Perhaps you’ve had your cats for a while. Everything seemed fine at first. Then, suddenly, things changed dramatically. The cute roughhousing is now an all-out war. One of your pets is clearly the instigator, causing trouble at every turn. We understand how upsetting it can be. Luckily, solutions exist that can help restore the calm to your home.
It’s essential to understand what’s behind the unwanted behavior. That can provide valuable clues to putting the nastiness behind you. Let’s begin with a bit of cat psychology and the species’ evolutionary history.
Before You Start
Felines are usually solitary animals, except during mating season. The notable exceptions are lions and feral cats. They form associations of varying degrees. Otherwise, it behooves felines to go it alone. It makes it easier to hunt. That’s a crucial point, given the fact that cats aren’t always successful at it. A leopard may bring down prey only 38% of the time. A lion is lucky at 25%.
The Genetic Component
The other thing to understand is that aggression is hardwired in domestic cats and part of their DNA. There are 73 different cat breeds recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA). Each has varying personalities, from the aloof nature of the Cornish Rex to the happy-go-lucky temperament of the Ragdoll.
A study by the University of Helsinki looked at seven personality traits of over 4,300 cats, including sociability among cats. The researchers found that Burmese and Siamese were among the ones most likely to get along with other felines. Interestingly, several correlations existed between this list of breeds and sociability among humans.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Turkish Van, Abyssinian, and Maine Coon breeds were less friendly toward other cats. The essential takeaway is that other factors may be influencing your pets. However, it doesn’t end there. The researchers also found that females, older cats, and fearful ones were more likely to be less social with other felines.
How a cat was raised plays a pivotal role in aggression, too. It could be things such as exposure to other pets and people. That also has a genetic component, with breeds like the Russian Blue and house cat more likely to be fearful of new situations based on findings from the earlier referenced study. Weaning is another factor that can influence aggression.
Other research by the University of Helsinki found that kittens weaned at less than 12 weeks old were more likely to show aggression than ones at 14 weeks old. This evidence makes a compelling case for getting a pet that is older instead of a young one. These data tell us that many elements come into play that you may have no control to change. However, that doesn’t mean all is lost.
1. Distract Your Cats
Aggression might be a one-off occurrence for whatever reason. However, it’s essential not to punish your cats for doing what likely comes naturally to them. Instead, distract them by tossing out a toy. You have the surprise factor at work, along with the feline’s curiosity over something new. It’s imperative to stay out of the fight and find another way to put on the brakes before one gets hurt.
2. Give Each Pet Their Space
Part of being a solitary animal is that you want your things. It’s no different with cats. They prefer their scratching post, their toys, their litter box, and of course, their own food bowl. The surest way to keep everyone happy is to make sure they have their stuff, preferably in different places. Once a cat has played or used something, it’ll likely figure out that it belongs to it
3. Set Up Different Feeding Areas
Food is often the source of many conflicts among pets. That’s why separate food bowls are imperative. Sometimes, feeding your cats in different rooms is necessary. However, you may find that it’s not a big deal if there is space between them. We suggest making it a routine. Each cat should have their place where you always put down its meal.
Once the pets have learned the drill, they’ll likely go to their spot and leave the others alone. However, we recommend keeping an eye on things to make sure the bully doesn’t try to intimidate the other one.
4. Give Your Pets the Attention They Crave from You
We know that cats get attached to their owners and may even split their territoriality your way. Instead of the food bowl, your pets may fight over you! That’s why it’s essential to give each one the attention they want. It’s imperative that each pet gets its time and doesn’t infringe on any other cat’s me-time. The best thing to do with a bully is to derail the behavior if it gets aggressive.
5. Reward Good Behavior
We mentioned earlier about not punishing your cats for acting, well, like cats. Positive reinforcement is a much better way to get a handle on unwanted behavior. Remember that a pet seeking attention may view the negative side of it as still getting what it wants. That’s why it’s vital to reward the good behavior and not the bad. A few words of praise or a treat when the pets get along will go further than yelling.
6. Break Up Fights with a Loud Noise
If things get dicey between the bully and its victim, the best way to stop it is with a loud noise. It’s another form of distraction that redirects the fighting to figuring out what just happened. We don’t recommend using a spray bottle to break up the brawls. That’s punishment in a different form. You can download an air horn app for your smartphone that will get the point across.
7. Don’t Encourage Bad Behavior
It’s essential to avoid inadvertently encouraging the bully’s behavior. Even roughhousing can cross the line to a full-blown fight in the blink of an eye. Look for the signs of playtime gone bad, such as staring, tail slapping, and other aggressive acts. It’s an ideal time to create a distraction or toss around a toy before things take a turn for the worse.
8. Ramp Up the Mental Stimulation
Sometimes, boredom is behind the bully’s behavior. To add some excitement to the mix, your cat picks a fight with another pet. Providing interactive toys is an excellent way to provide mental stimulation in an acceptable form. We suggest getting a couple of different kinds and swapping them out periodically. It’ll seem like something new to your cat after some downtime.
9. Bring Out the Big Guns
Another effective method is to use a pheromone spray or diffuser. These chemical signals send out the all’s clear message to the bully that may prevent your cat from declaring war on other pets in the house. Felines act instinctively to what they detect. These products work quickly without any odors that you can detect.
Aggressive behavior is often a sign that something is wrong, whether it’s a lack of attention or mental stimulation. If these suggestions don’t help, we suggest that you discuss the matter with your vet. Sometimes, a medical reason is the culprit. Other times, the advice of a behaviorist can help with problem pets.
Featured Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock