Welcome to another interview with Mikel and Dilara of Feline Minds!
Wait, don’t give up on one cat because your other cat seems to hate him.
There may be hope.
I’ve struggled with this problem myself, and others have asked about it, so I am very grateful to Mikel and Dilara for sharing their wisdom on the topic. I will definitely be using their advice next time.
Here’s how they answered my questions…
When someone has two cats who hiss and fight, what are the first couple things to try?
“The first thing to do is keep the cats separated and give them a break from each other:
- If these are cats who are new to each other, they should be housed separately so that they can be introduced slowly.
- If these are cats who previously co-existed peacefully but are now fighting, the separation is important because both cats may need to calm down. This scenario is most common when there are triggers causing redirected aggression (such as cats hanging around doors and windows outside, or when one cat returns from the vet smelling differently).
The second thing to do is a slow (re)introduction based on positive experiences, so that means letting the cats experience the other sense by sense, safely and paired with a favorite treat (such as tuna):
- You might start by rubbing each cat down with a clean sock or washcloth and let the other cat sniff and explore it, while getting some treats simultaneously.
- If that goes well, the next step might be giving treats to both cats near the closed door of one cat’s “safe room,” and then next with the door cracked slightly, gradually working on supervised time together.
The important thing is to wait until both cats are comfortable and curious before going to the next step.”
Do you have a couple tips for preventing this problem before it ever starts?
“Our mantra – a slow introduction!
- Give the new cat a safe room and give both cats plenty of time to adjust to each other. You can never really go too slow, but people often get impatient and go too quickly.
It can be very frustrating to live in a home where you have to do a slow introduction and keep doors closed, but preventing bad encounters will pay off in the long run.
- Giving the cats LOTS of treats and positive experiences when they are near each other will give them reasons to like each other (more so than just getting hissed and growled at will!).
- Having plenty of resources available (food and water bowls, lots of litterboxes, scratching posts and cat trees to create vertical territory) is also very important!”
This seems like a particularly tough one to me–is it harder than most behavior problems?
“Sometimes it feels like it! One important factor is how compatible the cats are – old cats and teens don’t always mix well, for example.
Some cats are just more tolerant of other cats, or have had more exposure to cats during their sensitive socialization period.
Others seem to be more territorial. Cats by nature are solitary hunters, so it is possible that they haven’t had to evolve a complex social structure where they ‘need’ to cooperate. In the wild, cats tend to congregate over resources (mainly food).
One big issue is that often by the time you try to fix this problem, the cats have already had several bad encounters. A study by Levine, Perry, Scarlett & Houpt in 2005 found that initial meetings between cats that involved fighting were highly associated with continued fighting up to 12 months later. This demonstrates that a bad introduction can make the problem much harder to solve down the line.
However, they also found that 40% of cat owners in the survey reported their cats were co-existing peacefully within a month.”
- Phone consult: $60 first hour, then $15/quarter hour
- Home consult: $125 + travel fees if extensive travel is required beyond the San Francisco Bay Area
- Introducing another cat or new baby? Preventative counseling at a reduced rate. They can help you select your new cat or create a smooth transition with introductions.