soon as he felt he needed to pee, he needed to run for the litter box and pee in the box. We went over this several times and Shadow was able to show me what he needed to do and said he would do his best to try, since it was upsetting Julie so much.

A week or two later, Julie reported that a couple days after the chat with Shadow, she and Shadow were in the garage and Shadow suddenly dashed for the house at a full run. Julie was afraid he’d gotten startled by something and went to look for Shadow. To her delight, Julie found Shadow in the litter box peeing! Clearly, he followed the directions to the letter and there were no more incidents of peeing outside the litter box.

I heard from Julie again in November. Shadow was now a big boy and starting to really throw his weight around — much to KitKat’s distress. KitKat was still spending most of the day outside, but Shadow knew just when KitKat normally came in and would wait for her in the hallway, ready to pounce on her.

When I asked KitKat about this, she was beyond frustrated. To her, Shadow was just being a bully. Coming into the house, which should have been a relaxing time for KitKat, had become a tense and unhappy time. I assured her we’d talk to Shadow about this. I asked her if it would work for her if we told Shadow not to wait in the hallway, so KitKat could come in safely. She agreed that would work for her. KitKat felt they were getting along OK otherwise.

I asked Shadow about lying in wait for KitKat to come in. Shadow was delighted about this new game! As before, he had no intention at all of hurting KitKat and just wanted to play “pounce”. I explained to Shadow that he very much outweighed KitKat and that she was not enjoying the game at all. As before, Shadow didn’t understand KitKat’s reluctance to play. I told Shadow that it would be best if he stayed out of the hallway during the time when KitKat normally came in. I showed him that he could go to any other room in the house at that time, but not the hallway. I reminded him again that playing with his toys, going outside, running in the house and playing with his people were all great ways to play.

Shadow agreed to the plan and was able to show me what we requested he do . . . but he still wanted to interact with KitKat. I suggested that it would be OK for Shadow to sit or lie down near KitKat and just be quiet with her. I reminded him that when he wanted to be active, he should play with his toys, run in the house, go outside or play with his people. Shadow said, “I’m not that good at being quiet, but I’ll try.” I also encouraged Julie to play with Shadow more often so he could get rid of some energy. Julie agreed to do that and said she would keep reminding Shadow of the plan.

I heard from Julie again in January 2017. This time it was good news! Peace had been restored between Shadow and KitKat! Because Shadow had learned to be “quiet,” he and KitKat had become close friends and could lie quietly — and happily — next to each other, as in the photo above. Julie was thrilled that beautiful momma KitKat and her adorable son, Shadow, could be happy together in their forever home. Finally, everyone was happy!

“I am so grateful for our sessions with Sky because we couldn’t have worked out the difficulties without communication through her. You are our saving grace, Sky!” — Julie E., CO.