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Aggression Between Cats After a Veterinary Visit

The returning cat doesn’t smell the same and actually is carrying scents that the returning cat associates with fear. Not many cats look forward to a visit to the veterinarian. Having your companion cat actually bringing those threatening scents into your territory? Time to panic!


The Offense and Defense

The cat who stayed home issues an initial attack. The returning cat doesn’t know where this came from and so she reacts defensively. Well, now we have a two-way battle going on. There’s no way, at this point, either cat will stop and re-evaluate the situation and realize the true source of the aggression.

Quote from Beth Stern


What can make the situation even worse is if the returning cat is already stressed out from the veterinary visit, is sick, recovering from an injury or illness, or not happy about having had to be in a car.


 Preventing This Type of Aggression

  1. If the visit is for routine vaccinations or exams, schedule an appointment for both cats. That way they’ll both have a similar scent.
  2. If you’re taking just one cat to the veterinary clinic, before leaving, take a pair of clean socks and gently rub her down, including around the cheeks, to collect the pheromones. Place the socks in a plastic bag. Then, take another pair of socks and rub the cat who will be staying home. If you have several cats, rub the cat who is the most bonded to the kitty who will be making the veterinary visit. Then put those socks in the bag as well. Keep that bag at home.
  3. When you return from the veterinary clinic, place the returning cat in a separate room and close the door. Take the socks out of the plastic bag and gently rub her down again to redistribute some of her own scent and mix it with the scent of her companion cat. Leave her alone in the room (or at least keep her separated from other pets in the household). This time alone will give her an opportunity to do some self-grooming so she can clean off more of the unfamiliar scents and redistribute her own, comforting scent. The time alone in the room will also give her a chance to acquire some of the normal household “scents” as well.
  4. A note of caution: do not take the socks and rub down the cat who stayed home. This will not end nicely. You definitely don’t want to distribute the veterinary clinic smell to any other cats. Just take those socks and place them in your washing machine.
  5. While the cats are separated, take the carrier and wash it out to remove the veterinary clinic smell.
  6. When you feel enough time has gone by and you want to reintroduce the cats, monitor their behavior until you’re sure everyone is back to normal. You can conduct an interactive play session, offer a meal or offer treats for distraction.  This might be the time to break out the super-special treats or the incredibly tasty food that you normally only offer on special occasions. If, however, the situation still seems tense, separate the cats again for a longer period.

Need More Information?

For more specific information on cat behavior and training, refer to the books by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett. You can find Pam’s books in bookstores everywhere, on your favorite online book retail site and also right here on our website.


  1. I took both of my cats to the vet at the same time, like I usually do, but I’m still having this problem. My younger cat is hissing at her slightly older friend every time they come near each other. It is very sad, they’ve loved each other since the day they first met and have weathered separate and together vet appointments without much incident in the past. I’m not sure why this has happened, they went together and got the same handling by the same people, so shouldn’t they smell the same?

  2. I always take both my cats together to the vet. But one always get soooooooo stressed she growls throughout the whole visit and at her sister. This lasts for couple of days. I try distraction and separation, but nothing works.

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