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Why Your Cats May Not be Getting Along

A timid cat might take to hiding under the bed or skulking around the house in order to access resources when the coast is clear. He may even begin to display sickness behaviors from the ongoing stress (such as decreased appetite, elimination out of the litter box, vomiting, diarrhea, etc). A more assertive cat may engage in resource guarding. He might intimidate another cat away from the feeding station, favored sleeping areas, toys or he may lounge in the pathway to the litter box in order to prevent another cat from being able to enter. This behavior could be so subtle that you don’t see it or it could be outright where there’s growling, hissing, body language signals or actual fighting between the cats. The outright aggression is the one cat parents notice but sadly, it’s the conflict that just bubbles under the surface that can go on for years without being addressed.

Tension between your cats can also occur if attention is paid to one cat more than the other or it seems as if one cat is favored. Cats don’t misbehave out of spite but when a cat parent interprets it that way and spanks, yells or squirts water at one cat for a perceived infraction, it doesn’t help the feline relationships. A cat getting intimidated by another cat may have resorted to eliminating outside of the litter box due to fear. If the cat parent yells or punishes the cat for the perceived “misbehavior” it just escalates an already stressful situation for the cat.

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The Cats’  Environment

Cat parents want their cats to live as part of a happy family but many times they don’t take into consideration how the cat’s nature plays into the need for resource security. You may want your cats to share one community food bowl in the kitchen or share one big litter box in the laundry room but one or both of those things may be what’s triggering conflict. Much of a cat’s social interaction with other cats has to do with resource availability. Cats live together cooperatively when there are adequate resources for everyone. Competition and conflict occur when there isn’t enough to go around. Even though you’re sure you’ve put enough food in the bowl for both cats, one of the cats may not feel that way. Even though you’ve set up a litter box that’s big enough for two cats, a cat of lower status may not feel comfortable enough entering the territory of the higher ranking cat.

Ensure There’s Enough for Everyone in Your Cat Family

Now that you know how important  resource security is to your cat, you can be more watchful for those subtle signs of tension you may have previously overlooked. The solution, in many cases, is simply to increase the number of resources. Your cats may feel more secure if you increase the number of feeding stations. In some cases that may just involve giving each cat a separate bowl. In other cases you may have to set up feeding stations in multiple locations. When it comes to the litter box, instead of having one toileting area, set up boxes in multiple locations. This way, one cat is never forced to cross another cat’s path. For playtime, unless your cats play cooperatively where each cat equally shares in the game, engage in individual interactive play therapy. If doing group play, have another family member focus on the other cat or if you’re by yourself, hold a fishing pole toy in each hand so no one has to compete.

5 comments

  1. We have 2 cats Gizmo is 12 and Buddy is 2 we rescued Buddy he has been with us for 1 year now.The problem is that he likes to jump on Gizmo and bite him to the point where Gizmo hisses at him. We know that Gizmo has accepted Buddy and he wants to play but Buddy always bites him. We treat them both the same we don’t favor. We don’t know why
    Buddy is like that could you help.

    Thank you

  2. I guess I am lucky, I have a 14 year old male and 13 year old female and they are great pals. The female watches him avd wants to know where he is most of the time. They fit the typical female and male stereotype. She is territorial about her territory, if I am cleaning her area. She wil watch and I better straighten it up! The guy is a typical guy, he doesn’t care Things being in order, just wants his food and a comfy place to ret!

  3. My cat is 12 years old he was 2 days when we found him he was orphan his name is ginger but as he grow up he was so mean to other people
    To everyone
    except us
    even the cats of nieghbors or stray cats male or female no difference
    We tried really hard for him we liked him to make friends but he never did my family think it’s because he didn’t see cats when he was a kitten now we found another orphan kitten his name is lucky we take care of him till he starts eating dry food then my friend will adopt him I love lucky very much of course ginger too but I don’t think they will get along ginger starts hissing when lucky gets close but he doesn’t​ care if he is at home and apparently if lucky gets older he will go near ginger and would like to play with him im scared ginger could kill him I really wanna know what we did wrong that ginger became so mean we never talk to him in harsh words or hurt him that he is behaves like this I would like to know bcuz I won’t like lucky to be same

  4. We have the same problem with our cat Boots. She doesn’t like people and will only go by certain people for a minute to rub on them. If someone tries to pet her, she hisses. We picked up a stray kitten, Milo and he loves to play. We are in the process of getting his shots and next week he will be old enough to get neutered. The problem is he bothers Boots. She hisses at him all of the time, and doesn’t want to play. At first he would leave her alone, now he will chase her if she isn’t sitting on the couch or sill. Twice she defecated on our couch and I think it’s because he was messing with her. Will they ever get along??