Rupert has never hissed at me … until today … and I didn’t let him get away with it.
I’ve been leaving the door to the safe room open more and more so that Rupert can get acclimated to the real house smells and goings-on. In the morning it’s just easier to leave it open anyway since I am in and out to change litter, food, and water etc. Normally he just stays under the chair and observes.
While I was cleaning the water bowl, Moon happened to wander up to the gate and noticed Rupert eating his breakfast. Now my Moonpie is just a wonderful little being. He wasn’t agitated. He didn’t stare. He was very respectful and just simply sat there and observed. I praised him for his excellent behavior as I went back into the room to drop off the fresh water and take away the dirty breakfast dish.
When I got down to retrieve the dish, Rupert hissed at me and crunched himself up.
I’m sure he saw Moon lurking behind the gate and maybe he didn’t realize at that moment that it was his longtime friend. I can let that slide for obvious reasons, but I can’t reinforce the behavior. If I were to withdraw and move away, then he would associate hissing with being left alone as a reward for his scaredy-cat behavior. So I explained calmly and softly that it was Moon, that the hissing was unacceptable, that he needed to calm down, and that seeing Moon = relaxation not tension. It took a very slow approach, one finger at a time, but once I started stroking him, he closed his eyes, relaxed, and began to purr.
Every unfamiliar thing to him is going to trigger a response right now. What we are trying to do is to modify that response from fear to meh. The only way to do that is to allow the fear response and then contradict it with either Nothing Happens at All or Something Good Happens.
When I am bustling around the room cleaning, I generally don’t fuss over him. I go with: Nothing Happens at All. The more often nothing happens when something is obviously happening, the less he’ll give a shit about it. The more often something good happens when certain things are obviously happening, the more he’ll want to be part of it.
But seeing Moon is a big deal. Seeing another cat is a big deal. So I thought it best to do a bit fussing and give him the Something Good.
The first time I dropped a pot in the kitchen, Moon hid under the bed for an entire day. It took him a year before he would even step into the kitchen if we were in there, scrambling about. Now he’ll sit at my feet when I am cooking.
It just takes time … a whole lot of time, especially since I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve watched all the shows, read a fuck ton of material on the subject, but doing it is a lot different.