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Discussion Starter #1
Ok cat experts, see if you can riddle me this.

We have two 3.5 yr old domestic short hair kitties. Littermate sisters who were adopted together at 5 mos. old. Most of the time they are close as kittens. They play together, use litter boxes interchangeably, groom each other, eat together and out of each other's dishes, and take turns cuddling with their favorite person (my dad).

Trouble is the more dominant and braver kitty Bella has this annoying habit of trying to sneak out of the house. She's escaped twice in the last month.Usually at night when we're coming in the door and it's freezing cold outside. She's intensely curious about the new front walkway we're building and the Christmas lights we spent all day putting up. So she goes outside for about 15-30 minutes and sniffs around. Then she comes back to the garage and begs re-admittance to the house. She won't come in before then.

That's bad enough but as soon as she comes back inside her sister goes all angry pshycho kitty at her. I thought it was an odor thing at first, but they don't bother to sniff each other and even separation and wiping Bella down with fluff sheets doesn't stop the fighting.

The more submissive sister Cricket growls, hisses and generally tries to be dominant to her sister for a couple days. Bella will hide under the sofa and sneak around to avoid her. We'll lock Cricket in the Laundry Room for a few hours to give her sister a break and we break up their fights. No physical contact just lots of growling and hissing.

After a couple days Bella reasserts her dominance and starts making Cricket hide. And within a week they are back to lovey dovey normal.

So what the heck is this all about? Cricket's form of punishing her sister for escaping? Cricket thinking she's gotten the house to herself when her sister escapes and then is disappointed?

Any advice for us? Mostly we just try to break up the fights before they escalate and act as business as usual while they work it out. We've jumped hoops before to separate and reintroduce them. That doesn't seem to work as well as Grandpa just refusing to cuddle with them if they act up.
 

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I think it could be because she smells different, too. You could solve these problems permanently if she stays inside.
 

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Despite the fluff sheets, I still think you were on to something with your initial thought that there is a scent she's bringing in with her.

Maybe try to keep the indoor kitty in a room with a Feliway plug-in while sister is out.

Or better yet, try to keep her in all the time.
 

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if it is that bella smells just a bit different from her short outdoors adventures, what may help is to do some scent swapping using a towel. just gently rub cricket with a towel, then use that same towel to gently rub bella. this transfers some of cricket's scent to bella so she smells more familiar.

i've used this tactic to help my two cats when one or both have been to the vet's. that vet smell causes much hissing here.
 

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Yes, if you solve the problem of Bella sneaking out it won't be an issue. And Bella isn't safe going outside anyway, especially if she isn't used to it. I would set up a Ssscat right in front of the door to keep her away from that area, that way she won't escape when you come home if she's not right in front of the door. If that doesn't work, maybe use baby gates when you leave if possible to block her from coming into the room where the door that you come in is.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Can't really block them out of the entrance room. That's where we keep their cat boxes. We do lock them out if we're going to be in and out frequently. Other entrance to the house is in the foyer and that's open concept. Baby gates do no good for us. We need the house accessible for us.

I had thought it was a scent thing at first, but they do not even sniff each other before the fighting begins. It's just on sight from across the room.

I'm thinking it is Cricket trying to become top kitty. She lets the power go to her head.

We've started drugging both kitties with Rescue Remedy and locking Cricket away when she gets too aggressive. Today I'm dealing with Bella hiding under sofas and hutches to stay away from her sister. She's hungry for our human attention and Cricket is hogging it all. So Cricket has gotten herself locked in the Laundry Room for the night. I'm hoping if Bella has free reign of the house she'll get her courage back.

Yes, if we can keep Bella from running outside that solves problems. But she's a very curious kitty and knows how to look for her opportunities. She'll hide under the washing machine and wait for her opportunity to escape. No deterance stops her.

FWIW we're in a single family home in the middle of 3 acres land. When she does escape, she stays around the bushes outside. All the places she watches from the windows. I know she is in danger outside, but she is one brave determined cat. She escaped twice over the summer for a few hours, then twice this winter for a matter of minutes. Only once did her sister not attack her when she came back. That was when she was gone for only 15 minutes and Cricket didn't realize she'd left.
 

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I vote for the dominance idea. I observe that the barn cats do this. They trade locations and times to hunt. When I come out every day at the same time, everybody is happy in his/her place. When I mess up the schedule, they fight about who eats where and when. Let an upper status cat be late when I come to feed them, one of the lower caste will challenge. They growl and swipe but don't actually fight. Sounds like your two.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I vote for the dominance idea. I observe that the barn cats do this. They trade locations and times to hunt. When I come out every day at the same time, everybody is happy in his/her place. When I mess up the schedule, they fight about who eats where and when. Let an upper status cat be late when I come to feed them, one of the lower caste will challenge. They growl and swipe but don't actually fight. Sounds like your two.
They are driving me nuts. They'll share the house fine with their zones and seek out our companionship like normal. But then there will be the times when they stake out their "cat territory" and Cricket gets all aggressive. Dinnertime in the kitchen (they each get a bowl of wet food at 6:30pm) starts with both excitedly showing up to watch the meal prep, then Cricket turning on her sister with a growl and hiss.

