Help! My cats are fighting

Sometimes it happens that two cats, who appeared to be friends, can’t stand eachother all of a sudden. This can happen after a stressfull event, for example a new cat, or a trip to the vet. First some information. In nature, cats live alone, but if there’s enough food, they can also live in groups. The cats in these groups are always familymembers, together with single males around. So cats can live together with other cats, but it’s not natural.

Lots of cat owners don’t see that there’s been some tension between the cats before. The relationship seems good, they didn’t fight and they’re sleeping on the couch together. But, for example, a visit to the vet can be the final straw. The other cat suddenly smells different and this causes a lot of stress.

This being said; how can you make sure that both of the cats feel good and without stress in their home (and outside).

1. Enough space

It’s a very important rule, that in a household with more than 1 cat, they have enough space. At least all have their own space +1 extra. Especially cats that aren’t the best of friends, need to have the option to get away from eachother when they want to. Make sure there are enough (high) spaces to sleep or overlook the room. Every cat needs some time alone sometimes. Some cardboard boxes in the room, or closets are perfect!

A cat friendly interior
A cat friendly interior

2. Litter boxes

When you have more than 1 cat, you need multiple litterboxes. (Number of cats + 1) Signals of dominant cats are very subtile. Staring the other cat into their eyes, blocking the way to the litterbox (or another room). Make sure the litterboxes are placed in very quiet environment.

3. Marking scents

By scratching, cats leave their scent to objects and this is very important to them. So also the amount of scratching posts is very important. There must be enough and they must be spread over the house. It doesn’t have to be the biggest or most expensive, just a simple pole or piece of carpet will do fine. As long as there are multiple options! Take a look at your cat when he/ she’s scratching. Some do it vertically, others horizontally.

4. Pheromones

Pheromones are substances that cats leave when they stroke their cheeks against objects (or persons) or scratch something. It says “this is mine”. This is a very powerful signal cats use to communicate with other cats. Every cat has a “basic set” of these feromones that is the same to every cat. Besides that, they each have their own scents.

Feliway is a artificial form of the “basic set” pheromones. It helps cats to feel safe. When they feel save, there’s no need to fight. There’s also a new edition; Feliway friends. These pheromones are similar to the ones a mother cat leaves when she just gave birth. This helps in the bonding between cats. You can use the Feliway evaporator for a constant release.

Tip 5 - Give each cat their own playtime

Playing with your cat is probably the most important thing to make your cat happy. Running after a lace or fishing rod stimulates your cat's hunting behavior. If you have several cats, it often happens that 1 of the cats steals the game. Then it is important to put the cats in another room and to give both cats the same amount of play time.

Tip 6 - Take food bowls apart

Eating together is not at all natural for cats and can cause a lot of stress without you noticing. Give cats their own space to eat quietly.

Tip 7 - Keep them seperate after a visit to the vet

Because the cat that went to the vet smells different and carries a lot of stressferomones it is important to give the cat plenty of time to wash himself thoroughly untill he has washed away all alarming smells and smells familiar to the cat that stayed at home. This takes at least 30 mintes but a few hours apart is probably better.

If, despite these tips, the cats are still fighting, don’t wait too long to call a behaviourist. The longer the problem lastst, te harder it will be to let them live together in harmony again.

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