The Challenge Line

Insights and advice on helping timid and fearful cats to have a better quality of life. What is the line between allowing a cat to hide, and challenging them in order to give them a richer life?  And…what’s on Jackson Galaxy’s desk?  Watch to the end to find out.


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We regret that Jackson does not answer questions posted in the comments. This is due to his demanding schedule and the high volume of requests he receives. But most importantly, since he has not met your cat, it would be contrary to his approach for him to give specific personalized advice for your specific situation. That being said, general questions and issues are addressed throughout this blog, in his book CAT DADDY and of course, the show My Cat From Hell.
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9 Responses to The Challenge Line

  1. Anderson F. King November 20, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    I adopted two Siamese sisters a couple of months ago (named Keiko & Luna) and although Keiko has adjusted very well to a new home and two other cats, Luna hasn’t. She hides in our bedroom and won’t come out. I literally had to put a litterbox and her water/food bowls in the bedroom! Our older cat, Shug, has been scaring her by chasing her as well as cornering her. There’s been no biting or wrestling but still, it scares the you-know-what out of Luna.

    How can I help Luna adjust better and how do I get Shug to leave her alone?!?!?

  2. Annie November 20, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Thank you so much for this!!! This past May we adopted a very sweet but energetic Tree Dwelling Maine Coon mix (I think) boy named Zeppy and he joined our house with our very sweet quiet bush dwelling 8 year old princess Persian named Persey who did nothing but sleep all day and led a pretty boring existence.

    He is respectful of her most of the time, he allows her to eat before him (even though we put two dishes down) but occasionally he gets very excited and wants to play and will pounce on her and send her literally into a hissy fit. We love them both but my husband and I have been questioning lately if we have done the right thing for her. As time passes she seems to get more and more used to him, and if I remove him from the room after a pounce (so that she can calm down without him around) she actually goes looking for him and will wait outside the room while he is in a time out. I tell my husband, Zeppy might not add years to her life, but he is sure adding life to her years. Thanks for letting us know that a little challenge for our fur baby isn’t a bad thing!

  3. Biljana Treneska November 20, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Thank you ! Thank you! She never left the flat – now, I’ll try feeding her in a lobby and step by step , maybe we’ll mange to go in the yard ! All my love to all catmen

  4. Vladdiesmommy November 20, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Hi, Jackson! My cat, Vladimir has fear issues resulting from being shot in March of this year and his response to strangers is aggression (he’ll hiss, growl and swipe at them claws out when they try to approach him). There are a few people that he likes and is friendly towards, but people in general, no. I just ask people to leave him alone and not to try to force the issue.

    Is it possible to rehab a cat that’s been a victim of animal cruelty or would this make him worse? I have no idea who shot him and I keep him indoors for his safety. He is comfortable going on walks wearing a harness and leash and I take him outside almost every day.

  5. Fran Heard - Fort Worth, TX November 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Jackson: Great discussion!

    Recently, our 6 year old girl was being terrorized by her 3 younger brothers. She became nervous, hyperviligent and hiding in my closet. We took her to our vet to make sure that there is not an underlying medical condition – which there wasn’t. Our vet prescribed Feliway scent plug-ins as well as tablets to for all four of them to take. Our vet also recommended scattering the litter boxes throughout the house to make sure there was not any guarding. Getting our cats to take the tablets was an impossibility (they would not eat their food when I crushed the tablet and mixed it up – I even tasted the pill to see if it was bitter!). Then, I tried getting the main cat to swallow it. I opened Curley’s (one of our boys) mouth and put it on the back of his tongue, closed his mouth, blew gently on his face to get him to swallow and open his mouth to make sure he had taken it. There it sat on his tongue. After I got him to swallow the pill and let him go, he hacked it up. My vet said that’s a first for her. And, she said if there was no medical condition and this didn’t work, we probably were going to need to consult with a pet behavorialist.

    Besides using the information I gathered from your TV show, I read many articles and books on cat behavior and came up with a plan. First, I had to convince my husband (which was tough to do) to make our bedroom and bathroom our girl’s (Hayley’s) safe zone. Now, we occassionally allow the boys in, but if they make a move towards her, out they go. And, they know when they are crossing the line, because all I have to do is holler their name and they high-tail it. Then, I shut the bedroom door and Hayley will come out of my closet within 5 minutes. Before, I literally had to get our closet hanger rod to make her come down off of a high shelf in my closet.

    Hayley now knows that her “Momma” is going to make the three boys leave her alone. And, she’s really become a Momma’s cat. (Of course, I left out one the main part on how we knew there was a problem. The first real distress was when I woke in the middle of the night with her taking a poop about 8 inches from face. In succeeding days, she urinated twice on my side of the bed with my husband and I looking right at her. Let me tell you – there’s no way to stop a peeing cat.)

