Cat behaviour emergency! Two cats now aggressive towards each other... - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
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Cat behaviour emergency! Two cats now aggressive towards each other...

I've been a member for quite some time, but haven't posted in awhile. However, a rather unfortunate incident has arisen, and now I need ANY and ALL guidance I can get.

Quick background - I have two black DSH cats that have been living harmoniously with each other for about 5 years - one is 5 years old (I've had him since birth), the other is the mom, about 7-8 years old (she was a stray I adopted). While they may not be the best buds, they are friendly towards each other. The mom will still occasionally groom his little boy. The male, Newton, acts like a giant kitten. He is playful, can sometimes be a bully, but is generally a love bug, and is also your stereo-typical scaredy-cat; his first instinct in an potentially dangerous situation is to run and hide. The mommy cat, Newt, is affectionate, a lap-cat, loves cuddles, and she is fiercely territorial. She's half the size of Newton, but in the face of danger, her first instinct is to confront.

Onto the issue - I get home earlier this evening (I live on my own). Newt (the mom) greets me normally. I don't see Newton anywhere - he's usually the first one trying to dash outside, so something already seemed wrong right at the outset. I could also smell cat poop, so it appeared that one of the cats had an "accident", which is exceedingly rare with my cats (just one other time in 5 years). I finally spot Newton hiding under the sofa in the living room. Newt walks by me, both cats glare at each other, lots of hissing and growling ensues.

My immediate reactions are confusion and fear at what exactly is going on... I spot where one of the cats eliminated on the floor in my bedroom. I clean that up, I clean the litter box, turn the ventilation on for whole house to clear out any odors. I get changed and fill up the cats' food bowls. Newt is basically following around like normal begging for her food. Meanwhile, Newton is still hiding under the sofa. While Newt is eating, I eventually coax Newton from his hiding spot with a few treats. I bring his bowl of food to him, and he starts to eat. Once he's finished, he slinks back underneath the sofa.

Now, let me share with you all what I *think* happened. There are a number of stray cats in my neighbourhood. Some aren't even stray, but cats belonging to other families that allow them outside. While they may not always get along, my cats -for the most part- tolerate the company of the other cats - EXCEPT ONE. There is a white and grey cat, that for some reason, drives both of my cats absolutely bonkers. It's like this one cat is their arch-nemesis from another lifetime. Even through a glass window when my cats are inside, Newt will launch herself at the other cat if he/she is on the other side looking in. During these moments, what also happens is both of my cats will get really worked up, and sometimes, the fear/aggression is somehow directed to each other. I've seen this happen a couple of times, and fortunately, I've been around to intervene before the situation escalates. I separate both cats, and after awhile, everything is back to normal.

So, my theory is that this nemesis cat (let's call him Khan for the sake of this story) came around sometime during the day while I was at work and peeked through my window. My cats spot Khan, they get worked up... hissing, growling... then Newt glares at Newton, they stare each other down, one thing leads to another, and there is a physical altercation, a pretty big one, I would imagine, maybe even more than one through the course of the day, I don't really know.

Which leads us to the present. Neither cat will get within 10 feet of the other, and lots of hissing when they make eye contact.

Within the past couple of hours since I've been home, there has been a teeny, tiny improvement. Newton is no longer hiding under the sofa. He's roaming around, eating from the normal spot at the kitchen, but both cats are still wary of each other... still lots of hissing going on. Newt is definitely acting like the dominant one. Right now, she is lounging on the bed with me, carefully watching the bedroom door. Newton has tried coming closer a couple of times, but once both cats see each other, Newton runs off.

So, this is the situation I'm facing. I want to know how to "re-introduce" them both. I've tried distracting them from focusing on each other as much as possible when they get close, but I'm not sure how much it's helping. When they see each other, it's like I'm not even in the room.

I'm going to try and work from home tomorrow so I can supervise both cats, but I live on my own, and will have to leave the cats on their own sooner rather than later.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. In the short term, I'm thinking I might need a 2nd litter box temporarily... I've seen Newt use it since I got home, but Newton hasn't yet. I'm worried he might find somewhere else to eliminate if he doesn't feel safe.

