How to help your cats get along
Read time: 4 min
February is the month of love, and we want our cats to feel it too. But while loving our cats is the easy part (we consider ourselves experts), convincing them to love each other can be a bit more tricky. Cats have big personalities and even bigger egos, so households with multiple cats may take some tactful managing.
When cats are first introduced, it's quite normal for them to hiss at each other and be a little unfriendly. Cats aren’t believers in love-at-first-sight and blind dates would be a definite no-no in the feline world. Generally it takes weeks to months for cats to get used to each other and (hopefully) become friends, so don't be too concerned if it takes time.
On the other hand, look carefully at situations where cats that used to get along abruptly stop tolerating each other. Certain triggers or even health problems may be the underlying cause.
Whatever the case, we want to help your cats get along. So, whether your cats are new to each other or not, we've got some tips to help you keep the peace:
Make sure there are plenty of resources spread around the house
First and foremost, make sure that your cats have options, when it comes to drinking, eating, sleeping, playing – even viewing the outside world. There should be plenty of easily accessible resources to avoid conflict. This includes litter trays (the golden rule is one per cat plus one extra); separate cat food and water bowls in different areas; several resting, hiding and viewing spots; and more than enough toys.
Pheromones are your friend
Pheromones are a form of chemical communication between cats. Specific scents are released from special glands to send out different messages, such as marking out territory. Artificial pheromones can be produced commercially to help cats feel more relaxed. Feliway Friends is one example: a pheromone formulation that specifically targets easing tension between cats. It’s available as a plug-in diffuser and can make a big difference in stressful environments. If you would like to know more about pheromones and their influence, check out our blog here.
Be aware of triggers and take control of triggering situations
Often aggression is brought on by specific triggers. These could be moments in the daily routine such as feeding times, or competition for your attention when you get back from work. They can also be more spontaneous triggers, such as sudden loud noises or local cats wandering into the home territory. Identifying any possible triggers is a big step towards being able to control the dynamics between cats. Separating cats when a trigger is unavoidable, or making changes to prevent it altogether. can often solve the problem.
There are a couple of sneaky potential triggers to look out for. The first is catnip, which can bring out aggression in some cats, so be aware of toys which may have catnip hidden inside. Another is when one cat has come back from the vet or the groomer, and has a foreign smell. In these cases it may help if the cats can smell each other through the cat carrier or a barrier before being released.
A visit to the vet may be in order
Aggression in cats is sometimes associated with certain health conditions. Grumpy behaviour can be due to pain, and in older cats is commonly a result of arthritis. Cats with hyperthyroidism can also show changes in behaviour and become less tolerant, especially around food. If your cat has become aggressive, then it's worth a check-up at the vet to make sure that nothing is wrong physically. The right treatment may solve the problem.
Another reason you may need to visit the vet is that un-neutered cats are much more prone to aggression than neutered cats; especially males. Unless you’re specifically aiming to breed with your cat then it’s advisable to have them neutered, usually at around five or six months of age. It can take a few weeks for the behaviour to improve as hormone levels need time to subside. When cats have remained un-neutered for many years, the unwanted behaviour may have become so established that neutering isn't as helpful in correcting it as it is in younger cats.
Let them take a break
Ross and Rachel gave taking a break a bad rap. For cats, it can be the perfect solution. Keeping cross cats in separate areas for a few weeks, and then gently reintroducing them, allows time for the dust to settle and grudges to be forgotten. This is especially true if they’re at a point where they become stressed whenever they see each other, or if one is injured in any way. (Buster collars generally do not improve relationships – the only thing worse than the enemy is the enemy in a funny hat, apparently.)
Before reintroducing the cats make sure to swap blankets and toys so that their scents are shared and familiar. Then allow them to have a few sessions in each other's areas before letting them actually see each other, first through glass or a barrier, and then for short, supervised intervals. Time is a great healer and a good break can reset the tone of their interactions.
Signs of conflict in cats tend to be quite subtle so if overt aggression such as hissing or fighting is being shown then every effort should be made to ease the situation. The odd swat or bit of rough play is acceptable but real inter-cat tension can be an enormous source of stress and may even lead to health issues.
In cases of severe aggression, consulting an animal behaviourist is advisable, and there are medications that can sometimes help. If you’re battling with your cats' relationship and would like to chat to us about it, go ahead and contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org – our team of vets is always available to help.