Many households have successfully adopted more than one cat. Other households have not been so lucky. What causes family cats to fight? Why do some multi-cat households live in peace while others are scenes of rivalry? What can be done to bring harmony back to your multi-cat household?
There are several possible causes for aggressive behavior between cats.TERRITORIAL AGGRESSION: Both male and female cats are very territorial; much more so than dogs. In this type of aggression, one cat will stalk, chase and ambush the “intruder.” This type of aggression may occur when a new cat is introduced into the household or when a kitten comes of age. It is not unusual for a cat to be aggressive towards one family cat, yet not towards another.REDIRECTED AGGRESSION: This type of aggression occurs against an animal (or person) who did not provoke the behavior. An example of this sort of behavior would be when an indoor cat, seeing an outdoor cat in the yard, will attack another cat sitting nearby his window as a substitute to attacking the cat outside. DEFENSIVE AGGRESSION: A cat who feels threatened or afraid may attack because he believes he cannot escape. In this type of aggressive behavior, the cat will crouch down, pulling his legs and tail underneath his body and laying his ears back. If you approach a cat in this posture, an attack is likely. Punishing a cat for this type of aggressive behavior will have the reverse effect. MALE-ON-MALE AGGRESSION: This type of aggression usually involves staring, howling and yowling, and much ritualized posturing. The attacker will leap forward, trying to bite his opponent’s neck. The opponent will fall to the ground, trying to bite and scratch the attacker’s belly. These cats may roll around, biting and screaming, and then suddenly stop to resume posturing. Cats exhibiting this type of aggression seldom injure each other in these bouts, buy you should always check for wounds that may become infected.
What can you do?
· Don’t allow the fights to continue, hoping that the cats will “work things out” in time. The more often your cats fight, the worse the issue will become.
· Spaying and neutering, a great idea any time, will reduce some types of aggression.
· Separate the sparring cats, and keep them physically apart. Restart the introduction process slowly from the beginning. You should never expect the quarreling cats to become great friends, only to learn to tolerate each other without open combat.
· Discuss the matter with your veterinarian who may have helpful advice (from a referral to an animal behavior consultant to temporary medication). Make sure the quarreling cats have thorough medical examinations; in addition to checking for wounds, the aggressive behavior could possibly be the result of some underlying medical issue.
Cats that were well socialized as young kittens — with positive experiences both around people and with other cats — are more likely to get along well in a multi-cat family. However, as you choose to invite more cats into your home, you will become far more likely to encounter conflicts. Reflect on your intentions and motivations before bringing more cats into your household.