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Sisters suddenly fighting

68447 Views 46 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  catloverami
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.)
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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
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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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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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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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.
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.
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.
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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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.
Day 3: Bella had a time out last night. We put her in the Laundry Room for the night. That was where we kept Cricket the night before. Did that because she kept stalking Cricket in the Patio Room and was being the aggressor all day. Plus this way she was forced to swap scents with her sister.

We usually keep their cat boxes in the Laundry Room so it is a known place. During the "war", we moved a box to the 1st floor bathroom. There is dry food and water in both rooms. Bella's wet dinner was moved there as well. Thought it best we give Cricket a break from being hunted for the night. I worried she wasn't using the litter box for fear of her sister.

No active wrestling matches/fights last night but lots of stalking, hissing/growling/yowling. Cricket spent the night upstairs in her regular comfort zone... i.e. sleeping with my dad on his bed. It calmed her down this morning.

Opened the door and the two continued their stalking match, but did walk away. Both are competing for my dad's attention. They come over wanting to be petted. He gives them equal time. If they go after each other, they get a sharp "No! bad kitty!" and get chased away from each other. Staring is allowed, it's the hissing/growling we stop.

I picked up the Feliway infuser and plugged that in. Also got a couple of catnip-filled toys. Both are going to town on that.

My hope is to drug them happy then get them to play with each other. I have some wand toys to entice them. Also playing classical music in the background in hopes that provides auditory stimulation. It creates a relaxing mood in the house for all (humans and cats).

I'm going with the assumption this is misdirected aggression. If Cricket went after Bella on the first night then warfare broke out, then perhaps that incident is the problem. They haven't forgotten/forgiven it and can't figure out how to be friends again.

They did stop the all out warfare today on their own. I'll be home today so I can play "Top Cat" and halt any fights before they break out. My plan is just give them a day to play with their toys and reach out to each for petting/comforting. I hope to get them to play with me later tonight.

We'll see how dinner goes.

The whole episode is very strange. These girls NEVER fought with each other. They were always the best of friends, closer than any two cats I've ever seen. Even the vet was amazed. And there was nothing leading up to the fight. No jealousy, no new scenarios, no intruders in the household. They were calmly eating beside each other one minute then at each other's throats the next. I hope I can get them to settle down and get out of their fear response.

I'm supposing that misplaced aggression is a purely animal instinct/fear response. If so then I have to treat it like a mental illness. Get them over their response and back to normalcy.
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I spoke too soon. Cricket came downstairs to play. Bella wanted to play too, but as soon as they saw each other on the stairs fireworks broke out. Bella the aggressor got her puffed up tail and Cricket hissed back.

Back to the Laundry Room time out for Bella. See how she likes isolation for an hour.

Stupid animals. Don't you just want to shake them sometimes?
Another thing you might try is having more vertical places for them to go. Do you have a cat tree, window shelves, wall shelves, boxes/stools to sit on to look out windows? Sometimes they need to be up higher to see the other cat or have an alternate place to go so they're not harassed and can claim as their own. Set up some boxes or stools in front of windows or move furniture to see if that doesn't make a difference before investing in expensive cat trees. Worth a try I think. Even moving the furniture around and putting out empty boxes can give them something else to do and think about. Sometimes cats fight just out of boredom. Give them some different play "toys".....make some foil/paper balls, plastic pull tabs off frozen juice cans, twist up some long bag ties.....sometimes the simplest toys are the best.
Thanks for the ideas.

They have plenty of vertical places. Our windows are open to the screens which means they have a multitude of perches on both floors. My room becomes a favorite place during the day because it has two views. Then there are the bathrooms with a backyard view. Views of the front yard and beyond. We give them full movement of the house so they have lots of options for space. And in the patio room we had a two perch cat tree. I invested in that when they were kittens. They always shared it before either at the same time or separately.

The issue we have is that they just can't seem to see each other as friends. They are either wary or start hissing/growling as soon as they see each other. They walk around the house as if they are on the hunt. Anything that is a source of competition is the reason for a fight. I'm trying to make it clear that fighting is not allowed. Punishment is banishment. Warning is a sharp, loud putdown.

