Aggression Between Cats

Aggression between Cats

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.

Territorial aggression

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.

Inter-male aggression

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

Defensive postures

  • 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.

Redirected aggression

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.  

About Us 
Our Services
Setup an Appointment

Advertisements

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Excessive Barking

Lange Animal Clinic’s veterinarians get this question more often than one may think.  How to get my dog to stop excessive barking.  Dogs bark for many reasons. Does your dog bark excessively? If so, consider covering windows to avoid stimulation by people and/or pets passing by. You can also try to redirect their behavior by engaging them in an activity such as throwing a ball. Still no luck? Click on the article below for six great ideas that may help.

Here are six great methods to try to help your dog reduce barking:

1. Remove the motivation

Your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Otherwise, he wouldn’t do it. Figure out what he gets out of barking and remove it. Don’t give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.

Example: barking at passersby

  • If he barks at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage his behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
  • If he barks at passersby when he’s in the yard, bring him into the house. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.

2. Ignore the barking

Ignore your dog’s barking for as long as it takes him to stop. That means don’t give him any attention at all while he’s barking. Your attention only rewards him for being noisy. Don’t talk to him, don’t touch him, and don’t even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.

Lange Animal Clinic’s veterinarians state that to be successful with this method, you must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. If he barks for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at him to be quiet, the next time he’ll probably bark for an hour and a half. He learns that if he just barks long enough you’ll give him attention.

Example: barking when confined

  • When you put your dog in his crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore him.
  • Once he stops barking, turn around, praise him, and give him a treat.
  • As he catches on that being quiet gets him a treat, lengthen the amount of time he must remain quiet before being rewarded.
  • Remember to start small by rewarding him for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
  • Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward him after 5 seconds, then 12 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 20 seconds, and so on.

3. Desensitize your dog to the stimulus

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn’t bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).

Example: barking at dogs

  • Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won’t bark at the other dog.
  • As your friend and her dog come into view, start feeding your dog lots of very yummy treats.
  • Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and her dog disappear from view.
  • Repeat the process multiple times
  • Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.

4. Teach your dog the “quiet” command

It may sound nonsensical, but Lange Animal Clinic staff all agree that the first step of this technique is to teach your dog to bark on command. Give your dog the command to “speak,” wait for him to bark two or three times, and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say “speak.”

Once your dog can reliably bark on command, teach him the “quiet” command. In a calm environment with no distractions, tell him to “speak.” When he starts barking, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.

Example: someone at the door

  • When the doorbell rings, your dog alerts you to the presence of an “intruder” by barking wildly.
  • Once you’ve taught your dog the “quiet” command in a calm environment, practice in increasingly distracting situations until your dog can immediately stop barking when asked to, even when that “intruder” arrives at the door.

5. Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior

When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits him from barking, such as lying down in his bed.

Example: someone at the door

  • Toss a treat on his mat and tell him to “go to your place.”
  • When he’s reliably going to his mat to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while he’s on his mat. If he gets up, close the door immediately.
  • Repeat until he stays on his mat while the door opens.
  • Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is on his mat. Reward him if he stays in place.

6. Keep your dog tired

Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on his breed, age, and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.
Lange Animal Clinic in Pekin, IL offers great suggestions by our staff of experienced Veterinarians on many important pet care topics.  We are a small companion animal clinic that provides veterinary care for dogs, cats and exotic pets.  Visit us on the web at www.langeanimalclinic.com for more information.