The expression “cat fight” for conflicts that get particularly serious is an apt one, as any owner of multiple cats can tell you.
It is often said that cats are territorial creatures, but it isn’t just square feet on your tile that they are after.
Cats are attached to the humans who care for them.
Although few cat minders feel that they “own” their cats, the warm bond that can develop between a feline and her human is undeniable.
It is no wonder that bringing an additional cat into the picture can create as much upset in a home as a new baby.
The existing cat, like a jealous toddler, may go on the warpath when the additional creature is introduced as a new member of the family.
However, just as some children accept their younger siblings with equanimity, there may be a few cats who welcome the addition without too much of a fuss (when this happens, thank your lucky stars).
There need not be warfare; a smooth and gradual introduction of a new cat into a family can make all the difference in the long-term relationship between the two cats.
If You Adopt a New Cat
When you bring a new cat into the home, you can’t expect perfect harmony in the beginning, even among felines with the mildest dispositions.
The age and the gender of the cats can help determine whether or not they are likely to get along.
Kittens tend to battle it out in their cute, endearing way, and that is the reason some experts suggest people who want more than one cat should adopt two kittens at the outset, preferably from the same litter.
If the kittens are adopted at the same time, they are new to the environment and to their owner and have less to fight over.
And let’s face it, kittens like some rough and tumble play anyway.
The situation can be trickier if your existing cat is a mature cat and you introduce a kitten.
Think of it as similar to the new baby analogy discussed above. In this case, it is imperative that you separate the new kitten in its own space for the first days and weeks after its arrival.
If you adopt a mature cat and your existing pet is a kitten, you may face the problem of the mature cat becoming annoyed because he or she feels pestered by the kitten.
The kitten may want to play, but the mature cat gets sick and tired of it, and in some cases, may lash out.
In terms of gender, neutered male cats are more tolerant of other cats, but if you have two female cats, there might be trouble.
The fights between two female cats, whether they are spayed or not, may put the quarrels on reality television shows to shame.
Introducing or Re-Introducing Cats to Each Other
The separation approach works whether you adopt a new cat or whether you are dealing with cats whose relationship has gone south for some reason.
Simply put the cats in separate rooms.
It is usually a good idea to put the new cat in her own room.
Once a day, introduce the cats to each other in a safe way.
This can be done by putting them in their carriers facing each other.
If your cat reacts to any attempt to coax him or her in her carrier with panic (as some do, because they associate it with going to the vets for shots), you can place both cats on either side of a transparent partition so they can see each other.
They may hiss or slightly growl, but there is no reason to despair, since this is normal.
However, if they look as if they may be ready to attack at a moment’s notice or seem terrified, then it may be too soon to let them actually see each other.
If you have to go back to square one, you can feed them at the same time on both sides of a door.
They can pick up each other’s scents but may not feel terribly threatened if they don’t see the other cat.
In addition, try switching around some of their things, such as their food bowls or something they have been sitting on.
In this way, the cats can get used to each other’s presence through their scent without having to face each other.
Gradually try to introduce them visually to each other again in carriers, through a glass partition or in person.
You may make progress one day only to find they revert to hostility the next.
Do not be discouraged if this trial and error method takes months rather than a few weeks.
What If the Cats Are Still Hostile?
Most cats will eventually learn to live together. They may not like each other very much.
There may be an occasional hiss, but not terrible brawls or violence.
You may have to accept the cold peace between your cats.
However, there are some cases where months of keeping them separate is not bearing fruit, and the instantaneous aggression and terror upon seeing each other does not abate.
Do not give up hope even in this scenario without first considering the following things.
Spay or Neuter Your Cat
This should go without saying. Every cat should be spayed or neutered, not only to keep the pet population down, but to reduce hostility.
Male cats that have not been fixed aggressively defend their territory and mark it with their urine.
Female cats have a maternal instinct that may work overtime, even if they don’t yet have kittens.
If your cats are hostile to each other and you haven’t fixed them yet, that simple procedure may do the trick.
It could be that once the kitten has grown up, there will be a truce between the cats.
This is true whether the kitten is the new pet or the existing cat.
Kittens love to play in the way that adult cats do not.
This may mean keeping a kitten in a room for a long time, but as long as you give the kitten food, love, and attention, there shouldn’t be a problem with this.
Consult an Animal Behaviorist
Yes, there is also therapy for pets, but instead of asking your cat to lie down on a couch and discuss their relationship with their parents, a pet behaviorist will observe your cats’ behavior.
There may also be a change in your environment that might seem to have nothing to do with the dynamic between the two cats but can still affect the relationship.
Having a new partner, moving house, or even being under more stress than normal can cause cats to become anxious and lash out at each other.
Don’t Let Them Fight It Out
Some people may tell you to let the cats fight it out and they will somehow get it out of their systems.
Do not listen to this advice. Cats can injure each other fighting and increase each other’s anxiety.
If your cats are fighting over you or over territory, it is never really over anyway; it just settles down to a low roar in most cases. However, outright aggression should never be tolerated.
You can tell play fighting from real fighting if there are actual expressions of fear, anger, and distress.
No one wants violence in their home among humans, and definitely not from cats. It is imperative to separate them until they can exist together without fighting.
If All Else Fails
If you have tried all of the above-mentioned strategies, consulted with experts, a year has passed, and you still have to keep your cats in separate rooms, you may want to consider that this may be a permanent situation.
There is little harm in keeping a cat in a room as long as the cat is given enough attention, petting, playtime, and of course, food and water.
You may give the cats separate “shifts” in the main living quarters.
However, you have to inform anyone taking care of your cats or anyone who may enter or exit that cat’s room that they must be kept separate at all times.
If you find that your cat is too lonely by herself in a room and if she expresses unhappiness or if you find it too stressful having to keep two cats apart 24/7, you may have to find a new home for one of them.
It may be better that you part with one of your cats if he can have peace of mind in a new home.
You should warn the future owners of the situation, since it is likely the cat will prefer to be solo in a house without other cats. It may not be personal–your cat may simply want to imagine she is the only cat in the world.