This afternoon, I have the house cordoned off with a partition door. One cat on each side. Even though it is nap time and each should be enjoying their corners to nap, I still caught them on either side of the door hissing at each other. I roared at them both to knock it off and they both ran away to their separate corners. Bella came back 15 minutes later and started yowling for her sister. One of those challenge meows. I told her to stop and she walked away. I think they are off sleeping now.
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I don't have any experience so I could be way off base but perhaps if you gave them a vacation away from one another, they would forget their animosity and remember that they were friends? Maybe a weekend at a pet boarding facility or a family member's home for one of them?
I use an air duster can as discipline for my boys which works relatively well. It sounds like hissing. Maybe you could use that when they are hissy and growly so your the dominant cat with a negative sound in their language. Just don't use it for extended blasts as the air tends to get cold.
Just a couple ideas.
I have three girl cats, and it seems like around this age they all have had a chip on their shoulders. My house is generally peacefully but every once in a while someone picks a fight and these fights are loud, fur does fly sometimes (shedding season), and someone always winds up running off. Winry is usually the instigator. But at the end of it all, they go back to getting along.

I really think they must have seen another cat outside and it just left a big impact on them. I like Julz's idea though.
They spent the afternoon in a divided house. Eventually I just walked out and left the house open. No preamble, just open the door and tell them to behave. They didn't fight but did growl/hiss at each other.

Tonight they each wanted our attention for cuddling. They seem to be more interested in us humans now that they aren't getting along.

I'm gonna try leaving the house open tonight and see how they do. I dunno. Maybe an incident of misdirected aggression has led to a power match. They know each other is around and they seem to know who they are. They just want to disagree. One jumps on a perch, the other growls. Trying to play wand toys with them seems to instigate a fight. They both want to play and are attracted to the sound. Laser light does take the focus off each other though.

I'm getting less worried they'll kill each other. But they sure do seem to be working something out.
they'll probably work it out themselves. i don't worry if my cats scuffle as long as no blood is drawn.

but just earlier (for the first time EVER) a giant fight broke out. it was wKF smackdown.

diotima is 15, and she is the most chill cat anywhere. (wouldn't you be if you were 90-something?) baci has always done this weird thing where he grabs the back of her neck like he's going to mount her, but then he has absolutely no idea what to do so he throws her to the floor and runs off.

houdini is the child, and most of the time, he torments baci. i've seen what he does and it's so dumb, i hope he grows out of it. everybody's quiet, grooming each other, and he just hauls off and takes a swat. then when he gets a swat back, he starts hissing and posing and acting all stupid. as a rule, diotima is like, "get away from me kid, you bother me," and it's over.

but tonight, she went medieval on their butts. i've never seen her do it before, and she's very small. first she got houdini and he was all :shock: and he beat a path. then for some weird reason, baci went up to her, and did the throw down move, and she lost it. first she let out this long ugly yowl, like cats do when they fight in the alley. then she just tore into him and WON. he was double 8O. there were clumps of hair and fingernails all over the floor. i wasn't a good mom, i started laughing. both boys ran away, and she just sat by the bed with her hair messed up, switching her tail. i called her and said, "what's wrong?" and she just glared at me and went under the bed. lol

maybe it's just something she does intermittently to keep them in line, or when she's had enough, and i just haven't been home to see it but it was pretty funny.
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I had a case of misdirected aggression between Maggie and Kobi about 6 years ago over a neighbor's cat in the yard. They fought so bad that they both ended up with abscesses. It took a complete separation for a month and another 3 months of gradual reintroduction before they could be in the same room and not hiss or growl at each other.

Your situation sounds like it's very likely misdirected aggression. It doesn't sound as bad as what happened in my house. It seems like they are starting to repair the relationship, but the one that was attacked may never fully trust the other again. I know Maggie is very wary of Kobi to this day, especially because he's so much bigger than her (literally twice her size).

The thing you need to figure out is what triggered it. If there is a stray or neighbor's cat on the loose and you don't figure out how to keep it out of your yard this will just continue to happen and will get progressively worse.
We kept the house open last night just to see what happened. No all out warfare but there were a few hissing/growling matches. Cricket is the instigator. A soon as she sees Bella coming along and threatening her territory (i.e. Wanting to be on her window sill) she growls and houses. Bella goes into defensive mode and glares back. After a few of these episodes (with us at first telling at them to stop) Bella has learned to walk away from Cricket.

It is like Cricket is telling Bella she didn't want her to come near her. And Bella can't figure out why. In the past they would play fight all the tome. Cricket just refuses to play with her.

No sign of any cats outside. We live in the country so there are several access of land around the house. No easy way to keep animals out. No status have been sighted around the neighborhood though. We rehomed the strays a long time ago. Lots of deer, birds, and squirrels though. The girls are used to it. We did close off the patio room st night however. That way we reduce exposure and keep them from competing over the room.

Today both insist on being upstairs where I am. They are going from window to window. Bella is.sneaking around corners because she's not she where Cricket has gotten on her high horse.
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