How To Stop Cats From Fighting
Do your cats fight?
We don’t like to see our cats fighting. We want to see them getting along like best friends.
If we have a single cat, maybe we want him to have a friend, so we bring a new one into our home and we just want them to get along and have a nice life together.
Most of the time, the outcome is pretty good, our kitties become friends or at least put up with each other, but there are those times when one gets too aggressive with the other one and they fight.
Aggression Between Family Cats
Cat behavior is complex — you know that.
Relationships between household cats can be complicated too. We don’t understand all the nuances going on.
Some disagreement between our kitties is normal behavior.
Even if a cat has some aggressive tendencies, cats normally figure out how to tolerate one another and live happily without unnecessarily inflicting conflict.
They learn to mostly stay apart from one another when they sleep, eat or use the litterbox. They work it out.
But repeated aggression or violent daily aggression needs to be resolved so it doesn’t keep happening.
Reasons Why Cats Fight
It can be upsetting to see our cats fighting with each other.
Why do they do it? Aren’t they friends?
We do our best to pick a cat that we hope will get along with our household, but it’s impossible to know for sure what will happen.
Why Do Household Cats Get Aggressive?
There are several reasons why a cat may become aggressive towards another one of your household cats. Here are the common types of aggressive behavior between cats.
Some Cats Are Just More Aggressive Than Others
Some cats simply are more prone to acting in an aggressive manner when they are put in a challenging circumstance. It’s just their nature.
They resort to aggression quickly. Why are they like this? We figure it is due to how they were brought up, their early life experiences, and their genetics.
It isn’t any one situation that makes them act aggressive, it can be just their common response.
They Become Startled
Your kitty is sleeping when suddenly there is a loud noise. Kitty is startled and a little scared. She doesn’t know what happened or what is going on.
It’s common for her to become defensive and act out at anyone or any other cat near her. And, for a little while, she may associate that feeling with the other cat and not trust that other cat.
They Think They are Defending Their Turf
Cats are territorial. Some are very assertive about it.
Most are adaptable and can live together in a multi-cat house, but a few never adjust to sharing it.
Some cats will hiss at strangers and other animals coming into or near their home. They feel they are defending their home against an invader.
Some cats will divide up a house into areas where only one cat is allowed to go. They each have their own special territory or favorite safe spot for sleeping or resting.
One Cat Associates Something Unpleasant With the Other Cat
Housemates can be getting along just fine, but then something unpleasant happens. For whatever reason, both your cats associate the other one with this unpleasant situation.
They are suddenly frightened of each other and the fighting begins. Sometimes they get over it right away, other times it takes days or weeks.
Genetics and Kitty Parenting
An adult cat’s temperament will be influenced by the experience they had as a kitten. A kitten brought up in a friendly environment with other kittens will usually become a friendly adult.
A cat that lived outside on his own and had little pleasant contact with other cats or humans may have difficulty fitting into a multi-cat home.
They may be too territorial and have an overly strong survival instinct that won’t allow them to share food or space.
It’s also possible that a cat who has grown up as a single cat, without contact with others, has only known being a solo cat. She may not know how to relate to suddenly having another feline in the house.
It will be a complete disruption of her world. It may take her a long time to adapt. On the other hand, maybe she will not have a problem with it. With a cat, you never know.
Inadequate Socialization as a Kitten or Young Adult
The early weeks of kittenhood are so important in the social development of a feline.
This socialization prepares them to be around people, other cats and possibly, other animals.
Felines that don’t receive the care and experience they need when they are young are more likely to have issues later when being exposed to people and other cats.
For example, they may misunderstand feline etiquette and communication and not know how to act around another indoor cat. They may respond with aggression instead of with an appropriate response.
Maternal aggression can occur in two ways. It can be between two females in the same household or between a mother of new kittens and everyone else.
A female who is protecting a new litter may suddenly not trust any other feline. She does not want anyone else coming around her new litter. She will get back to normal once her kittens are weaned.
Competition for Food or Other Resources
When cats share a house, they also share these important resources:
- Litter Boxes
- Sleeping Spots
- The Best Places to Sit
- Play Areas
- Scratching Surfaces
- The Couch
- Favorite Chairs
- Human Laps
If you can provide multiples of these resources, there will be enough for your felines to share.
You don’t want your housemates to be in constant competition with each other for these things. Not having enough of these to go around will increase the anxiety and stress levels of your cats.
Most young cats and all kittens engage in rough and tumble play that resembles fighting.
This mock aggression is just play. One attacks another. Then later, the other one attacks back.
They stalk each other. They jump on one another. They hide. They run. They swat at each other.
If they engage another cat who does not have the typical socialization of a kitten into their play, the older cat may respond back with aggression, not understanding that they are merely playing.
Territorial aggression is very common. This occurs when one cat believes another cat has come into her territory.
The aggrieved cat can respond by running away, hissing, swatting, or fighting.
Their territory could be your whole house or simply one small favorite area, such as a bed.
Cats are born predators. It’s in their nature to stalk and hunt.
If the only thing in your house that moves is another cat, and that’s the only game in town, your feline may have the urge to stalk and pounce on him every once in a while.
