Cat Fearful of Boyfriend, and Aggressive to Other Cat

by Alyssa
(Eau Claire, WI)




I'm not sure if these two behaviors are related or not, but they are both problems I am experiencing with my cat, Olive.

I got Olive from the humane society about three months ago. She is said to be 5 years old.

My roommate has a male cat, Schmiggs that she has had since he was a kitten. Schmiggs is very timid and scared. In the past, my roommate said Schmiggs lived with another male cat and developed a fear of using the litter box. So when I told her I wanted to adopt a cat, she requested I adopt a female cat, assuming that the problem before could have been male-related.

I went to pick out Olive at the humane society with my boyfriend, making sure she liked him too, since they would be seeing a fair amount of each other. She seemed fine, and perfect at the humane society, and her sign said she also got along with other cats fine. She was even in the "colony cat" room at the humane society, where all the cats in that room are loose together.

I brought her home, and Schmiggs and her did not get along at all. Schmiggs is also 5 years old. Olive displayed curiosity around him, and seemed to want to get closer to him to smell him, etc. However, Schmiggs seemed to find this threatening, and always hisses and growls when she gets too close.

Over time this has developed into her jumping on him or attacking him, or even trying to provoke him to see what reaction she gets out of him. My roommate and I just kept thinking we had to give it time, and they would get used to each other. We had after all, introduced them the "proper" way, with keeping the new cat in a room for a day, then switching the cats, so they'd have time to explore each other's scents before ever meeting.

However, it just seems to have gotten worse. Schmiggs will always hide behind doors and under beds, and growl with his ears flattened when Olive even walks by! This provokes her, and she will often turn and pounce on him. It never seems to me like she wants to hurt him, but more that she may be thinking of it as a game.

Schmiggs is getting more and more fearful, and growls, hisses, and exhibits fearful body language every time he sees Olive. My roommate and I both agree that this is provoking the attacks, but don't know how to get either one to stop.

On a possible different note, Olive hates my boyfriend. She seems to be dominant in every other way, but literally bolts right under the bed as soon as she sees or hears him coming. Like I said, he was even with me when we picked her out. We don't currently live together, but are planning on maybe moving in together next year.

My boyfriend is nothing but nice to Olive. He will give her treats, and pet her. Sometimes I'll pull her out from under the bed and have her sit on the bed with us. Many times she will jump back down again, but sometimes he'll start petting her, and she will decide it does feel good after all, and stay for awhile, only to leave afterwards and hate him just as much the next time.

Her fear is only directed at him, and whenever he's not around, she is obsessed with me and loves hanging out and following me everywhere I go. We try to include her and pay attention to her, but she wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

What could the problem be? Since her history is unknown, I feel she MAY have been abused or taunted by a male in her past, and therefore my boyfriend's low voice might scare her, but I really have no way of knowing that at all.

I'm unsure if these two issues are related--I just posted them together because they seem so opposite, that there might be a correlation? Olive's aggression toward Schmiggs and fear of my boyfriend. Please help! I want everyone to live together in harmony.

Hi, Alyssa,

Until a few months ago, I would have written to you and said that things always work out if you wait long enough and do the right things. However, I just had an experience of my own that taught me a different lesson.

I rescued a cat named Charlie who I instantaneously fell in love with. Everyone did. He was adorable. With people. But not with my other cats. To make a long story short, I did absolutely everything possible to get the cats to adjust to each other, but Charlie could never be in the same room for even a minute with the other cats without a BRUTAL fight. Fights complete with bite wounds and abscesses.

I had never in my life given a cat of my own away, but I eventually had to find Charlie another home. It broke my heart, but today he lives very happily as an only cat, a very loved and pampered cat and my cats once again live in complete harmony.

I don't know if that has to be the case with you, but I think you have to consider it. Whether the boyfriend problem/other cat problem are related or not, they are two serious problems and it sounds as if you have done so much to solve the problem and it isn't working.

You can give it more time, you can see a veterinarian and get medication that will calm both cats. It is necessary to medicate both because as you have noticed, the withdrawal and fear displaced by the one cat brings out the aggression in the other.

Catnip, toys, Feliway pheromone diffusers and spray, herbal relaxing collars, treats, toys, and other good times shared in the same space, these are the things you can do to try and help resolve the situation.

If the above and more time and patience doesn't work, you may need to consider a different home for Olive or you and your boyfriend and Olive may need to live in a different place. My bet would be that over time, it is more likely that Olive will adjust to your boyfriend than she will to Schmiggs.

Good luck,
Dr. Neely

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