Since a cat’s first impulse is varying degrees of independence, they will try to handle things themselves.
However, these issues vary by cat, and between cats. Figuring out what the issue is will help solve the problem.
By far the largest, and most intractable, reason cats fight is when they feel threatened.
Over the years, I’ve found that the best preventative is a working Cat Civilization. By having three or more cats, each cat’s social instincts are supported and encouraged.
This is how I can bring home a compatible kitten, (from the shelter where they have been vet-checked for illness or problems,) and basically dump them into the middle of my existing cats. I have to do this, because I don’t have currently have the room for Proper Introductions.
When I had ten or more cats and a house that was also a cat rescue, the new cat would spend some time in the quarantine room while I figured out what was going on with them. This let the other cats get used to the idea of a new cat.
Most of the time, my existing cats would be curious and open to being non-hostile. After all, this was their own experience; making friends, and enjoying them.
Often, we don’t have either of these scenarios working for us. We don’t realize we are pushing things too fast, we can’t or didn’t choose for compatibility, and we might be dealing with a cat who has had nothing but bad experiences with other cats.
Such circumstances require Territory Therapy. We reduce the chances of triggering such issues if we try to create an Environment of Abundance.
Two of our cats are giant Maine Coon Cat mixes, and when they are younger, they don’t know their own strength. Tristan loves to play, but is also quick to complain when he winds up a bit squished. (Reverend Jim is 16.5 pounds, and Mithy is now 20.)
Fortunately, Tristan is good friends with everyone, so he does not think it was done on purpose. If we have a less secure relationship between the two cat playmates, such inadvertent hurt feelings can fester and cause problems.
When such incidents occur, I am quick to step in and Shape the Response for them. I remind Mithy he needs to “dial it back” and not be so rough. I remind Tristan that Mithy is just a baby, and he didn’t mean any harm. Then I coo, “They are such good buddies!” and they agree that they are, after all, buddies.
This also happens when Tristan wants Olwyn to play with him, and Olwyn does not want to chase and wrestle. (Which would be always.) He sees her enjoying a toy or the trackball and this makes him want to play with her; only she’s happy playing alone, and the last thing she wants is her head being tackled.
This is my cue to tell Tristan, “She doesn’t want to play. Go play with Mithy. That’s what he’s for.”
Our reassurance that no one meant any harm can do wonders.
Our cats do not have the advantages humans have when it comes to managing detailed communications. And we can sometimes be bad at figuring this stuff out ourselves, to be honest. So helping our cats realize they do not have to be defensive in this situation gives the benefit of the doubt to all participants.
This helps them stay friends.
This is what causes conflicts between mellow Reverend Jim and fusspot Princess Olwyn. She likes things done her way and immediately, while he has important window monitoring duties which are higher priority. She thinks he is too rowdy when he wrestles with the Giant Mutant Kitten, while he gets indignant because she never wrestles with the baby at all.
Sometimes, these differing Cat Outlooks erupt in some cranky growling and chasing that we need to step in and soothe.
They both appreciate it.
Cats cannot handle these disputes between themselves as well as they would like. There’s simply a limit to how far growling and chasing can take them, and if we let these bad feelings fester, they would continue to be a source of annoyance. This would encourage each cat to be more emphatic about their feelings the next time, which would only prompt a similar retaliation.
By redirecting each cat to some other interest, while allowing them to express themselves, we create a situation where each of them feel vindicated, and able to stop.
All groups of beings who live together run into this kind of mismatches. I’d like to go out to dinner, but Mr WayofCats only feels up to watching a movie at home. I’ve been trying to finish a computer task so I can do something else, while Mithy decides he needs a lap cuddle immediately. Everybody gives and gets, and with cats, we humans needs to be the ones who makes sure everyone’s needs are met, and everyone’s feelings stay unhurt.
The best things to do about fights is prevent them.
Avoid cat conflicts by being the Boss of Cat Town.
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There’s more about multiple cats in The Way of Cats than the article you are reading now. See more posts on the MULTIPLE CAT ADVANTAGE.