Cats Not Getting Along? Tips to Get Them to Stop Fighting Each Other
Do you have two cats that aren’t getting along? There could be a multitude of reasons why your cats are fighting, and you need to find out why it’s happening before you can solve the problem. I will explain the various reasons why some cats don't get along with each other and offer solutions to help you bring peace to your household.
All cat fights are not the same. Sometimes what looks like a cat fight may actually be normal playing. This is more common with younger cats, but it can happen at any age. Cats will chase each other around the house, tackle each other, and fight like little wrestlers on the floor. It can sometimes get pretty intense, but, as long as they're not crying out in pain, there’s no need to break them up. They’re probably just having fun or trying to establish their rank in the household.
Reasons Why Cats Fight Each Other
- Competition for social ranking
- A new cat is introduced to the current ones in the household
- Territorial behavior
- Scents get mixed when they come home from the vet
- Personality conflicts
1. Competition for Social Ranking
If your cats are still in the getting-to-know-each-other phase (the first few months after a new cat has been brought into the home) and are doing the kind of play fighting described above, don’t worry. They’re probably battling for the alpha cat position in the household.
This happened with my two cats after they met. The play fighting went on for about two or three months. They had a good fight almost every day. Gradually, that tapered off, and they began getting along much better.
Solution: If you suspect that’s what’s going on with your cats, then just let them get it out of their system.
2. A New Cat Is Not Getting Along With Current Cat(s) in the Household
Bringing a new cat or kitten into the home when you already have one or more cats can upset the current hierarchy within the household. A proper, slow introduction will help ease the adjustment. Below is an introduction technique to try even if your cats have already met and spent time together.
Technique for Introducing or Reintroducing an Old Cat to a New Kitten/Cat
These tips can be used to introduce two cats when one is aggressive or to introduce two aggressive cats. You can also use this method to reintroduce cats that suddenly aren't getting along anymore.
- Separate the cats that aren’t getting along.
- Give the newest cat or kitten its own safe room. It can be a bedroom, a bathroom, a laundry room, or any room with a door where the cat can be isolated from the other felines in the household. Make this room the cat’s special place, complete with his water, food, litter box, bedding, and toys. This is an important step to calm the situation and to make sure your pet is safe and protected from the other felines.
- For the first week, the only contact the cats should have is batting at each other’s paws at the bottom of the door. That’s it.
- During this week, put a clean towel in this room and give your other cat(s) a clean towel to rest on as well. After the cats have slept on the towels for a while and their scents are on them, switch towels so both cats can adjust to each other’s scents. Do this towel switching once or twice a day.
- Also during this week, allow your existing cats to explore your new cat’s room when he’s not in it. This is another way for the cats to get used to each other’s scent.
- When a week has passed, put the cats in their separate carriers and place the carriers a couple feet apart, facing each other. There may be some hissing or growling, but that’s normal. As they become more used to seeing each other, move the carriers a little closer together. Keep doing this carrier technique once or twice a day for a couple of days.
- Now they’re ready to meet again. I usually like to start with the two cats in a carrier on opposite sides of the room and then let them both out. Be sure someone is there at all times to supervise them very closely at this point. There can be a variety of reactions. Hiding. Hissing. Growling. Sniffing each other. Swatting. If they start to fight, break it up by clapping loudly, and then distract them with toys or a couple of treats. If it goes (relatively) well, let them spend no more than an hour together. If things aren’t going well, put the new cat back in his safe room and let them meet again like this tomorrow.
If this introduction technique doesn’t go well, and the cats are still aggressively fighting after a couple of days, you will have to start the entire introduction technique again and go through each step much more slowly over the period of several weeks.
Cats That Used to Get Along Are Suddenly Fighting
There can be several things that cause formerly friendly cats to suddenly begin fighting with each other. The following are some of the most common reasons:
- Territorial behavior
- Scents get mixed when they come home from the vet
- Stress or redirected aggression
- Personality conflicts
3. Territorial Behavior
If one or both cats begin feeling territorial about their favorite lounging spot, their litter box, or their food bowls, this can cause fights. If you notice fights that seem to come from one or more of these things, you’re going to need to do some separation.
