How to Tell If Your Cats Don’t Like Each Other—And What To Do If They Don’t

—and what to do if they don’t

Modern Cat - - Front Page - By Pooja Menon

Afriend of mine, let’s call her Amy, is the proud owner of two won­der­ful, af­fec­tion­ate cats. Amy is a cat-ex­pert. She works in an­i­mal wel­fare and has fos­tered over a 100 fe­lines. But de­spite her knowl­edge of cat be­hav­iour, she just

can­not get her cats to like each other. Amy is very prag­matic about their mu­tual dis­like and keeps them in sep­a­rate rooms. Both cats are com­fort­able and happy.

This is one way to do it. Most cat own­ers, how­ever, would pre­fer a more har­mo­nious so­lu­tion. But what if our cats don’t feel the same way as we do? How can we tell? More im­por­tantly, can we fix this?

Most wild cats tend to be lone hunters. They are pro­tec­tive of their re­sources and very ter­ri­to­rial. The house cat, while be­ing a so­cial an­i­mal, still re­tains her ter­ri­to­rial in­stincts. We’re talk­ing food, toys, nap­ping ar­eas, even peo­ple. When any of these re­sources come un­der at­tack, or what the cat per­ceives as an at­tack, she gets de­fen­sive.

As cat own­ers, it’s eas­ier for us to no­tice the more “overt” signs of an­tag­o­nism be­tween our cats—swat­ting, hiss­ing, howl­ing, and siz­ing each other up. But tune your­self to no­tice the sub­tler move­ments, be­cause they are the ones that will tell you more.

For ex­am­ple, do your cats at­tend meal­time to­gether or does one tend to hang back, al­low­ing the other to eat first? Dur­ing play­time, do both cats en­gage in play or does one tend to mo­nop­o­lize your at­ten­tion more than the other? Other sub­tle signs of stress in­clude re­duced ap­petite, elim­i­nat­ing out­side the lit­ter box, shy­ing away in the pres­ence of the other cat, and vom­it­ing—usu­ally ex­hib­ited by cats at the lower end of the hi­er­ar­chi­cal or­der.

Plan A: The first step in en­sur­ing your cats’ com­fort is by pro­vid­ing enough re­sources to go around, thereby elim­i­nat­ing the need for com­pe­ti­tion.

Place mul­ti­ple feed­ing sta­tions and lit­ter boxes around the house. Pro­vide both cats with ad­e­quate play­time. If your cats pre­fer to play separately, en­sure they get in­di­vid­ual play­time. Pro­vide mul­ti­ple cat trees and perches. The cat on the higher end of the totem pole is more likely to hog the lofti­est spot. By pro­vid­ing more rest­ing spots, you’ll help re­duce the ten­sion be­tween them. Re­ward pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions of any kind be­tween them—from ac­knowl­edg­ing each other to ini­ti­at­ing friendly play—by toss­ing treats and prais­ing ef­fu­sively. The more they as­so­ciate pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with each other, the less likely they’ll be to turn on each other. If your cats con­tinue to be mor­tal en­e­mies de­spite all the above ef­forts, don’t beat your­self up. Cats, just like peo­ple, have pref­er­ences about the com­pany they keep. Be­fore you throw in the towel, there is one more thing you could try, out­side of en­gag­ing a pro­fes­sional an­i­mal be­haviourist.

Plan B: Re-in­tro­duc­tion

Put both cats in sep­a­rate but ad­ja­cent rooms and pro­vide them with their own bowls, lit­ter boxes, cat trees, and pri­vate youtime. Start by feed­ing them with their bowls placed on ei­ther side of the door. The dis­tance to the door will be de­ter­mined by how re­ac­tive your cats are to each other. This dis­tance can be re­duced

over time de­pend­ing on their progress. By sep­a­rat­ing them in this man­ner, we want to give them their own space and help them as­so­ciate each other with a pos­i­tive ac­tiv­ity, like eat­ing.

Once this is achieved, open the door a notch dur­ing feed­ing time. Make sure to re­ward them with spe­cial treats if they dis­play cu­rios­ity to­ward each other, or even if they ig­nore each other. Con­tinue to open the door wider in small in­cre­ments over the course of the re-in­tro­duc­tion process un­til they’re able to eat in each other’s com­pany in a re­laxed man­ner. The fi­nal step would be to at­tempt in­ter­ac­tive play ses­sions to­gether. Al­ways re­main calm and alert dur­ing play­time and make sure to give both cats equal at­ten­tion. Dur­ing the re-in­tro­duc­tion process, it’s im­por­tant for both

cats to be fa­mil­iar with each other’s scent, and for the scent to be dis­trib­uted evenly around the

house. This can be done by con­duct­ing a room swap ev­ery cou­ple days. You might need an ex­tra set of hands to help you do this.

The re-in­tro­duc­tion process can take a few days to a few weeks. It can be im­mensely suc­cess­ful or com­pletely un­suc­cess­ful. It’s im­por­tant for you to be pre­pared for both out­comes.

In the case of the lat­ter out­come, you might need to con­sider sep­a­rate liv­ing spa­ces for your cats go­ing for­ward or find one of them a new home. This is a gut-wrench­ing de­ci­sion, but re­mem­ber that this will be far less stress­ful for you and your cats in the longterm. Af­ter all, no­body likes be­ing forced to pick his or her com­pan­ion. They must come to this de­ci­sion on their own.

This is called es­tab­lish­ing a Group Scent!

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