Has anyone ever experienced this type of situation before? And what happens if that other cat comes back while I'm away?

Caretaker of two black cats

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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 11:40 AM
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You should get a second litter box anyway, each cat should have his own. Even cats that have grown up together prefer to have their own litter box if possible. That will definitely make it easier to reintroduce them to each other.

As for the outside cats, get some citrus degreaser and put it in a spray bottle. You can buy this at automotive and bike shops. Spray a fine mist of it all over the ground under the windows to about 4 feet out. Cats hate the smell of citrus so this may keep strays from coming straight up to the glass and peering in to upset your pets.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 10:27 PM
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I think your idea that the white and grey cat appeared at the window, and your cats went berserk is likely what happened, and then through then one redirected its aggression against the other, likely mom against son. At this point if you're going out and leaving them alone, I would separate them, and put them together when you can supervise. Do lots of play with them with a fishing pole wand such as "Da Bird" or something with feathers at the end of it. Most cats can't resist playing with this kind of toy if you fling it around to simulate a bird flying, landing on furniture or floor and crawling on the floor. Do it with them individually and eventually together if they like that. Rub some catnip into their toys. If they're still anxious around each other, try from Bach's flower "Rescue Remedy" a few drops in their water. Some people find Feliway helpful, others not so much. Hope you and get them calmed down.....giving some yummy treats will help too when you see them behaving well together.....always reward good behavior. Hope some of these suggestions work for you. All the best.

"There are no ordinary cats.";"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."~ Colette
"A loving cat can mend a wounded heart." ~ Unknown Author
Alkitotle aka "Alkee", "Lambie" (July 2/04 - Oct. 2/15) -- white Devon Rex
in avatar. "Always in my heart."
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-18-2017, 10:52 PM
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The redirected aggression idea makes sense. If they can't attack the nemesis, they have to attack each other. So give them toys to attack instead. Da Bird was my cat's favorite toy for a while, especially when I flicked my wrist to make the feathers flutter. Look for some catnip toys too. My cat Daisy goes bonkers for half an hour when I give her a new one. You can also buy catnip spray and put it on toys or blankets. Not all cats react to catnip, but those who do can't get enough. Also consider a Feliway plugin for one room in the house.

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Andrea
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2017, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to all for the feedback! Quick update to the situation.

I'm very happy and relieved to report there's been tremendous improvement over the past day - really, the last 12 hours or so in particular.

To make a long story short, the first evening was quite challenging... I got about an hour's sleep around 5am when Newton finally walked into the bedroom without Newt throwing a hissy fit. They managed to sleep on opposite corners of my bed with no issues. Feeding time that morning also went well. But after that, it was back to more hissing and growling and Newton running back under the sofa. Both cats avoided each other for most of the morning.

I went out and bought a Feliway diffuser, and that seems to have helped calm the cats a bit, Newton in particular - he appeared much calmer, and on his own, he was walking around normally with his tail straight up, whereas he was sort of slinking around before. While I didn't separate the cats completely, I put up a few barriers and made sure to block a lot of sight lines in order to create safe zones where neither cat could easily spot each other. The aggression/posturing only comes about with prolonged eye contact, so I tried to minimize those occurrences.

Once again, there were no issues during feeding time in the evening (I think my cats value food too much to be angry, ha!), but there was some hissing again afterwards. Newton retreated to the spare room, and Newt went off to the bedroom. Both slept. I called it an early night after some dinner, feeling a bit sleep-deprived from the evening before. Eventually, Newton tried coming into the bedroom, and Newt hissed... Newton retreated. Not long after Newton came back... no reaction from Newt. There were a couple of times Newton tried to get close to Newt. I didn't think it was too wise at that stage, so I gently nudged him away. Newt was glaring at Newton, but didn't make a sound - she eventually moved away from me to a corner of the bed - I built her a mini pillow fort that was only open on one side where she couldn't see Newton. She stayed there for most of the night. Newton stayed close to me.

