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Old 05-15-2012, 03:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Sisters suddenly fighting

Hi guys,

It's another of those "why do my cats suddenly hate each other" threads. Here's the situation.

We have two domestic short hair cats, age 2.5 years. They've been with us since they were 7 months. They are littermates adopted from a no kill shelter. They have always been the best of friends. They sleep together, eat together, even use each other's litterboxes. They groom each other, play together, hunt together, everything as perfect and peaceful as you can imagine.

Now that it is spring time again we've opened up the patio room for them to enjoy. This is a room they normal go into and are only locked out of when it is too cold to leave the door open in the winter. They have a cat tree out there and floor-to-ceiling views of the garden outside.

For the last couple weeks this has been their favorite place. One prefers sleeping on the cat tree and the other has a favorite spot on a chair. They wanted to be out there all the time. Only came in for food, water, the litter box and the occasional human grooming time.

Well last night after dinner (we feed them a can of wet food at night, which they eat side by side in the kitchen even sharing each other's bowls) they went back to the patio room. Two hours later, right in the middle of my 9pm TV show, I suddenly hear a fight break out.

This was a growling, hissing, wrestling, fur flying fight. Tails fluffed, backs arched, full fledged cat fight. Usually when they'd get a little too aggressive with the play wrestling I'd interrupt them and they'd back off. This time neither would pay the least bit of attention. They just wanted to kill each other.

Cricket (the smaller more timid one) had Bella (the fluffier more lap kitty) backed into a corner when I arrived. I thought perhaps it was misplaced aggression. Cricket saw something outside and got defensive then Bella surprised her. So we separated them for the night. Cricket got a time out in the laundry room.

This morning we opened the door again. Cricket and Bella individually are reacting fine to us. We can pick them up, pet them and they purr. But after a half hour of sniffing and licking each other, they suddenly decided to fight again.

Another growling/hissing, fur flying fight. Except this time it was Bella who was being the aggressor. There was no point doing a reintroduction since their smells are all over the house. They have always shared the place equally.

When I last left it, Cricket started the submissive behaviors (rolling over, licking her tail, looking away, backing away from Bella) while Bella was in her crouched/ready to pounce mode. She doesn't attack, just keeps a close eye on Cricket as if she's ready to defend herself. It's a Mexican standoff.

I don't know what to do. Separating them is not working. Distracting them with noise or water just makes Cricket more defensive aggressive. I have no clue what started this. I wasn't watching but it didn't sound like they were playing. There were no other animals or scents in the house. Nothing they seemed to be fighting over.

Only thing I can reason is that Cricket started a fight and won, but Bella is trying to reassert her dominance. She is dominant solely because she is less afraid. Cricket is always the one to give up and back away first.

Any ideas? Their claws are trimmed. They didn't appear to bite one another. They sound horrible but the wrestling is where the fur comes from. Both are shedding their winter coats. (Yes, we've been brushing them. Took off 4 brushfulls last night from Bella.)

Last edited by BroganMc; 05-15-2012 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 05-15-2012, 03:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It sounds more like misdirected or redirected aggression. Maybe they saw another cat and it upset them, but since they couldn't do anything about it, they turned on each other, or just one turned on the other. Here's an article about this problem:

Redirected Aggression: A Case Study | Little Big Cat
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Old 05-15-2012, 04:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I agree with Marie's suggestion. It sounds like redirected aggression. While you were watching TV possibly another cat came up to the patio room. It could have been another female in heat, or possibly a male and he sprayed. The scents of other cats or other animals can drift thro our houses as the windows and doors are rarely air tight. This could have upset one, or both. I'm assuming you have them both spayed? If not, then they should be ASAP. Try giving them treats when they are near each other and behaving well. Also it may help if you play with them together with a fishing-pole type of toy like "Da Bird", going from one to the other. You want to try and orient their minds that good things happen when they're together. If they fight, separate them for a time-out (15 min. max). Or you can be the "boss cat" and whoever is the aggressor, go after her with stomping feet, and say a stern "Bad girl!". Most cats don't like this and will run off rather than attack. You want the aggressor to know that you don't approve of this behavior and will not tolerate it. When they are being good praise them and give them lots of loving....this is important. Good luck! hope you can get them turned around back to being good friends again.
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Old 05-15-2012, 05:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I thought it was misdirected aggression too, but it is going on too long. The patio is 8 feet off the ground. No signs of another cat around though it's possible a stray could have gotten up on the surrounding deck without my knowing.

We've had a mole hermit under the patio before. That kept them interested for a long while last summer. But any other time an animal outside caught their attention they always focused on it, not each other. Last night it was raining so the patio doors and windows were closed. I highly doubt we had an intruder spraying. Strays usually make themselves known. Yes, both our cats are spayed. Have been since they were 4 months old. Like I said, they have been constant companions for the last 2.5 years. They are littermates. They sleep together and eat together. They play chase through the house and mock fight at 3am. The patio room is a favorite hang out. I find it hard to believe a stray could suddenly turn them into enemies that quickly. They know each other's scent and sight well. They don't even freak out when one goes to the vet.

Tried the treat and positive reinforcement angle. Problem is as soon as they see each other they get aggressive.

There's a shared window from the patio to laundry room. When we had them in time out from each other, they found the window and started staring each other down.

I hope I didn't make a bad situation worse by separating them last night. It was odd they spent it sleeping on either side of the same door. Bella looked so forlorn last night. Like she was waiting for her sister to return.

My hunch is that Cricket got in her defensive mode and over reacted. But she took it out on Bella and now Bella's trying to reestablish their boundaries. Like Bella doesn't trust Cricket not to go psychokitty on her.

When I go after the aggressor (just walk between their growling match and make one move), I get all the hissing and growling. Neither attacks me. They just seem to be warning me to stay out of their fight.