Sometimes two unrelated adult males will have issues with sharing a home.
Sometimes the issue is just between the two of them trying to achieve a little dominance in their relationship. But often this occurs when there is a female around and they are competing for her attention.
Defensive aggression happens when your cat is afraid and feels threatened.
When she feels there is no escape route or no other option but to fight, she will lash out as a defense.
She worries she is about to be attacked by another cat or may be punished by a human. She’s simply trying to protect herself.
This is a common situation for homeowners. Your cat is sitting in the window or looking outside and sees an outdoor cat walk right up to the house.
Your cat freaks out and feels the need to protect his territory. Then he turns and sees your other cat right behind him and gets confused. He lashes out at your other cat instead of the outside one.
If both cats see the outside cat, they might attack each other. This redirected aggression can also be directed at you too.
Bringing a New Cat Home
If you’re bringing a new cat into your home, introducing him the right way is essential. Not just for him, but also for your existing kitties.
You want to start by leaving your new cat in just one room at first. This allows him to get acquainted with the smells and sounds of his new place.
Your existing feline isn’t going to like it very much that there is an intruder on the other side of the door, but you will give him a few days or more to get used to the idea before you open the door.
Properly introducing your cats to each other needs to be done slowly. Their first meetings might not be perfect, but they’ll get better as time goes on.
Maybe It’s a Medical Issue
If you’ve noticed a change in your cat’s behavior towards you or another cat, don’t rule out a medical condition.
A cat in pain will be irritable and scared and will growl or hiss at other pets when they get too close.
If you see a change in behavior, especially if it is combined with a change in eating or another habit, you should contact your veterinarian.
Don’t Confuse Rough Playing With Fighting
Cats play fight with each other. Especially siblings.
How do you tell the difference between playing and real fighting? Play fighting is usually silent. It starts and stops for a few seconds. It might include some chasing and rolling around with each other.
There may be some screeching in the end when one gets too rough. Real fighting is filled with a big buildup of posturing and hissing and screeching.
How to Stop Aggression Between Cats – What You Can Do
Some cats are tolerant and will share their home with multiple cats. Others may tolerant one, but not another. And the more cats you have, the more issues you will likely have to.
If aggression between your household cats has become an issue and you want it to stop, there are some steps you can take.
Rule Out a Medical Issue
If your usually friendly cat is suddenly acting up, a good first step is to rule out some medical issue.
When a cat is ill, it doesn’t readily show symptoms. But the pain and confusion about the pain causes them to get grouchy and unfriendly.
It’s best to take her to your veterinarian for a health evaluation. Be sure to explain the behavior you are noticing.
Spay or Neuter
If your vet thinks there is nothing wrong with your feline, you can move on from there.
If your cat is not spayed or neutered, it should be an option to consider. Intact males in particular can show aggressive behavior sometimes.
And the behavior of just one intact animal in the house can affect the entire environment.
Identify the Triggers That Upset Your Cat
Monitor your feline so you can identify what it is that is setting her off.
Maybe she is seeing cats outside that are making her angry or she is getting scared by loud noises or an inconsiderate roommate.
Come up with a strategy to reduce those triggers and design a plan to distract her and redirect her attention when those triggers happen.
If your cats are fighting because you are giving them only a little attention and they each want more, make a plan to give them each attention.
If they are fighting over one food bowl, give them more bowls.
Some mild behaviors, like a little hissing that doesn’t progress into any other action, can be normal. Hissing is a way they communicate and it’s not necessarily bad as long as it doesn’t lead to fighting.
Provide Sufficient and Separate Resources
Sometimes the trigger is tension resulting from competition to resources in the home.
Cats will compete for the food bowl, water dish, beds, litter boxes, hiding spots, high resting perches, scratching posts, or your lap.
Fortunately, this is also the easiest problem to solve. You just give more resources.
Your cat might guard one food dish, but he can’t block access to three.
If you feed them wet food at a certain time, you can use multiple dishes instead of just using one.
Each cat will probably have his favorite water dish. Some will be protective of it. So you just provide one more in a different spot. Or maybe two.
It can be difficult to provide litter boxes in more locations than just one room, but if you can manage it, having a litter box in multiple areas of the home gives each cat another option.
Provide Sufficient Entertainment and Distractions
Felines can get bored. They want to play and hunt.
Try to introduce new toys for them to play with. Try to give them new things to explore and do.
Give them plenty of ways to play and be entertained.
Block Their View
If one of your cats goes crazy when he sees another cat outside, you may need to block their view.
Sometimes it is as easy as closing your window blinds. Other times it will be harder.
Some homeowners will apply an opaque window cling product on the bottom section of a patio door in order to block an animal’s view. Since it is only applied to the bottom, it won’t obstruct a taller human from seeing out.
Give Them Lots of Attention
Play with all your cats.
They like it, it uses up some of their energy and reinforces their belief that you love them. Playtime is especially helpful in the evening.
If your cats are fighting over attention from you, it’s possible you can teach them that you don’t like their aggression towards one another.
When you notice that one cat becomes anxious or angry, you should leave the room. Without you being in the room, they have nothing to fight over.