Through the night, I was able to sleep fairly comfortably, but did wake up a few times to double check on the cats. They were both relaxed. At some point, they had both positioned themselves close to the foot of my bed, on either side of me. They were able to see each other, but stayed relaxed and slept.

Morning came. Both of my cats were acting normally to my eye. No hissing. They came close a few times and sniffed each other. They enjoyed their breakfast. There were no post-meal confrontations. I kept the barriers up and had to leave for work. I blocked the one ground-level window where stray cats can look through. Hopefully that was sufficient.

I'll be on my way home in a few minutes... hopefully all is well

Caretaker of two black cats

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2017, 05:05 PM
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That is great news! They should be fine again soon.

Meows and purrs,
Andrea
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2017, 06:05 PM
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If they start hissing at each other again, you can try saying something in a disapproving voice to both of them, such as "no!" , or "ssshhh", or "enough!"---whatever word/sound you choose be consistent with it for hissing/fighting. Whenever my two cats start hissing (usually it's Fitty who bullies Zuba who is hissig at him), I say "enough!", and usually that makes them stop. Sometime I distract them by throwing a toy or something away from them, and if Fitty is in one of his really bad bully moods and attacking Zuba I stomp my feet. Usually that's all I have to do to get him to stop, because if he doesn't I go after him with stomping feet and he doesn't like that and smack a newspaper against my leg too. When I was breeding Manx one of my queens took it upon herself to be the boss-cat or "policeman" in my clowder of eight cats and when two would get into hissing and posturing, she would run and get in between them and smack them and they would run away in opposite directions. Sometimes all she had to do was to growl at them and they would stop hissing. She liked a peaceful house where the cats all got along. So she taught me that it's OK to interfere when two cats were hissing and arguing before it escalated into a bad fight. Works for me, maybe it'll work for you too.

"There are no ordinary cats.";"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."~ Colette
"A loving cat can mend a wounded heart." ~ Unknown Author
Alkitotle aka "Alkee", "Lambie" (July 2/04 - Oct. 2/15) -- white Devon Rex
in avatar. "Always in my heart."

Last edited by catloverami; 10-19-2017 at 06:07 PM.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-19-2017, 06:54 PM
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Catlover, that reminds me of what one of my cats did to another one whom she did not like. Whenever Wilbur was sitting within paw's reach of Emily, she smacked him on the head with a hiss. He never fought back. I never understood it because Patricia loved him.

Meows and purrs,
Andrea
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-20-2017, 01:35 PM
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tezster , I should have mentioned in my previous replay that "interfering" in a spat usually work well, if both the cats are bonded and like/love you. When I have to reprehend Fitty for bullying Zuba, he never holds it against me or avoids me later, but often will come and sit and purr in my lap or stand on his hind legs because he wants me to lift him up in my arms. With your two it may be too early to do this type of correction, as the cats may turn off from you and not be as sociable. You don't want that to happen. You want them to see you as their feeder, groomer, massager, lover, play mate, not just their disciplinarian.

"There are no ordinary cats.";"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."~ Colette
"A loving cat can mend a wounded heart." ~ Unknown Author
Alkitotle aka "Alkee", "Lambie" (July 2/04 - Oct. 2/15) -- white Devon Rex
in avatar. "Always in my heart."
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-21-2017, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Another quick update - things were fine that evening when I went home: no cat drama. The day after was fine as well while I was at work. Newton was back to his annoyingly vocal self

But, the situation still isn't back to normal. It's a very precarious peace - they could be perfectly relaxed and content one moment, then a seemingly harmless interaction between both cats can set off a hissing match. I came home today to find Newton hiding under the sofa. I think I need a long period of incident-free behaviour for both cats to calm down completely.

@catloverami - yes, I have absolutely tried raising my voice and various methods of distraction to break up their aggression. It works to a certain degree, but at that point, I think they start tuning me out and become focused on each other.

I'm leaving for a short trip next weekend, and I'm really hoping the situation calms down by then.

Caretaker of two black cats

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