Cat Fight: Can They Be Feline Friends Again?

orange cat and gray cat - no cat fight

Joe from the United Kingdom just moved into his girlfriend's house and took his 12-year-old male cat with him. His cat enjoys going outdoors and, in fact, often spends the majority of his time outside.

Sounds simple, but there's one catch. His girlfriend already has two cats. One is a kitten; the other is an adult Burmese and can be very temperamental.

Joe currently has his cat confined to one room so he can get used to the new surroundings. He wrote to ask how long he should keep his cat there and also asked if I had any tips on introducing him to the Burmese cat. Joe wants to avoid a CAT FIGHT.

The most important thing to do in this cat behavior situation is to have patience and make changes GRADUALLY. Joe has done absolutely the right thing by keeping the cats separate at first. A cat fight can be very likely when two cats are introduced too abruptly to each other. He now needs to very slowly let the cats have limited contact with each other.

(1) A beginning step toward introducing the cats to each other would be to take an article of clothing of his or his girlfriend's that is scented with their body odor. Don't use one right out of the dryer for this. You need to use a shirt you just wore to the gym or when you were otherwise doing strenuous activity. A nice smelly one!

Take the shirt and rub one cat down with it and then the other cat and in this case the third cat and repeat. You are trying to transfer your scent and the scent of each cat to all of the cats. Cats rely heavily on smell to recognize their friends and enemies. The goal is to disguise the "enemy" and enhance the "friendly" smells.

Repeat this procedure several times daily for a few days.

(2) Also leave belongings that smell like the secluded cat out with the other cat and vice versa.

(3) At first, just open the door separating the cats a crack, so they can sniff and come nose to nose with each other without being able to use their teeth or claws! Don't be surprised if there is hissing and growling.

(4) Once all is going well with the above, you can try limited supervised periods with 2 cats in the same room - one person tending to one cat, the other person sitting with the other cat. Stay at opposite ends of the room at first and use food, treats, catnip, toys, etc. to create a pleasurable time for each cat on their own side of the room.

(5) If the cats are able to stay calm and enjoy themselves on the opposite sides of the room, then little by little you should move the two cats closer to each other, continuing to provide enjoyable experiences for them. At any sign of distress, move back further apart.

The goal is to eventually be able to be very close without any problems. This can take days to weeks. I used to think there were no unsolvable cases of feline hostility. However, I have recently experienced a couple of cases where I finally had to admit that a resolution was never going to happen and that one of the cats had to find a new home. That is not the norm.

(6) Use Feliway plug-in's and spray

(7) A natural homeopathic rememdy called Rescue Remedy can help relax cats.

(8) If nothing else is working, a veterinarian can prescribe behavioral cat medications that may help relax the cats. It is usually necessary to tranquilize both the aggressor and the intimidated cat.

Time and patience and taking small steps is the key to avoiding a cat fight in this situation.

Kim from Ohio wrote to discuss a similar situation. She adopted a 1 1/2-year-old male cat about 4 months ago. He's been very playful, follows her everywhere, and greets her at the door. He's almost too affectionate. His tail was cut off and his other "quirk" is that he doesn't like men other than the ones he lives with.

Doesn't sound like a problem - no cat fight problems here. That is, until her husband brought home a stray from work. The new cat was a female, about 3-4 months old. The male cat, Jack, took it very well. He never hissed until the new female cat did. He was more accepting of her in the first two days. She would hiss at him and he would back away. Jack lets her eat his food, use his litterbox, and play with his most favorite toy. He's like the best big brother she could ever want.

Kim's question is this: Jack doesn't act like himself towards Kim anymore. He's not the always-wanting-to-play or "be near me" cat anymore. Kim wants to know if this is normal. She asks if he is just growing up. In this case, the dreaded CAT FIGHT has been avoided. But are there other consequences?

My answer to Kim is "Be Happy They are Getting Along!" Jack's behavior is totally normal. He's still a very young cat and while he loved Kim and shadowed her constantly when he was an only cat, he now has someone closer to his age and size and one that shares his play interests!

This is normal cat behavior for a young cat and it sounds like the two kitties are very happy. As time goes on, the play will slow down and Jack will most likely become more affectionate with Kim again. Meanwhile, try to enjoy both cats and buy the types of toys that will let a person play with the cats at the same time - the wand-type toys with feathers on the end or any type of toy that allows human and cat interaction. Jack still loves Kim - his natural instincts for play and camaraderie with other cats is just taking over for now. As it should!

I received another question, this time from Florida, from a cat lover with 6 cats.

no cat fight in this cat family

Four of the kitties grew up together and got along well. Two of the cats are allowed outdoors. One cat always was a bit of a loner and not playful, but there wasn't any fighting.

This is a sad situation and you may never know what started the original cat fight. Cats and their behavior can be difficult to understand sometimes. It could have been seeing another strange cat outdoors, it could have been a loud noise that occured at just the wrong time and startled one of the cats could have been any number of things.

Then once one cat is the agggressor and the other cat is afraid, the fear that is observed will serve as an instigator for the aggressive cat to attack. Every time the one cat is fearful and the other cat is aggressive, there is more reinforcement for the bad behavior. It just repeats itself over and over.

In this case, I would suggest cat behavioral medication prescribed by your veterinarian, but honestly, I am afraid, the best action may be for Scout to have a new loving home. This has escalated into a terrible situation for Scout and Amy and may not be able to be resolved.

The alternative is to keep them separated, but that is also stressful. I have had to do that a couple of times myself and it is difficult to make sure everyone is happy and enough time is spent in each location and it limits the space each cat is able to occupy. I finally had to find a home for one of the cats, something I had never done in my life and something I didn't think I could do, but I did. He is SO happy in his new home as the only cat and I definitely did the right thing.

Many cat behavioral cases, especially the ones involving a cat fight, involve making some tough decisions. There is always an answer but it may not be the one you're hoping for. I always, ultimately, try to do what is in the best interests of the cat, even if it is not what makes me happiest.

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