It may take a while for this strategy to sink in, but your cat should eventually realize that her bad behavior results in you leaving the room. That is not what she was wanting.
Don’t Let Them Fight
If your cats are fighting — get them to stop.
Interrupt them by making a loud (but not frightening loud) noise or doing some other action, like dropping a towel over one.
A bad fight can add long-lasting harm to a feline relationship. And one fight can lead to another one later on.
Once they have separated, don’t get too close. They could turn on you during their confusion.
And don’t try to calm them down by talking to them or reaching out your hand. Just leave them alone.
Distract Them and Reward Good Behavior
Reward them for good behavior.
When you notice the signals your feline is giving off, interrupt those feelings and redirect her towards you.
Distract her and get her to come to you. And when she does, reward her for this great behavior by giving her a treat and some kind words and affection and maybe a special toy.
Praise – Don’t Punish
Use your best voice and praise your felines when they are cooperating.
Punishing doesn’t do any good. Yelling or scolding doesn’t do any good.
Any physical punishment or yelling just confuses a cat. They may even end up blaming the other cat for their punishment.
You Got To Keep Them Separated
When household cats are fighting too much, the best option may be to separate them into different rooms or areas of the house for a while. How long? Maybe even a few days.
You make sure that each area provides what the cats need — food, bed, toys, litter boxes, water, and anything else they would like.
They will be able to hear what’s going on around the house, but they won’t be able to touch each other.
Place their food bowls near the closed door between them. This ensures they will be close together while doing something they like.
After a while, have them switch rooms so they experience some variation and safely reacquaint themselves with the other’s scent.
Carefully Re-Introduce Your Cats After an Episode or a Separation
You want to gradually reintroduce your felines and watch for signs of stress and anxiety.
After several days or so, you could open the door an inch or two at the most. Wedge the door so they can peek through the crack but can’t fit through it. If they remain calm, they may be ready to be together again.
However, if one immediately starts to growl, hiss, or swat, you may have to close the door again.
Once the door is open, keep them distracted by feeding them or playing with them. But keep them far apart. You want to teach them that good things happen when they are together.
When they can be just a couple of feet apart from one another and peacefully play or eat, maybe they are ready to be left alone.
You can try leaving them alone, but just for short periods of time at first. Go slow and be cautious. It’s better to go slow than have to start over.
Be Careful When One Comes Home From the Vet
It’s common for cats to be aggressive with one another when one returns from the vet.
The cat coming home from the vet smells funny to the other cats in the house. He almost smells like a different cat. They may have trouble recognizing them.
And since your cats communicate using their sense of smell, that familiar communal odor formed by your group is now different. It’s confusing to them.
So keep the returning feline in a separate room for some hours in order for him to groom himself and get back that familiar odor.
A cat has glands in the cheek area that produces chemical substances called pheromones. These substances provide details about the cat and producing them also helps the cat relieve anxiety.
That is why your cat will rub their cheeks against your leg, the wall or the couch, they are marking their territory with these released pheromones.
You can buy a synthetic pheromone spray or diffuser which mimics the real thing. It can be sprayed into the air or onto surfaces. It provides a calming effect to most cats.
You won’t be able to smell it or notice it, but kitty will. Some felines respond very well to it.
What Not To Do
Here are a few things you shouldn’t do.
- Don’t just ignore it. Don’t let the behavior continue. It isn’t healthy or productive.
- Don’t allow your cats to fight. Fighting makes it all worse.
- Don’t try to pull apart fighting animals. To stop them, make a loud but not terrible noise, squirt them with a little water, or throw something soft on one of them.
- Don’t punish them. They won’t understand. It may just make them more fearful and aggressive or make you a target.
- Don’t try to handle them if they are agitated or angry.
- Don’t give a cat any pet medication without consulting with a veterinarian first.
- Don’t give them any human medication or product.
- Don’t give up.
How to Deal with Aggression Between Family Cats
What do you do if nothing seems to work?
If you’ve tried everything, but your cats still can’t get along with each other, you may need to bring in a pro.
You can contact an animal behaviorist or a veterinary behaviorist for help.
They can evaluate your problem and perhaps come up with a solution that works for your situation. You may be able to find a behaviorist in your area on our list.
But What if Nothing Works?
Working through these issues can take time and commitment. Try to be patient and don’t give up quickly.
Some felines will never grow to be best friends, but most will learn to tolerate each other and learn to live with as little conflict as possible.
However, in some rare instances, some felines cannot live with each other.
And instead of forcing them to suffer a daily stressful life, maybe it is better to either keep them permanently separated in your house, if possible or to find another place for one of them to live.
It’s a radical move, and one that is hard to make, but maybe it would be for the best.
NOTE: This article (as well as the other articles here) is not intended to be medical or veterinarian advice. Do not rely on this article for professional advice. The author of this article is not a veterinarian or a doctor. This author does not know your personal situation. This article is to be considered general information only. The only advice you should rely upon for your pet and your situation is the advice and guidance you receive from your own licensed veterinarian and staff who actually examine your animal. Be sure to get in touch with your vet with any concern you have with your feline.
Got a bully in your house? Learn to stop a bully cat.