Cat fights are very unpleasant. If you’ve ever seen a cat fight, with all the yelling, the biting, the scratching, and the worrying she might get hurt, I’m sure you’d do anything to prevent it happening again. Wait… No, not that kind of cat fight! Your beloved kitten – that vital member of the family who you would do anything for, of course. Why? What were you thinking?
Cat fights might happen in the home, when you find two sibling cats suddenly fighting, or they might happen as altercations between two outdoor cats. Sometimes fighting is completely unexpected, and might even be between two cats who were best friends the day before. Why does this happen, and what can you do to keep your cats safe?
Why Are My Cats Fighting all of a Sudden?
There are many reasons cats fight. If your cat comes home with unexplained cuts, bumps or bruises, they probably got into a fight with another local neighborhood cat, but they can also fight with their brothers and sisters. There are three main reasons cats might fight:
- Rough Play
Like having two young sons, what can start as a pleasant play fight can descend into chaos and danger. Chasing each others tails, playing hide and seek, and generally fooling around might get a little too competitive, or cause an accident that inspires revenge, and suddenly war breaks out. Often, this doesn’t result in a permanent problem. If they were friends before, they will be friends again. But you don’t want them to hurt each other before they make up.
You are probably aware that your cats are territorial animals, but it can be difficult to know what they consider their territory. Your cat might fight with stranger cats who enter your garden, street, or neighborhood, or they might fight with your other cat over the litter tray. It is important that you are aware of what your cat considers their territory. If you have one indoor cat, this is easy. Your home is clearly theirs. It becomes more complicated when you introduce another cat to the mix, or have an outdoor cat.
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Cats are also aggressive. Male cats in particular might often come home beaten up, but with a confident air of ‘You should see the other cat’. It is written into their DNA to, frankly, act like a bully and try to dominate females and other males. On the other hand, you might have an anxious kitty, but, unfortunately, acting timid in front of other cats can also act as an invitation to other cats to intimidate and attack them. A timid cat may also lash out when they feel threatened.
Male cats aren’t the only aggressive cats, however. Maternal aggression may also be a cause of fighting. Pregnant or young mother cats may become defensive, particularly when it comes to the litter. They may even growl or attack cats that they have previously been very friendly with.
There are more than three causes of fighting, but these are the most prevalent. Aggression in particular can have a lot of nuanced causes. As an owner, it is also important to understand redirected aggression. Fighting can be triggered by unsatisfied territory or aggression issues. For example, if your cat sees another cat step onto their territory through the window, but can’t fight it off, they may pick a fight with you or your other cat instead.
How to Stop Cats Fighting With Neighbors Cats
A common problem for outdoor cats is fighting with stranger cats. Your cat might be starting the fight through dominance, or they might be lashing out out of fear or defence. Either way, the result is not good. Very short term, you can intervene in the fight to stop it, as most cats will run at the sight of a stranger, but this won’t stop future fights. However, you shouldn’t try to touch two cats who wont separate as it will likely only result in getting yourself hurt.
In all honesty, if you want to keep your cat safe, the best thing to do is keep them indoors. Baring in mind that the outside world also has a lot of other dangers, such as glass, toxic plants, and rivers, it is no wonder that the majority of cats in America are indoor cats.
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If you must let your cat outside, it is worth finding the owner of the other cat so you can work the issue out together. Remember not to accuse them of anything, either cat could be the aggressor and it isn’t anyone’s fault. Together you should find out the cause of the fighting so that you can find a solution. You can try:
- Ruling Out Medical Concerns
Aggression can be a symptom of a medical issue, particularly if this is a recent behavioral change in your cat. Visit your vet to rule out any problems, including pregnancy, and look out for other potential symptoms, such as a reduced appetite, fatigue, or anxiety.
If your outdoor cat is the only animal in your life, they may need to be taught how to socialize and play nice. Previously socialized cats may need a refresher if they have been on their own for a while. You can work with behaviorist, or cat training schools, but you can also team up with friends to organize carefully monitored play dates. It is best to socialize from an early age.
- Spaying or Neutering
Much of your cats behavior may be dominated by their urge to mate, and this could be cause of their territorial behavior and aggression. Talk to your vet about the benefits of spaying or neutering your cat.
- Boosting Confidence
While the aggressor cat usually needs more work, you can also work to booster the confidence of a timid cat so that they encourage less aggressors to bully them. Improving your cats confidence can be done by providing them with perches, escape routes and hiding areas.
How to Stop My Cat From Bullying My Other Cat
Seeing your cats fight can be difficult because all you want is for them to all get along as one big happy family. This is particularly true if they used to be best friends. There are many reasons for this change in relationship, as outlined above. One cat may have developed an aggressive personality, a pregnant female may become defensive, or a terrifying experience may have traumatized a cat into behaving fearful and timid.
First of all, you probably want to know the best way to break up a fight. Try using a large object to separate them, such as a huge piece of cardboard. Hopefully, this will keep you out of harms way, while providing the opportunity to pick one of them up by the scruff to go to another room. Let them cool down, and then plan your next move. You can’t just assume their relationship will improve, and the more fights they have, the harder it will be to help them.
When fixing a cat relationship, patience is key. Do not punish either cat. Avoid the water sprays and yelling, even when separating them. It can increase their fight or flight instincts, aggression, and anxiety. Here are the steps to rebuilding their relationship:
- Don’t make them share
It generally isn’t a good idea to make your cats share their eating, sleeping, and waste areas, even if they aren’t currently fighting. Give them their own litter trays and their own rooms for their respective beds, food bowls and water bowls. Essentially, give them their own separate territories. Spend quality time with both of them, and otherwise carry on their routines.
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- Reintroduce their scents
When they seem ready and calm, you should start to prepare them for meeting each other. The best way to do this is to introduce their scents. There are two ways to do this. First, put their food bowls at their shared territory boundaries at the same time, so that they can smell each other while they eat. The best position for this is either side of a door. This will mean they associate the smell of the other with the positive experience of food. Similarly, you should mix their used litter together to get them used to each others’ smell.
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- Seeing each other again
Now that they are used to each others’ scent, you can start to socialize them together. Don’t let them share a space just yet. Start small and just let them see each other. Using a baby gate is the best thing for this. Now they can’t attack each other, but they can see and smell each other.
- Supervised meeting
The final step is to supervise a play date. Get a friend or family member to hold one cat, while you hold the other. Then bring them together and remove the barrier. Make sure the whole experience is positive by bringing their favorite toys and treats. Repeat these play dates until they are conditioned into enjoying spending time together.
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You should try not to introduce any further cats to the house dynamic for a while, even after the problem has been solved. When you do take the plunge and get a new kitten, try using all these tips from the start to prevent any future difficult relationships.