When you hear the words “cat fight,” you might think of two women fighting, scratching, slapping, hair pulling and more. When it comes to a true cat fight – between two disagreeing felines – a whole new meaning comes to light.
Why Do Cats Fight?
Not Enough Socialization
According to aspca.org, one of the most common reasons for altercations between cats is under socialization, which basically refers to a lack of pleasant experiences with other cats early in life. If your cat has been raised as an only cat with little to no contact with other cats, his social skills may be a bit rough around the edges. When introduced to another cat, his natural fear of the unknown and disruption to his routine and environment may cause him to lash out.
Cats aren’t fond of change, consistency is what they crave. If change involves a newcomer to their territory, well, it’s “game on!” As territorial creatures, bringing a new cat into the single cat equation might not go well.
Violation of Territorial Boundaries
Some cats have no issue with overlapping their territories, but others? Two unrelated males or females, for example, may not enjoy sharing space. Perhaps personalities are the reason. Cats are not in charge of who they select as housemates; their owners are, and sometimes we don’t do a very good job at picking out feline roommates.
It is true, however, that some cats new to each other will get along just fine, but that can change if something negative becomes associated with one of the cats, as perceived by the other cat, such as an odor from the veterinary clinic or violation of territorial boundaries.
A female cat with a litter of kittens will naturally hiss, swat, chase or bite another cat that attempts to get too close, even if she was formerly on good terms with that approaching cat. Once the kittens are weaned, however, such maternal aggression typically wanes.
Breaking Up A Cat Fight
When you observe a cat fight brewing, you have to manage the scenario that is playing out before you. Letting them fight it out is not an option. They cannot resolve issues through fighting, and that fighting will typically just escalate. You can interrupt the “disagreement” with a loud clap or with a spray of water from a water gun.
DO NOT try to calm or soothe your upset cat. It is best to just give her space and leave her alone. If you are not careful, she could direct her aggression towards you. That probably won’t end well.
Preventing Future Aggression
Provide More Hideaways
Ways to diminish future aggression include providing multiple yet identical feeding bowls, placing additional beds and litter boxes in different areas of the home; or getting another perch. The more perches and hiding spaces you have for your cats; the more space they have to get away. Make sure there are clear paths to enter and exit so a cat doesn’t feel trapped.
When your cat exhibits desired behavior, however, be sure to reward her. Praise, a treat or two and genuine expressions of love work well to influence and encourage this positive behavior.
Pheromones are a possibility, too. Use a product that mimics a natural cat order (don’t worry – you will not be able to smell it!) – and use a diffuser to minimize the aggression until it is resolved.
When you have two cats who used to get along but now are engaged in the occasional cat fight, put them in two different rooms for a few days or even weeks, with separate beds, bowls and litter boxes. With this approach, they are still aware of one another but don’t have to interact. Consider putting their feeding bowls on opposite sides of a closed door. By doing so, they are close together while simultaneously doing something they enjoy.
If both cats appear to have calmed down after a few days, open the door about an inch. If they are still calm, open the door just a bit more and so on and so forth. If they continue to get along and seem relaxed, they may be ready to share space again. If not, pursue the aforementioned protocol.
You may have to provide daily reintroduction sessions that allow the cats to slowly get closer under supervision. Harnesses and leashes may also give you greater control of your cats. During these sessions, be sure to incorporate food and/or play, starting the cats far apart and keeping the sessions short. This allows for greater success.
Once your cats can get along peacefully while eating and playing within just a few feet of one another, leave them alone for a short period unsupervised at first and then increase their together time gradually.
If all else fails, consider contacting a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist for guidance. They are the experts in evaluating the issues at hand and offering effective solutions.