Feline Rivalry and Aggression

Cat and kitten

Feline rivalry and aggression can become a real problem when an adoption doesn't go as planned. This is one visitor's story.

Visitor Questions About Feline Rivalry and Aggression

Help with Aggressive Cat

I am thirteen years old, and I currently own one cat. He is eight months old, and he stays alone at the house a great part of the day. I was wondering whether too much loneliness can have negative effects on a cat. If so, what could these effects be? Would this simply be solved by getting a new cat as company? Also, I have never owned cats before, but my cat bites quite a lot. I can't really tell playful behavior from aggressive behavior, but he likes to lunge at people's hands and bite them, as well as their legs. He also bites sometimes when you try to pet him.

~~Javier

Expert Reply

Dear Javier,

Congrats on owning your first cat. While some cats do enjoy the companionship of other cats, they tend to be loners at heart. Introducing a new cat into the household can create a lot of additional issues and aggression between the two cats, so I wouldn't advise this as you don't have the time to monitor the situation right now.

The aggressiveness is something that needs to be addressed. It is likely that your cat is playing since he is still in his kitten stage. However, he still needs to understand that biting is not okay because it hurts. Cats play with other cats by biting, but cats have tougher skin than we have. There are a few things you can do that will help with this behavior.

  • Make sure he is neutered.
  • Do not play box or fight with him at any time because this encourages biting.
  • Pay close attention to his behavior when petting. If he lays back his ears, flicks his tail or his pupils dilate, stop petting. Some cats get overly stimulated when being petted and will bite.
  • When he bites, do not give him attention. Set him down on the floor and walk away. When he does not bite, praise him and talk to him in a soft voice. Cats react best to praise.

It is very likely that he will outgrow some of this behavior, if you are consistent. Cats mature quite a bit once they hit a year or two of age. Good luck, and please don't hesitate to ask again if you have additional questions.

~~Lori

Territorial Cat

Hello,Last week I rescued a male cat that is approximately two-years-old. My female cat (she's about eleven) will often follow him and harass him when he tries to eat or use the litter box. He runs and hides under the furniture. She doesn't do it all the time, but often enough that I notice it. If I see it, I will try to distract her (doesn't work) or just scoop her up and take her in another room for a few minutes so he can have some peace. I don't know what is setting her off, but my new guy seems really stressed about it. I worry about what she does to him when I am not there. What is the best way to diffuse the situation when I see it happening? I don't want to make it worse for either of them.

~~Sam

Expert Reply

Hi, Sam,

This is a really good question. Cats are very territorial creatures and particular when it comes to what they consider their personal areas, such as the litter box, food bowl or bed. There are a few steps you can take to try to reduce the stress between your cats. It is imperative that the new cat feel safe when he tries to use the litter box or he may eventually decide it is too much trouble to use the litter box and begin to use the bathroom elsewhere.

  1. Each cat should have his/her own litter box. That means if you have two cats, you have two separate litter boxes.
  2. Try placing the new litter box for the new cat into a different area than where you keep the female cat's litter box. Simply take him to the new box and place him in it. Cats are smart and get the idea quickly.
  3. When you are not home, contain the new cat in the area with his litter box. This also means keep the other cat out of this area. You can do this by closing a door or purchasing a gate, but be careful that you purchase a gate specifically for cats as they can easily jump over most barriers.
  4. If you notice the female cat harassing the new cat, gently remove her to another area of the house until he has finished his business. It may take a while, but she'll get the idea eventually.

Be patient. It can take your cat a while to get used to a new member of the household. It's normal for her to feel territorial. The two cats may not ever be best buddies, but with time you can help them learn to tolerate one another. You may also want to read the article about bringing a new kitten home. Even though your cat is no longer a kitten, many of the suggestions in that article will help you understand how to slowly introduce the two cats to one another and create peace in your household.Best of luck!

~~Lori

Worried about Feline Rivalry and Aggression

We have just brought home a four-month-old female kitten as a companion for our one-year-old female cat.

The older cat is acting very aggressive toward the kitten, jumping on her and viciously attacking her at every opportunity. We have had to separate them, only allowing the older cat to see the kitten through a protective cage.

Now we suspect the older cat may be pregnant, and we're at a loss as to what to do with them both. Could the older cat's behaviour be due to the pregnancy, and if so, what would be the best course of action for us to take? The older cat has always been very timid, and this aggression is out of character. She doesn't fight with any of the local cats that come to visit.

~~ Leannsue

Expert Reply

Hi Leeansue,

I'm sorry to hear your cats aren't getting along right now. I'm not sure exactly how long the new kitten has been home, but it's natural for your older cat to feel territorial at this time. Suddenly she has to share her space, her litter box and your attention with a strange newcomer.