    With this new living arrangement for Hayley and the boys, my husband and I were able to figure out it was a jealousy thing between another “Momma” cat (Larry) and Hayley. But, I still make sure that I give Larry his own special “love time” just not when their radar antennae are up. And, things have really calmed down.

    Springer, the oldest at 8 years old, is allowed to go anywhere in the house he wants to because he never chased Hayley – that’s probably because he’s always been a Daddy’s cat. And, since Larry’s two full brothers, Curley and MoeMoe, were taking their terrorizing cues from Larry, they are let into the safe zone only under supervision.

    Is this a perfect situation? No – but then we aren’t being woken in the middle of the night with ear-piercing screams from Hayley because one of the boys is chasing her. And, she’s not peeing and pooping on my side of the bed either.

    If I had not watched last season’s “My Cat From Hell”, I would not have had the insight into analyzing this behavorial situation. Many thanks to you, Jackson Galaxy, for making everyone in our household calmer and happier.

  6. Toni Thompson November 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I just saw Jackson Galaxy’s video on the Challenge Line. I have heard this idea before elsewhere. What I need to know is what do you do when the challenge line is when any person, other than me, comes to the door or into the room. My little girl cat will go under the sofa, under the bed or any piece of furniture or any place to hide whne anyone ohter than myself enters the apartment or room (even with me in the room also. So there is no “line”. She is fine with me but not with anyone else.

    thanks

  7. Holly Sullivan November 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Jackson, I want to thank you for some litter box advice. I had 3 cats and then a stray showed up a couple of months ago. She was really sweet and so we tried to find someone who could take the stray. Anyhow, with the weather getting colder, we took her in ourselves. We of course had already cuddled her and had been making sure she was fed. Then eventually named her. It was inevitable. She charmed her way into our hearts. The first day inside involved a flea bath since we didn’t want to bring fleas in and a nail trim. I trimmed all the kitties nails so no one cat had some kind of advantage. :D She handled that really well! I did not get bitten or scratched at all. Not even a hiss. No potty use the first night however. I have brought in an adolescent cat before however. My experience has been with kittens only. Well, when it was time to poo, it happened to be on our bed. I was at work so my husband called me. He had put the poo into the extra litter box ( we had to buy another litter box to make sure we had enough potties for the kitties) and put new kitty in the box too. Of course, this was met with the blank stare from the cat. :D I remembed the advice that you had given someone else about uncovering the litter box and putting it in a more prominent area. When I got home, it was the first thing I did. Within the hour the new kitty was in the litter box doing her business. Who knew potty training was so easy! I wish it had been that fast with my 4 year old! :D Aria is doing well and all the kitties get on very well.

  8. Terry B Gardner (@tbgdesign) November 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    A post I replied to on LIFE WITH CATS facebook page..and how I found you originally:

    My 4.5 year old female is a nervous girl but very sweet. My 2.5 year old male gray tabby is the loveable playful character…also very sweet. The female has never loved him, and has tolerated him pretty well. She started pooping outside the box within a few months of him coming to live with us (he was tiny kitten). Now it has escalated to peeing outside the box. I have all the boxes and litter that everyone recommends. Feliway and all that as well. I have recently placed her in a room in the house with a linoleum floor by herself (which she hates). She has started using the box, with only a rare poo left outside the box. I let the male in the room and she seems happy to see him until he goes too near her bed. I placed another box in the room and am leaving him in with her for longer periods. I am hoping she will get over this and we can start letting her out. My problem is that I really don’t want to have the litter boxes in the house. They were in the garage with a kitty door for a her whole life, but we moved one inside for her because she seemed frightened of the garage…thinking that was the reason for the litter box refusal. That theory didn’t work…she used the carpeted floor UGH! My thinking is that the next step will be to move them both to the garage after this isolation/ retraining period so she is forced to deal with it. (Jackson Galaxy kind of thinking). Any thoughts?

  9. Christine December 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I am trying to apply the “challenge line” principle to a very skittish 3-months old kitten which has appeared out of nowhere. She was starved and we (my husband Dave and I) have been feeding her for a week now. She let’s us pet her somewhat, but not pick her up – each time the petting ritual turns into an “attack the hand” ritual, which is followed by “run away!” We have left the front door ajar and she actually comes about 6 feet into the house to eat and play with a couple of balls we had from our long gone kitties. BUT anything and everything scares her and she zips away.

    We are leaving for a week-long trip over the holidays and we’ll have someone come by to make sure she has something to eat while we’re gone. We intend to make her our pet when we return, if we can only get her to trust us. I figure that we would have to be able to pick her up to show her things like the potty box and the cat flap for the outdoor cat enclosure. Also, at the very least we would have to be able to get her spayed before she goes into her first heat. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to proceed to move things along when we get back from our trip?