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How to minimise multicat aggression in the home

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cats are known as solitary survivors yet a recent survey found that 44% of cat owning households had more than one cat.

Cats in general prefer not to fight. Instead they use visual and audible communication to avoid physical confrontations, and social structures to adapt to living in a group.

Sharing a home can be difficult for cats and can result in stress-related behaviours (such as urine marking) and/or inter-cat aggression. 

Space restrictions in our homes can make it difficult for cats to avoid each other which is why it is important to ensure that each cat has access to feeding and water bowls, litter trays and exit/entry points to the home, without having to interact with each other.

Cats can show aggression subtly such as blocking each other, staring, spending most of the time up high or hiding, changes in food consumption, grooming changes or stress-related behaviours, as well as physical interactions.  

Aggression can often be seen in cats newly introduced to each other or between cats that have previously been friendly but an event has resulted in aggression. These events can include changes in the home (such as renovation) or when a cat returns from time away (such as at the vets). 

Aggression can also be as a result of pain or an underlying medical problem, so it is advisable for cats to be examined by their vet.

In addition, when a new cat is brought home and introduced to a resident cat, aggression can be due to territorial and/or fear related issues.

What can I do if my cats are aggressive to each other?

Firstly, cats should be separated to prevent injury and further damage to their relationship. Avoid punishing the cats for fighting as arousal, anxiety and the risk of injury increases.

Cats use scents known as pheromones to communicate with each other and to reassure themselves. By scent swapping, you can reacquaint each cat without any physical contact. 

This involves rubbing a cotton cloth on the chin of one of the cats (an area that produces pheromones) and then leaving it in the room with the other cat and vice versa. 

During this time, each cat should have access to their own feeding bowl, water bowl, litter tray etc. 

The use of a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone can help if a cat is displaying stress-related behaviours. This will help the cat to be comfortable in their own space whilst being introduced to the other cat’s smell and pheromones.

The door that physically separates the cats can then be used to encourage peaceful coexistence. Over time, controlled contact between the cats should be increased, e.g. cats on harnesses, highly palatable food at separate ends of a large room. Gradually reduce the distance between the cats, assessing the cats for any reactivity towards the other. 

Once there is no tension when they are relatively close, try to allow the cats to have monitored free access to each other. 

It can be difficult to predict how well the cats will get on and sometimes the relationship will not be repaired so it may be best for one of the cats to be rehomed.

A synthetic pheromone can a very useful extra tool for you. This is a copy of the natural cat appeasing pheromone which is released by a queen when she is nursing her kittens to encourage a feeling of safety for them and also a bond between them. A synthetic copy of this pheromone (Feliway Friends) is available as a diffuser which should be plugged in the area where cats spend most of their time (usually where they sleep) and has been shown to reduce signs of aggression between resident cats.

If your cats are aggressive towards each other and you would like more information, please do hesitate to contact your practice and ask to speak to a nurse.

For more information on Feliway Friends cat pheromone, please visit www.feliway.com


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