- Feed the cats in separate areas or even separate rooms, if necessary.
- Make sure you have enough litter boxes in the house, and put one of them in a different place in case one of the cats has claimed a particular litter box as his own.
- See that each cat has his own resting spot, whether that’s a bed, a cat tree, or just a blanket of their own.
- If the fights are particularly bad (i.e. fur is flying or blood is drawn), be sure to keep the cats in completely separate rooms unless someone’s around to keep an eye on them.
- If you go out, make sure they’re separated.
4. Cats Don't Get Along After Surgery or Vet Visit
It’s common for cats in the home to act differently toward a cat that has returned from a vet visit. Cats communicate and share a common scent when they spend time together under the same roof. When a cat comes back from a visit to the vet where he has been handled by strangers or treated with medicine that smells funny, he is covered in a "new" scent that the cats at home find strange. This causes them to react to the cat that was at the vet as if it were a stranger. Hissing, growling, tail puffing, swatting, or even fights are possible reactions.
Fortunately, this usually resolves itself within a day or two once the “vet office smell” wears off, and the cats return to their normal routine.
- Try to schedule vet visits for each of your felines at the same time.
- If that's not possible, separate the cat returning from the vet by putting him in a separate room for at least half a day. This gives him time to groom himself and remove the "offensive" smell from his body.
- Use a hand towel to rub your cats. Then rub this towel on the cat returning from the vet to reintroduce the communal scent that everyone is familiar with.
- You can also rub a strong smell on all of your cats so they all smell alike. Try rubbing your hands with water from canned tuna and stroking all of your cats. This way, they will all smell the same. The tuna scent will even encourage them to groom themselves and each other, which is a great way for them to re-establish their family bond.
If the cat you bring home from the vet isn’t in a condition to defend herself, it’s best to keep her away from the other cat(s) until she is in better health.
Cats instinctively hide illness as a means of survival, so it can often be very difficult to know if your cat is sick, and, sometimes, by the time they do show actual symptoms, they’re extremely ill.
If one of your cats is ill, they may be more short-tempered and begin fighting with another cat they previously got along with. Also, multiple cats in a household form a hierarchy, so if your "alpha cat" is ill, another cat may be fighting to take over its spot.
Be aware of any signs of illness, such as changes in eating or drinking habits, litter box habits, or energy level. If you aren’t sure if you have a sick cat, you should definitely take it to the veterinarian to rule out illness as a cause of the new fighting.
6. Stress or Redirected Aggression
Cats like predictability in their home environment. Anytime something changes, your cat may feel stressed and be more likely to pick fights with other cats in the household.
Some possible stressors can include:
- Moving to a new home
- A new person in the home
- A new pet in the home
- Returning home from boarding
Stress isn’t always preventable, but keeping your cats’ routine and schedule as normal as possible can help reduce their stress level. Try to feed them at their regular times and make sure they have access to their favorite blanket, bed, and toys. Additionally, brushing your cats or taking time to play with them can help alleviate their anxiety.
Cats also show aggression towards other felines in the house when they are provoked or agitated by something they see but can't attack. For example, if your cat sees a squirrel outside the window but can't attack it, she might attack another cat that happens to walk into the same room at that moment. If this happens frequently enough, your other cat will start attacking the cat that was agitated, which leads to the two felines no longer being tolerable of one another.
Find out what the stimulus is that is provoking your cat, and try to remove that stimulus or remove your cat to avoid provoking her and to prevent her from taking it out on another feline.
7. Personality Conflicts
Just like people, some cats just don’t get along for whatever reason. Although felines tend to be quiet and low key, they all have very distinct personalities. Some are aggressive and bold, others are timid or laid-back and carefree. Things can sometimes get a little dicey when these personalities come together under one roof. Maybe you have an energetic young cat or kitten that’s constantly annoying your older, more sedate cat, or you have two females that just can’t seem to get along. These types of conflicts can be temporary or on-going, and the best thing to do is make sure the cats have as much of their own space as possible.
- Diffuse the situation by separating areas to eat, sleep, and use the litter box.
- Give each cat plenty of individual attention and find ways to distract them so they have something to do other than fight.
- Try various cat toys, such as the Bergen TurboScratcher, springs, or whatever types of toys your cats are most interested in.
