“Fighting like cats and dogs” is a rather common statement, as it accurately depicts the age-old conflict between felines and canines. Although there are a few occasions when these two species are able to get along within the same household, cats and dogs don’t usually see eye to eye. But what happens when this aggression occurs between your kitty and another feline? For many cat owners, this can be both alarming and frustrating, prompting them to look up how to make cats like each other.
If you already have a feline buddy at home, one of the main questions that may pop in your mind is whether you should add a new cat to the household. After all, a new feline friend may just lift your cat’s spirit and teach him better social skills.
However, if you do decide to add another kitty in the household, your next concern may just be with how you can help your cats get along with each other. Establishing a peaceful relationship between your kitties may take some time and patience. As you slowly teach your kitties that aggression is not the only option, you will soon be rewarded with a friendly and peaceful relationship amongst all your beloved feline friends.
This article will focus mainly on feline aggression—why it happens, what signs to look out for, the dangers of catfights, then how you can handle aggression and help cats within the household get along with each other. We will also be providing you with easy to follow guidelines when bringing cats together—how to help them get along.
What Factors Cause Feline Aggression?
Sometimes, cats exhibit subtle ways of displaying their social standing, and this is through “posturing or communication bluffs” which seldom result in injuries. However, when felines engage in catfights, this is usually the result of some kind of aggression, namely:
#1: Territorial Aggression
This occurs when your cat is triggered by the presence of an intruder in his territory. A feline may show selective aggression—being hostile to one cat and gentle with another.
This usually happens when a new cat or kitten is brought home, or when your cat meets other cats in the neighborhood. Common behaviors include chasing, ambushing, stalking, swatting, or loud and prolonged meowing.
#2: Male Aggression
This behavior is often characterized by adult male felines threatening, intimidating, or sometimes engaging in a violent fight with other male cats. It is very common amongst unneutered cats.
Fights may occur over female cats, territorial disputes, or a contest for a higher rank in the pecking order. Inter-male aggression can have cats stalking, staring, howling, or raising their hackles to intimidate each other, and it often ends in a violent catfight.
#3: Defensive Aggression
Sometimes, your cat’s aggression can be borne out of the need to protect himself from an attacker. It is commonly exhibited by crouching with the tail pulled in underneath the body, flattening the ears against his head.
Defensive aggression may be a reaction towards an attack from another feline or any incident that may cause your pet to feel fearful or threatened.
#4: Redirected Aggression
This occurs when your cat turns his anger on you, another cat, or another person who is not responsible for provoking the aggressive behavior. This occurs during instances when your cat is experiencing severe agitation that prompts him to attack anyone or any cat who interacts with him.
Here we have several examples of redirected aggression.
Bullying is a major factor that causes unprovoked aggression amongst felines. The lowest and often the most inferior cats become the target during these catfights, and by slinking or showing submissive behavior, these targeted kitties may promote further bullying from the hostile aggressors.
Environmental changes like moving the feeding and drinking stations, or simply rearranging furniture can cause a negative reaction that can erupt in violent catfights.
Changes within social groups, such as having new members or departure of old ones, may trigger catfights.
Any changes in routine can cause undue stress to your cats can have them turning on each other.
Changes in social status amongst cats often peak at 2 to 4 years of age and often result in cat brawls.
Sometimes, lack of enough living space triggers territorial disputes among felines. Your cats have ways of marking their territories by patrolling and doing cheek rubs. In some cases, cats may lure others to their space then show aggression as a means of disciplining the outsider.
Cats also have ways of elevating their feline status through silent and oral communication. These may include challenging other cats with a forward stance, hissing, growling, mounting behavior, stares, nape bites, and blockage of food, water, or play access.
How to Know Whether Your Cats are Fighting or Just Playing
It’s very important for cat owners to learn how to distinguish cat play from an actual cat fight, because this can be difficult to tell at times.
If you happen to have more than one kitty in the household, you may have already noticed that cats can produce loud noises that are not exclusive to catfighting. Sometimes, cats produce those sounds when they’re engaged in simple cat plays.
They may sometimes sound as if they are in a deadly duel, but instead, they are just trying to secure a top place within the household or doing some mock fighting.