When do you let them work it out and when do you intervene? I can't be home all day to separate them. They have to share the same house. There aren't that many places to isolate them. Baby gates are out of the question. I'm disabled and can't handle the obstacle in my house.

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Old 05-15-2012, 05:20 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Yes, both cats are spayed. They have been since they were 4 months old. They are constant companions. I thought it was misplaced aggression too, but it is going on too long. These girls know each others scents and sight. They've had stray animals walk outside in the garden. (The patio is 8 feet off the ground.) There was no sign of another animal last night and it was raining all night. The doors and windows were closed.

I just can't fathom how they could be so close for so long, even eating dinner side by side just 2 hours before, and suddenly a stray turns them into enemies. I can understand misdirected aggression creating an incident for a night, but to continue into the next day?

I've done the chase the aggressor thing, the time out thing, and the positive reinforcement thing. Nothing seems to work. Only thing that made a difference was when I let them continue in their stare down. Then they growled and hissed until Cricket started acting submissive. Then Bella went from pounce position to cautious watching. It's like they are re-establishing their boundaries.
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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This may be an odd thing to ask. but have they been to the vet recently? If so pull their records. If not you may want to make an appointment for a checkup. I have seen the dynamics thrown off because one was ill with something not detected by people.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BotanyBlack View Post
This may be an odd thing to ask. but have they been to the vet recently? If so pull their records. If not you may want to make an appointment for a checkup. I have seen the dynamics thrown off because one was ill with something not detected by people.
They went to the vet in April for their annual checkup. Both got a clean bill of health.

I did notice Bella sneezed a couple times yesterday. Her eyes and nose are clear though. She hasn't sneezed today.

We left them at home today for a few hours. When we returned they were in the same Mexican Standoff position: watching and growling.

I've chased each off their perch when they growled. Individually they have let us pet and cuddle them. But as soon as they see each other, the aggressiveness picks up.

It seems like Cricket reacts first with a fear response and Bella does the stalking. They can't seem to get out of their mode. I'm at the point when I think I need to start drugging them. Maybe Cricket has gotten into a fear mode and that's the problem. She's prone to nervous/skittishness. Even when petting her she'll jump at any loud noise or unexpected thing.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Dinner didn't go so well. For the first time in the last 2 years only Bella came to eat. Cricket was too busy taking up her defensive posture in the patio room.

We just closed off part of the house to separate them. Bella was staking out the egress to the Laundry Room where Cricket has her food and litter box. So we're giving them a time out so each can eat, poop and regroup.

Trouble is they haven't gotten the message. They spent the first 5 minutes trying to get through the door (they are closet-style partition doors) to hiss at each other. Gave a sharp "Bad Kitty" and chased each away from the door.

They aren't chasing each other around the house or engaging physically. They are just stalking and hissing/growling.

I am so frustrated. What happened to my beloved kitties? They've gone psycho.

They have to sleep some time.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I would continue what you're doing. If the fur isn't flying in a vicious fight, it could well be that they're testing and re-establishing boundaries. At 2.5 yrs, this would be consistent with cat's establishing a territory. I would do some interactive play with them together.....make your own wand toy by tying some feathers on the end of a long stick, and flicking it around giving them turns. Whatever it was that happened, it is often one incident that will change two cat's relationship. That happened with me with a half brother, half sister pair who were great friends and snuggle buddies until the female had a litter of kittens. She attacked her buddy one time when he got too close to the kittens, and after that one incident he had a hate-on for her, and would attack her every chance he got. They never were friends again....he was a bully and she became very afraid of him. I couldn't even pet her in his presence or he would attack her out of jealousy. They lived mostly separate lives and after he died at 15 yrs., she was the happiest cat and became much more friendly and outgoing to the other cats and myself. So yes, a single incident can change a whole relationship. Sorry it's happened to you, but it is possible it's repairable, or at least may get to the point that they tolerate each other. Didn't happen with my pair, but doesn't mean it can't happen with yours. Good luck!
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:26 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catloverami View Post
I would continue what you're doing. If the fur isn't flying in a vicious fight, it could well be that they're testing and re-establishing boundaries. At 2.5 yrs, this would be consistent with cat's establishing a territory. I would do some interactive play with them together.....make your own wand toy by tying some feathers on the end of a long stick, and flicking it around giving them turns. Whatever it was that happened, it is often one incident that will change two cat's relationship. That happened with me with a half brother, half sister pair who were great friends and snuggle buddies until the female had a litter of kittens. She attacked her buddy one time when he got too close to the kittens, and after that one incident he had a hate-on for her, and would attack her every chance he got. They never were friends again....he was a bully and she became very afraid of him. I couldn't even pet her in his presence or he would attack her out of jealousy. They lived mostly separate lives and after he died at 15 yrs., she was the happiest cat and became much more friendly and outgoing to the other cats and myself. So yes, a single incident can change a whole relationship. Sorry it's happened to you, but it is possible it's repairable, or at least may get to the point that they tolerate each other. Didn't happen with my pair, but doesn't mean it can't happen with yours. Good luck!
Oh I hope it isn't as bad as that. I can understand a male and female fighting, especially when it's a mother protector her young. But two spayed sisters?

We opened the doors after dinner and got more of the growling/hissing match. Tried to engage both in a laser light game. It distracts them and they'll give chase, but then they see each other and the staring contest resumes. Same thing happens with all toys. They're interested until they see each other.

We're switching their time out rooms now. Bella has the Laundry Room and Cricket has the run of the house. See how well that goes. They can see each other through the window.

It really looks like Cricket is in defensive mode and Bella's being the aggressor. I think the next step is to try Feliway or some tranquilizer. Cricket just refuses to calm down.
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