Pregnancy hormones may be adding a little fuel to your cat's angst at this point, but I don't think they're the main drive behind your cat's aggressive behavior. At this point, separating the two of them is a good idea. Your cat needs time to adjust to the sight and smell of the new kitten. The kitten may also be contributing to the problem by getting too up close and personal with your older cat while she's feeling touchy.

Give things a little time with the kitten confined, then begin the introduction again under your careful supervision. Have a spray bottle filled with water handy to give either cat a squirt if it begins to get aggressive. This will hopefully nip the behavior in the bud. I also suggest feeding them in separate areas and providing a separate litter box for the new kitten to give them both some space of their own.

Hopefully they'll learn to get along, but you're going to need to give it some more time.

Best of luck~~ Kelly

Visitor Follow Up

Hiya Kelly,

Thank you for replying to our questions about our new kitten Stella and our one-year-old aggressive cat Libby.

We brought Stella home on July 15, and plunged her straight in with Libby, who in turn attacked her. We separated them on Sunday by putting Stella in the lounge with a very large cage that housed her own bed, food dish and her own litter tray. When Libby is not around Stella has the run of the lounge. When we let Libby in the lounge we put Stella in her cage, but we try to spend as much time with both of them. Sue works from home, so she is around all day.

It does seem mean to leave Stella in the lounge on her own and not able to roam into the rest of the house. As of Thursday, we started leaving her out of her cage when Libby comes into the lounge. If Libby tries to attack her we squirt her with the water spray, which seems to work. However, we always have a stand off and cannot leave them together at all.

What would you suggest we do? Libby's nipples are very pink and swollen, so we are almost certain she is pregnant. We have an upstairs room that we can put Libby in undisturbed to have her kittens. We can't separate them downstairs forever, but we just don't know how long this will go on.

Thanks, SueanLee

Expert Follow Up

I do think the pregnancy could be adding extra fuel to Libby's rejection of Stella, but I also believe Libby will eventually settle down and accept Stella in the environment. They may never become the best of friends, but they should reach a truce.

Rest assured, you are not being cruel by letting Stella roam the lounge on her own, and you are not harming her by confining her when you let Libby have some lounge time. Right now, you've actually found a workable solution- at least until after Libby delivers her kittens and gets back to being her old self. You may see a major attitude change after she's finished with the kittens, and you'll be able to more accurately judge the situation.

For now, I suggest you stay the present course. You honestly don't need to let each cat out together if it's creating too much stress for everyone. Your only other immediate alternative would be to seek a new home for Stella, and that may not be necessary in the long run. Follow your heart.

~~ Kelly

Will Cats Ever Stop Fighting?

My roommate has a petite two-year-old female Tabby named Beans. Beans has grown up with other cats in the household, and up until just a few weeks ago she lived with my one-year-old cat.

When the two cats separated, Beans was very lonely and crying all the time. We decided to get her a new playmate, so last week I went to the shelter and picked out a very affectionate three-year-old female named Isabelle. Her info sheet said she was good with other cats.

So here is my issue. We brought Isabelle home and confined her to my room for the day. Then we let her out in the evening. She didn't seem put off by Beans at all, even though Beans was hissing. A few days later a huge cat fight erupted, and Isabelle came out bleeding.

Now it seems a cat fight erupts everyday. We are keeping squirt bottles are all over our apartment to help break up the fights! One would think that Beans is the one instigating the fights since she is semi-aggressive, but it turns out that Izzie is the one chasing Beans.

Now the two can't be in the same room with each other without Isabelle charging at Beans, who usually retreats to my roommate's loft bed. It's when Beans gets cornered that a fight erupts.

What can we do? Even though Izzie is the newcomer, she acts as though she has lived here forever, and she's very sociable. I can't tell if she charges at Beans to play, or if it's aggressive/territorial behavior. Will they ever get along?

~~ Orcapod

Expert Reply

I'm sorry to hear your cats aren't getting along. It would seem that Isabelle might not have been correctly evaluated. Her aggression might be the reason she wound up at the shelter in the first place.

Let me ask you this: how permanent is your current living arrangement with your roommate? If it's long term then you may have to decide if you can keep both cats. If it's short term, then perhaps you can keep the cats separated enough to keep the fighting to a minimum.

I'd suggest investing in a roomy cat cage that features some exercise ramps and hanging toys. You could keep one cat confined while the other cat gets her outside time.

Hopefully you'll find this a workable solution.

~~ Kelly

Feline Rivalry and Aggression