Below are some guidelines you need to keep in mind in order to differentiate a “play fight” from an actual “cat fight”.
Although there is no way of understanding their verbal cues, there are distinct ways of understanding whether a cat’s body language signifies play or signals trouble.
Growling and hissing. Cats that are engaged in play don’t make as much noise as when they are in a fight. Hearing successions of growling or hissing is an indication that your cats are fighting.
Examining your pet’s ears. During mock fights, cats usually position their ears upright, forward, or a little bit backward. Seeing your cat with his ears turned back against his head means that he is very much in a catfight.
Claws. When playing, cats normally keep their claws retracted and sheathed. On the other hand, seeing your cat’s claws out and ready to hurt the other cat means you’re seeing an actual cat fight.
Biting. During cat plays, biting is often minimal and controlled. If you notice aggressive biting accompanied by some growls and hisses, then it’s very likely that your cat is engaged in a fight.
Body positions. While cats in mock plays usually keep their bodies hunched forward, cats that lean back while swiping at each other are likely to be fighting.
Hackles. Seeing puffed up hair on your cat’s body or tail indicates a serious fight.
Reciprocity. During playfights, cats normally take turns being on top. This same rule applies when they playfully chase each other. Any noticeable deviation from harmless cat play behavior, such as one cat chasing the other the whole time, should be a red flag and will likely signal a serious and aggressive cat brawl.
Pace. Cats who are into play brawls or mock fights regularly take breaks and stop at certain intervals. During a real catfight, felines rarely pause or rest until the other loses or wins.
Avoidance. While cats in a play fight normally resume their friendly behavior afterwards, felines who were engaged in aggressive catfights will usually avoid each other after the hostilities.
How to Safely Break Up a Cat Fight
Witnessing your pet-engaging in a violent brawl can be extremely frightening and stressful, and your instinct may tell you to immediately go in between and stop the cat fight.
While your main concern is to prevent your felines from hurting each other even further, you have to keep in mind that stopping a catfight should be done with caution in order to avoid hurting yourself in the process. Below are a few safety tips when trying to break a cat fight.
Create a loud noise. Sometimes, you may distract fighting cats by creating a loud, startling sound such as yelling, clapping your hands, slamming the door, or turning on the vacuum cleaner.
Create a barrier. By blocking the cats’ views of each other, creating a barrier can sometimes be an effective trick in breaking up a cat fight. You can do this by placing an object such as a cardboard or a cushion in between the felines.
Never try to break a fight using your hands. By doing this, you are putting yourself at risk for accidental cat bites or scratches in case the cats start redirecting their aggression towards you. In case this happens, always seek medical help as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of rabies or other serious infections.
Increase territorial space. By providing cats with their own climbing, perching, and hiding areas, you’ll be able to reduce the likelihood of territorial aggression and prevent future fights.
Neuter your cats to make them less prone to inter-male aggression.
Reduce competition by separating available feline resources such as food and water bowls, as well as beds, mats, and litter boxes.
Provide positive reinforcement by rewarding good behavior. One example of this is when you give your cats some toys and treats for behaving in a friendly manner towards other kitties.
Never allow felines to “fight it out”. Cats won’t resolve their conflicts through fighting and might even escalate to something worse. Interrupting the aggression by using loud sounds, clapping of hands, or spraying them with some water may help keep impending brawls from escalating into a violent catfight.
How to Help Cats Get Along
Now that you know how to break up cat fights, you know things are at least not going to get worse. But for it to get better, you also need to learn how to make cats get along.
Cat lovers know that each feline has a distinct personality. Like us humans, some cats are extroverts while others are introverts who are just not comfortable sharing the house with another feline. On top of this, there are those extra aggressive cats which a docile and timid kitty would not want to mess with.
In spite of their diverse personalities, cats should still be able to get along well with each other. Of course, this can’t be achieved overnight, but it is possible to make cats who seemingly hate each other get along.
Below are a few basic steps every cat lover should take to ensure a peaceful, harmonious, and friendly feline-filled household.
