Dr. Mark is a veterinarian with over 40 years of experience in the field. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.
My Cats Used to Get Along, But Now They Fight
"I live in Tajikistan where there are many homeless animals—mostly cats. I picked up a female street kitten who was about 4–5 months old in October, 2020, so she is now about 2 years old. Her name is Suluu. In May of last year (2021), I took in a 3-month-old male Scottish fold kitten. His name is Gordon and he turned a year old in February. The transition to a two-cat household was difficult at first, so when I was at work I kept Gordon in a separate room for about 4 weeks. Things kind of leveled out and they were doing relatively well at cohabitating. They would play regularly and groom each other.
From time to time Suluu would attack Gordon for no apparent reason. It was not playful as Gordon would hiss at her to deter the onslaught and do his best to escape and hide. The apartment was quite small and I thought that maybe they needed more space (I definitely did!). So a month ago I moved into a much larger apartment with a rooftop terrace, thinking that outdoor space would also be beneficial. In the past week, Suluu has attacked Gordon savagely. A few days ago I was getting out of the shower and heard a knocking around. When I exited, the hallway was full of grey fur and Gordon's eyes were watering (she inflicted pain). It was like a crime scene. I have seen evidence of other attacks, namely piles of fur, in the past few days.
Granted, they both need their claws trimmed, but I don't know what else I can do. I have two litter boxes, one upstairs and one downstairs. They have separate food dishes. In fact, they eat different food, so it's not food competition. They both sleep with me, Suluu in close contact and Gordon keeps his distance but will come closer if she is not around. She is physically much larger and more muscular than he. He was the runt of the litter and being a Scottish fold, is floppy and flexible.
I came home from work today and saw another crime scene so I gave Suluu some Kot Bayan—a Russian-made herbal concoction that is a sedative, adaptogenic, and anxiolytic—it made her drowsy and I clipped her claws. There is one good vet here but they are not equipped to deal with behavioral issues. His nickname for Suluu is "danger cat". Long story short, I'm concerned for Gordon. He must be terrified when she launches into tiger mode. Any and all advice would be appreciated." —Adele
What to Do When Cats Won't Get Along
Thanks for the detailed question. It helps a lot to know as much as possible about the cats in question, but even still, I may not be able to provide much specific help. Here is an excellent link on cats not getting along, but it sounds like you have already tried most of the suggestions, like separate litter boxes and feeding areas.
Since they got along in the past, look at the section of the article that deals with stress. I noticed that they were already fighting in the old apartment, but is there something going on in the new apartment that is causing them excessive stress?
The only other thing that you can try is the pheromone product Feliway. (1) This product is the spray-on kind, not a diffuser, since the plugs might be different where you live. The compound they sell on Amazon does work, but I am not sure about the other brands that might be available to you locally.
When to Give Up on Cats Getting Along
If the Feliway is not effective and there is no way to reduce the stress, you really need to consider finding Gordon a new home. He is going to eventually develop health problems from being so stressed out all of the time.
Some cats, just like some people, just never get along.
- Vitale KR. Tools for Managing Feline Problem Behaviors: Pheromone therapy. J Feline Med Surg. 2018 Nov;20(11):1024-1032. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30375946/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM