Aggression between cats
Q. Dear Dr Joanne,
My cat can’t get along with another cat that I am fostering. The newcomer seems to be the boss and follows my cat, who is very timid, all around the house. Sometimes they fight but most of the time it’s growls and stares. My cat has taken to hiding under the bed. I really want to care for this other cat because his owner is in hospital but what can I do to help both cats get along? Also this new cat is very overweight!
A. Cats do not naturally get along with strange cats. It is instinctive to chase another cat away or to compete for access to a prized territory. In this case it is the incomer who believes he has the right to your house and probably the right to receive your attention too!
Since this is only a temporary visit, I believe you would be best to give the cats a lot of time apart from one another. When you can’t be there, keep them in separate rooms.
To have a peaceful household, here are a few suggestions:
Cat attacks guests
Q. Dear Dr Joanne,
How do I stop my cat from annoying my visitors. He is a beautiful 4 year old Tabby, names Timmy, who has a fantastic personality, except when guests call around. Then he doesn’t leave them alone. He jumps on them wanted patted and when they do pat him, he bites them! Help.
No friends left
Here is a cat who is getting all he wants – attention on his terms, lots of cuddles and humans to obey his demands.
This is not too difficult a problem to manage but it will require some action from you. When you have visitors present you must either put Timmy out of the vicinity, keep a watchful eye on him at all times or warn your visitors not to pat him too much.
Generally we can determine how much patting a cat like Timmy will tolerate by counting the pats, over a few sessions and averaging them out. If he accepts 100 strokes before biting, then cut back to 50 for a week or two. Then you can gradually increase the number of pats you give.
Also watch out for his whiskers moving forwards, just before he bites. Lots of cats give us this warning prior to attack.
Remember to give Timmy lots of stimulation with games and treats and then hopefully he won’t attack humans for fun.
New cat, old cat
Q. Hi Joanne,
I have just introduced a ten week old female kitten to our household. We already have a three year old male cat and since the arrival of the kitten he just doesn't want to have anything to do with the house. He has always been an aloof cat but now it's worse. He hasn't been aggressive towards the kitten, only a hiss here and there. Over time will he accept the fact that another cat is in the house to stay?
A. Most cats will eventually learn to tolerate one another, even if they never become best friends. To speed things up, you will need to encourage your older cat to stay around the home. You can do this by feeding him small meals regularly.
While he is at home, at first you should exclude the kitten from activities to allow your older cat to feel as if everything is normal. He will be aware of the kitten by smells and sounds but at least he can still be king for a while.
With time you can let the kitten in to the same room for short periods. When the kitten is present, you need to make your older cat feel good eg. hand feed him pieces of chicken, stroke him. It often helps to do this while both cats are relaxed, for example in the evening. Exhaust your kitten by playing with him prior to this.
Give both cats places within the room to escape to, high shelves and window sills. Before long they will accept one another.
3rd cat = aggro!
Q. Hi Dr Joanne,
Currently we have three cats in our house. The latest cat arrived about a month ago when my daughter returned from interstate, bringing her new cat with her. All cats are desexed. The two cats that were there previously get on all right together although at first there were some issues. They are two females.
The problem I have now is that the new cat and the two others are fighting, sometimes quite badly, with hair being lost etc. The two older cats, when seeing the new arrival will growl or ‘moan’ at it, and then a fight ensues. If the two original cats do not growl then generally the new cat does not react, although sometimes when seeing the older cats, will just attack them anyway.
The whole situation is distressing my daughter, as one of the older cats is hers also and has a very special place in her heart. The situation is disturbing me as I am fond of all the cats, particularly the two older ones as the other cat belongs to my other daughter who is interstate also.
What can we do to get the cats to accept each other more, not react violently towards each other and settle the place down.
Eagerly awaiting your response.
A. Introducing a new cat into an already established household is never easy. There will almost all be hisses and spits. If you are fortunate, you may escape actual physical fights as cats tend to make a lot of noise and postures/ gestures prior to any actual physical attacks. Not so in your case.
This will settle in time but a little help form you will speed up the process. Each cat needs to have space to get away from the others. This space should not be completely hidden away, like behind the fridge or under a bed. Instead it should be high up where the cat can watch and listen to and even smell the other but not have to contact. In this way your cats will learn about one another.
Some cats are bullies. Often these cats have a great deal of energy which can be redirected on to more appropriate activities. Their stimulation in life should not come from chasing and ambushing other family members.
You may also like to begin introductions again, by separating the cats for a few days, then swapping scents around between rooms. Put one or two cats in a cat carrying case separately, then leave the other cat to explore the room and the cat (without bullying). Then you can swap them over.
Lastly, create positive activities for the cats when all are present. Try feeding them the tastiest snacks you can while they are in the room together. In this way, a positive association will be formed between food and the other cat’s presence.
Keep calm :)