#1: Spread the Resources Everywhere
Forcing your pets to share food or water bowls, as well as litter boxes, contribute to your cat’s rising anxiety and stress levels, making them prone to aggression. To avoid triggering their natural territorial instincts, always provide your cats with separate food and water bowls as well as their own litter boxes.
While you may know that there is plenty of cat food for everyone, your cats don’t and they might think they’ll have to fight it out to get the best share of the kibbles.
When cats in the household are not provided with enough space, they can easily get stressed and sometimes destructive, bored, lethargic, or overweight. This is especially true when you live in small apartments where living space can be somewhat limited.
To avoid causing tension, aggression, and frequent catfights, setting up a cat-friendly elevated space is simply a must.
#3: Let Cats Satisfy Their Hunting Urge
Being natural predators, felines can have an overwhelming prey drive to hunt. So, if you see your sweet cats going after a scurrying cockroach, that’s just normal, and it’s best to leave them be. If you don’t, then you might force your cats to channel their energies towards other felines by starting a brawl.
#4: If All Else Fails, Then Maybe It’s Time to Reintroduce
If your cats still resent each other after you’ve done all the steps above, perhaps you need to start over from scratch and just pretend you’re bringing in a new cat into the house for the first time. You can follow the steps in the section below.
How to Introduce a New Cat to the Household
Cats are not pack animals like dogs. In most cases though, a feline should be able to accept a new housemate. Though felines are generally loners and prefer keeping to themselves, there are a few breeds like Maine Coons, Persians, Birmans, and Ragdolls who are quite easygoing and will more readily accept a new feline friend.
When taking in a new cat, it is best to have them checked and vaccinated by a veterinarian first to make sure they are clear of parasites, infections, or other conditions that can be transmitted to your existing household cat.
Doing this will allow you to focus on your main task of properly introducing your new cat to your old feline. The tips below can help you accomplish this and allow for a peaceful introduction.
#1: Remember the Age/Gender Factor
Generally, an ideal match-up is a younger and smaller feline of the opposite gender in case you will be taking in a new cat. On the other hand, two female felines will likely pair up quicker and easier than two males brought together.
It would help to pair up cats with similar dispositions with almost the same energy levels, and that means it’s best if the cats are around the same age.
#2: Acknowledge Normal Cat Behavior Towards Newcomers
Keep in mind that your cat has probably been the only pet in the household his entire life, and having to share his home with a newcomer will always be a stressful situation for your feline.
Never decide to simply place a new cat in the household and expect them to work things out themselves. Without your intervention, this situation is bound to end in a catfight.
#3: Remember Territorial Rights
The addition of a new cat to his “territory” may cause a lot of anxiety and confusion on your existing pet’s part. To help ease this problem, make it a point to set up individual boxes in separate litter areas to allow your kitties some space and avoid causing any inconvenience to your existing cat.
Try to minimize changes in household routine, and offer your old cat some quality time to play with you or just simply sit on your lap.
#4: Gradual Exposure
Before they meet face-to-face, allow your cats to recognize their individual scents by offering this on a piece of clothing. Let your existing cat peek through a partially open door to see your new feline, and do this regularly for a few days before allowing them to meet with your supervision.
Expect some tails to go up along with a lot of sniffing and hissing. During this time, it may help to offer a toy they can share while encouraging them to play.
Keep initial encounters minimal, and gradually increase the length of interaction until your cats begin to gradually accept each other. In case of aggression, try to distract them to avoid the situation escalating into a catfight.
Arrange for another meeting once they have calmed down, and keep repeating the process until your felines become well-adjusted with each other.
For cat lovers, having multiple kitties in the home can be fun and rewarding, but teaching your cats to get along can be an arduous process. It involves a lot of patience and hard work. However, it can work.
We hope that the tips and guidelines we have provided in this article will help you manage conflicts between your pets and guide you towards helping your cats achieve a harmonious relationship within the household. And when your cats finally accept the fact that they will be living in a multi-feline home, they will learn to tolerate each other, or even better, become the best of friends.
What do you think of this article? Have you tried the tips above? Did you manage to make your cats get along? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Plus, do check out our next article on how to introduce a cat to a dog, in case you plan to adopt a dog sometime in the future.