Unusual thing this time is how much hiding Bella is doing. She's the naturally dominant cat, but she's been hiding under furniture and in rooms whenever her sister has a tantrum. We've tried the forced isolation in a room. We've chastised Cricket when she gets aggressive, which chases her away and stops physical fights. We're giving both Rescue Remedy. We're trying to feed them in the kitchen at the same time but separately with backs turned.

I wish they'd go back to being friends again.
 

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FYI although it seems counter-intuitive, if you chastise Cricket when Bella is there, Cricket will associate the negativity with Bella. You can't allow her to harm Bella for sure, but the solution has to be either removing Cricket from the scene if she gets aggressive at meal time and feeding her separately, or doing positive reinforcement when she is not being aggressive toward Bella. Bella is obviously seeing a difference in their dynamic though if she is hiding more than she did.
 

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I agree with others that there is a scent issue-I had a similar experience with two kittens that are brother and sister. When the boy Blue was sick we had to make multiple vet visits, every time we brought him home, his sister who cuddles with him, grooms him, etc. Would hiss at him, run from him, and be generally mean to him for about 48-72 hours.
 

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Reading something like this makes me realize how lucky we have been over the last 38 yrs with our variety of pets. sure, one did pick on the smaller one and Eliza in her youth seemed to want to be the mother of anything we brought in.

And, all have always been indoor only or the dog was allowed in a fenced yard but really preferred walks to being outside much.

Unless, there is a chance for injury, what happens when you let these two settle their own differences. Bella gets out even when you try to stop her escapes. do you isolate her when she comes back in? Maybe a room where she can stay for the rest of the day or until feeding time? That would be my next test to see what happens then. Maybe she might even not want to escape because, Like Steve McQuenn in "The Great Escape", she knows the 'cooler' awaits her?

I think cats do what comes natural to them and to try to understand it in human terms is unfair to them.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
5 days later and the fight is over. Silly kitties.

I'm discounting the scent issue because unlike in the past Bella just hasn't been outside long enough and there's a ton of snow on the ground. In fact, when she was outside for 15 minutes a few weeks ago and Cricket didn't know she'd escaped there was no fighting at all. It's got to be a dominance thing.

What we did to solve this issue was a combination of letting them work it out, isolation when it got out of hand, coaxing them to eat together in the same room, give each personalized attention and encouragement for good behavior and verbally chastise them (loud shouts and a bit of stomping for misbehavior gets the message across) and doses of Rescue Remedy to calm the hormones.

Saturday when Bella escaped (was after dinner so they usually went to their own corners anyway), Cricket greeted her sister with immediate growls, hisses and stalking her under the furniture.

Sunday & Monday, Cricket acted like top kitty in the household. She roamed freely claiming all the favorite spots for herself. Bella hid out in the Living Room (where the Christmas Tree is). Every time Bella poked her head out Cricket growled and hissed at her. She got so aggressive we locked her away in the Laundry Room for the night so Bella could come out to eat and use the litterbox. (Had to separate the litterboxes and put one in a downstairs bathroom.)

Tuesday, Bella started coming out more. We did lock her in the bathroom for a few hours overnight to be sure she was using the litterbox. Worried me how much she was hiding in the Living Room. More growling and hissing whenever we tried to feed them in the kitchen.

Wednesday, (yesterday) they had free reign of the house.Bella reclaimed the first floor as her domain. If Cricket hissed/growled, she got a sharp reprimand to stop. Bella did hiss/growl back a couple times. No physical contact between them, just tails all fuzzy and loud noise. We don't like them to get into it so chase boh away from the fighting when it gets loud.

Thursday, (today) we did nothing special. Let them roam freely. No fighting at all. When we served them dinner, both arrived to cozy up to us and ate beside each other like normal. Cricket stopped to give Bella a questioning look, but Bella didn't react. So I guess the fighting is over.

I'm guessing that has to be a dominance thing. Next time we'll try to isolate Cricket when Bella goes MIA. Trouble is she does it at the most unexpected times and gets us all upset. Cricket hears us calling for her and checking all the doors. She must think it's her chance to rule the roost.

They are very affectionate kitties but do have their favorite domains. For Cricket it's the bedrooms upstairs. She'll sleep with my dad. Bella prefers the first floor and jumps in your lap for cuddles down here. They'll mostly ignore each other during the day, arise at 4pm to await "Daddy" coming home at 6pm, get together for dinner then play together in the middle of the night (which entails chasing each other through the house at 3am). In warm weather both will hang out in the patio room where they can watch the birds and bathe in the sun.
 
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