- If the fights are extreme enough that you fear they’ll injure each other, put the cats in separate rooms at night or when you leave the house.
How to Get Your Cats to Like Each Other
- Make sure each cat has plenty of his or her own space. This means putting their food and water bowls, litter boxes, and beds in separate areas.
- Don’t give the cats catnip. It can increase aggression in some cats.
- Have plenty of their favorite cat toys around to distract them from fighting.
- Make the time they spend together as pleasant as possible. Encourage fun activities, such as playing or giving each one a treat.
- If you have a big cardboard box, open both ends and put it on the floor for them to crawl and play in. It's rare to find a cat that doesn't have fun with cardboard boxes.
- Give each cat plenty of individual attention.
- Don’t leave the cats alone together when you go out until you're confident they're not going to get into a serious fight.
- Have some Feliway on hand. Feliway is a product that replicates a pheromone that can calm cats during times of stress or fighting. It comes in both a spray and an electric diffuser. It can be purchased at most pet stores and online.
- If your cat(s) are not spayed or neutered, they will be more prone to aggressive behavior. Unless you breed cats, consider having your pet neutered.
How to Break Up a Real Cat Fight
- In a real catfight, you’ll see claws and teeth and hear plenty of hissing, growling, and crying.
- You will want to break up this type of fight, but don’t get in the middle of it.
- The best way is to clap loudly or stomp on the floor to scare them.
- Some people suggest spraying the warring cats with a water bottle, but I’ve heard mixed opinions on whether that’s a good idea.
- If you try to pull one cat off the other, you’ll likely end up getting scratched.
- Of course, remember to never hit or strike your pet. It won’t solve the problem and will only make them distrust you.
How Long Does It Take Cats to Get Used to Each Other?
According to the ASPCA, it can take eight months to a year for cats to develop friendships. Some will learn to love each other, but you might have to face the reality that not all cats will get along. They will usually try to avoid each other if a friendship doesn't develop, but sometimes fights break out and, unfortunately, persist until one cat has to be re-homed.
Do Two Male or Two Female Cats Get Along Better?
It is common to think that two female cats are more likely to cause drama, but, in reality, it is hard to predict whether cats will get along based on gender alone. Stereotypical behaviors associated with gender, however, still exist, and it's important to keep them in mind when choosing the sex of your kittens.
Neutered male cats are generally more accepting of other cats. If you have unneutered males, then they may engage in fighting or other shows of aggression to express dominance.
Females are competitive in their own way, and they usually fight for their owner's undivided attention. They also express princess-like behavior and each believe they are the queen of the house. You can imagine why having two or more "queens" in the same household can cause problem.
Does Gender Matter?
It does to an extent, however, two males, two females, or even a pair of male and female can get along as long as they are introduced at a young age. Friendships can form with older cats, but they are much more difficult. If you want to introduce adult cats, be sure they are of the same size and around the same age so as to avoid bullying.
It’s possible that some cats may never quite get along, but usually they will learn to accept each other if you try some of the ideas mentioned above. It takes time and patience in some cases, but you should see at least some improvement.
With a little effort on our part, most conflicts can be resolved or at least reduced to the point where the cats learn to tolerate each other without resorting to serious fights.
I hope these tips have been useful to you, and I hope your cats will soon learn to enjoy each other’s company.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I have an 11-year-old cat who's been the only cat. Recently we’ve taken in a stray. My cat is so upset, remains in one side of the house and refuses to even meet the new kitty. I feel horrible. It’s been about a month, and she’s still so upset. Should I try and find a new home for our new kitty? He’s very sweet, and my kids would be crushed, but I feel bad for my older cat!
Since your cat has had you and your family all to herself until now, this is a very normal reaction. I had the same experience when I added a second cat. Though it depends on the cat, it can take a while for your existing cat to adjust. It might take a few more weeks or months before the cat starts interacting with the new cat. I know it's difficult to think you've upset your cat by adding another, but in my experience, it's just a phase, and eventually, she'll get over it. I wouldn't consider finding a new home for the second one. Just give the situation more time and find ways to encourage interaction, play and a few cat treats.Helpful 90
We rescued a young female cat and brought her into a home with three established males. The males are all pretty laid back, and interested in getting to know the new cat, but she is very aggressive and screams and goes after them if they get too close to her or us. She behaves as if she was the original cat and the males are the new cats. What can we do to get her to quit being such a bully?
