Your cat’s best friend may not be another cat. Cats are very territorial creatures and often vehemently defend their turf. And even cats who have gotten along in the past may start to rub one another the wrong way. But you can help get their relationship back on track and the veterinarians at Lange Animal Clinic in Pekin, IL 61554 recommends some techniques to reduce aggression with cats.
Adding a another cat in the household
Many people adopt a second cat thinking that the resident cat will be appreciate the companionship. This can be a risky move. The fact that your cat is sweet and loving with you doesn’t mean he’s going to be sweet to another cat. Because cats are territorial, it’s not uncommon for the addition of a new cat to the household to create some inter-cat strife.
Although you can increase the chances that they will get along or at least tolerate one another by making proper introductions, there’s no way to predict whether cats will get along with each other. Unfortunately, there’s no training method that can guarantee that they ever will. It’s very important to negotiate a truce.
Types of aggressive behaviors
First, let’s understand the different types of aggression and what causes them.
This occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory.
- A cat may be aggressive toward one cat (usually the most passive), yet friendly and tolerant with another.
- Problems often occur when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or a cat sees or encounters neighborhood cats outside.
- Typical behavior includes stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places (such as the litter box, bedroom, etc.)
- Female cats can be just as territorial as males.
Adult male cats may threaten, and sometimes fight with, other males. This is more common among unneutered cats. They may fight over a female, for a higher place in the pecking order, or to defend territory.
Cats stalk, stare, yowl, howl, and puff up their fur (picture the arched back of the Halloween cat) to threaten each other. If one does back down and walk away, the aggressor, having made his point, will usually walk away as well.
If no one backs down, cats may actually fight. They may roll around biting, kicking, swatting, and screaming, suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away. If you see signs that a fight may occur, distract the cats by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby, or squirting them with water. These actions can also be used to break up a fight. Keep your distance, and never put body parts in the middle of a fight; you could be injured.
Defensive aggression in cats
Defensive aggression occurs when a cat tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker he believes he can’t escape. Lange Animal Clinic veterinarians suggest this can happen in response to the following:
- Punishment or the threat of punishment from a person
- An attack or attempted attack from another cat
- Any incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid
- Crouching with the legs and tail pulled in under the body
- Flattening the ears against the head
- Rolling slightly to the side
Approaching a cat in this posture is likely to cause an attack.
Cats direct this type of aggression toward another animal, or even a person, who didn’t initially provoke the behavior.For example, your cat is sitting in the window and sees an outdoor cat walk across the front yard. He gets very agitated because that cat is in his territory. You pet him; he turns and bites you. He doesn’t even know who you are at that point—he’s so worked up about the cat outside that he attacks the first thing that crosses his path. It’s important to respond to this redirected aggression in a way that will keep both you and your upset cat safe.
Consult with a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian
Your first step should always be to contact one of our veterinarians for a thorough health examination. Cats often hide symptoms of illness until they’re seriously ill; your aggressive cat may be feeling sick and taking out his misery on others.
If your cat gets a clean bill of health, consult with one of our veterinarians or an animal behavior specialist for help. A behaviorist will advise you on what can be done. You may need to start the introduction process all over again, keep the cats in separate areas of your home, or even find one of the cats a new home if the aggression is extreme and can’t be resolved.
Consult with one of our veterinarians about dietary products that may help reduce stress or anxiety in your cat. Or, one of our veterinarians may provide a recommendation for a prescription that may help. Never medicate your cat on your own.
What to avoid
- Don’t count on the cats to “work things out.” The more they fight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise (like blowing a whistle), squirt the cats with water, or throw something soft at them.
- Don’t touch them, or you might get seriously scratched or bitten. Seek medical attention if you’re injured.
- Don’t punish the cats involved. Punishment could cause further aggression and fearful responses, which will only make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression.
- Don’t add more cats. Some cats are willing to share their house and territory with multiple cats, but the more cats who share the same territory, the more likely it is that some of your cats will not get along with each other.
Cat friendship is a feline mystery
Many factors determine how well cats will get along with one another, but even animal behavior experts don’t fully understand them.
We do know that cats who are well-socialized (those who had pleasant experiences with other cats during their younger years) will likely be more sociable than those who haven’t been around many other cats.
On the other hand, “street cats,” who are in the habit of fighting with other cats to defend their territory and food, might not do well in a multi-cat household.
For over 45 years, Lange Animal Clinic has provided veterinary services in Pekin, IL and the surrounding areas for over three family generations. Our expert staff of Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Assistants are trained to ensure the best quality medical care for your beloved pets-whether it be as a routine medical examination to more complicated surgical procedures. We are a small companion animal clinic providing services for dogs, cats, and exotic pets.
Dr. Colleen O’Rourke, owner and senior Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, takes great pride in making certain that every patient’s experience is handled with the upmost care, compassion, and economically in the best interests of our clients. Visit us at www.langeanimal.com.