From what you describe, this sounds like the female cat is reacting aggressively due to the changes in her life. A new home, a new family and three cats she sees as strangers is a lot to handle. Cats thrive on routine, so her reaction sounds fairly normal, especially if you've recently adopted her. She could feel intimidated and possibly stressed. Her behavior might also be part of her personality or related to experiences she had with other cats before you took her in.
To improve the situation, I would first work on getting her calm, settled and adjusted to your family, your home and your routine before I'd worry too much about the relationship with the other cats. I think this is something that will happen in time as she adjusts to her new home. It's a positive sign that the male cats want to get to know her.
If you can somehow keep her away from the males, even for a few days, and spend time brushing her, playing and letting her explore without worrying about interactions with the other cats, that might help. Bach Rescue Remedy Pet Formula drops in her water also might be worth a try to calm her down. (You can find this at some grocery stores in the vitamin section, pet stores or health food stores).
Once she's calmer and more settled, try letting her spend time with one of the males at a time. Let them spend short sessions together (ideally playing) until you see some improvement in how she interacts with them one on one.
Once she has a chance to get more familiar with each one, have them all spend time together for brief periods until you see enough improvement to have everyone together all the time.
I think if you do this slowly, without her having around all the existing cats at once, she might be less of a bully and become more mellow as time goes on.Helpful 36
We have two female sister cats. They have been great for four years, that is until one month ago. It seems like they just can’t get along any more. Is there anything we can try?
There's usually a reason for cats suddenly not getting along. Has anything changed recently? Moving? A new addition to the home? Could one of them be feeling unwell and getting grumpy? Hot weather? It really helps to try to pinpoint what might be causing them to fight, if you can.
Basic things like making sure they have enough individual space for eating, sleeping and one litter box per cat can help. If there's a chance one of them isn't feeling well, consider asking your vet. Cats are great at hiding symptoms, and sometimes they're so subtle that they're easy to miss.
They also could just be fighting out of boredom, so try adding some interesting new cat toys, scratching posts or spend some time playing with them each day to try to distract them from fighting.Helpful 27
We have a three-year-old male cat, and we just brought a six-week-old male kitten into our home. We've had him since July, but they both continue to fight and hiss. Our older cat seems really jealous. He even growls at me now and scratches me when I pet him, which he has never done before. Will they ever become friends, or did we make a mistake bringing another cat into the house?
I think your older cat just needs more time to get used to the idea of a kitten in the house. The kitten is probably quite a bit more active than he is, so he might be annoyed by that, too.
Try to give him space if he needs it. If he wants to hide and sit by himself, that's fine. If he comes up to you and wants attention, pet him, but be cautious until he starts acting more like himself.
Once he calms down a little, you can try getting a cat toy they can play with together. The Turbo Scratcher is a good one for this, especially with kittens. If you can get them to start playing and rewarding them with a treat if it goes well, I think this will help.
In my experience, it’s just a matter of being patient with the cat and giving him time to adjust.Helpful 25
I have a one-year-old male cat named Hector. Recently, I found a lonely female kitten across the street, and took her in. Hector has been so jealous. He hisses at the kitten, bully her sometimes when am not around also. I try to bring them together and play with them, but Hector keeps hissing, not friendly at all! I’m scared! What should I do to make Hector like the new kitten?
It sounds like Hector is jealous because he's had you to himself and sees the new kitten as competition for your attention.
It's hard to make cats play, but have you tried putting a few big cardboard boxes in the center of a room? You can open the bottom of the boxes and turn them on their sides like tunnels. Cats usually love this, and they might start playing hide and seek on their own.
The only other thing you can do besides giving him time to adjust is make sure he gets lots of attention and praise. Give them both treats at the same time, so he associates the kitten with something he likes.
It may take some time, but you should slowly see improvement.
If you think that he's bullying her when you're not around, you might want to keep them in separate rooms when you're away until you're sure they're getting along.Helpful 5
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