If your cats are constantly fighting, it can be a drain on your mental health; severe cat fights can also take a toll on your cats’ health too. So how do you stop them?
How do you stop cats fighting? Don’t allow them to fight it out, and try to separate them with a broom. Keep them separated until they calm down. To prevent cats fighting in the future, feed them in separate areas, and give each its own private space (e.g. with its own bed). Reward them with treats if they sit together calmly, and try to reduce aggression in your cats by playing with them separately, neutering your tom or toms, and using Feliway (although Feliway may not work). If all else fails, consider hiring a cat behavior specialist or rehoming one of the cats.
The guide below is a simple one: it lists nine tips on how to get cats to stop fighting, nothing more and nothing less! So if your cats won’t get along, you’ll find the answers here.
First, a quick note: the tips below frequently refer to a bully cat and a bullied cat. That doesn’t necessarily mean that one of your cats is bad. Rather, there is normally a consistent aggressor when two cats fight (often the bigger cat). This defines how and why they fight, so its an important distinction, but not a judgmental one!
1) Interrupt Their Fights
There’s a school of thought that you should let your cats fight it out. The idea is that you allow your cats to let their aggression out, and at the end, they can kiss and make up.
This is a bad idea for several reasons. The more the cats are allowed to fight, the more entrenched their hatred of each other becomes. You want to encourage as much positive time and as little negative time as possible. But it’s also bad because your cats could cause each other serious harm: scratches to the eye can turn infected, and your cat could go blind, for example.
You should therefore try to safely interrupt your cat’s fighting as soon as you notice it. You should never use your hands to do this because either one or both of the cats would take their aggression out on you instead. You should try to separate them with something like a broom, pushing the aggressor away from the other cat gently but firmly. Continue moving them apart until they’re in separate rooms.
This won’t stop the cats ‘arguing’ when they see each other, because their aggression is deep-seated. But it at least stops the problem from getting worse.
2) Separate Feeding Areas
To stop your cats fighting, you first have to understand why they fight at all. So, permit us a tiny detour as we explain—why do cats fight?
Your housecat isn’t a pack animal. Its wild ancestors didn’t live in prides; lions are the exception rather than the rule. Rather, the cats that housecats descend from are solitary animals that live and hunt alone. House cats can learn to live in large groups when circumstances demand it, as can be seen with feral cats, but that doesn’t erase the cat’s preferred solitary nature.
When solitary cats encounter each other in the wild, there are several things that could happen. They could ignore each other, or they could mate. Or they could fight. So what triggers fighting instead of cooperation?
The answer is resources. Wild cats are in direct competition with one another for food and shelter. One cat may feel that it needs to protect its food from the other, or it may want to bully the other cat to take its food. This can lead to fighting. There are several ways to stop cats fighting over food:
- Feed your cats at the same time. Each cat will have its food, so won’t feel the need to take food from the other.
- Feed your cats in separate rooms. With the cats not being in each others’ eyelines, they won’t feel triggered to fight as they did before.
- Clear food away when it isn’t scheduled feeding time. Cats are trickle feeders so like to feed throughout the day. This would likely lead to the bully cat trying to take the other cat’s food.
If you frequently find your cats hissing at each other over their food bowls, then this is why—and fixing this could stop them fighting altogether.
3) Separate Relaxing Areas
Cats can fight over shelter like they fight over food.
Wild cats aren’t apex predators. They’re a link in the food chain. That means there are animals that they eat, but there are also animals that eat them. As such, picking a safe and sheltered area to sleep can save a wild cat’s life (as well as keeping them out of the elements). These sheltered spaces are therefore fought over too.
It’s unfortunate, but your housecats don’t realize that there’s more than enough room to go around. That’s because of their pheromones.
Cats have glands all over their bodies that secrete unique pheromones. These pheromones are like the cat’s unique ID; cats can tell them apart just by sniffing them. Both of the cats in your home leave their pheromones everywhere, leaving them in direct competition with one another. You can therefore stop them from fighting by designating each of them its own space to relax. Each cat should have its own space to sleep that the other isn’t allowed in.
Enforcing this as a rule is difficult. But if each cat feels that it has its own non-threatened space, they won’t feel the need to fight anymore.
4) Reward Good Behavior
There are two ways to teach a new behavior. These are by punishing bad behavior and by rewarding good behavior. Punishing bad behavior doesn’t work well with cats, but rewarding good behavior does.
The idea is to reward your cats whenever they sit near each other without fighting. You can do that either with positive attention or by giving them treats. If you do choose to give them treats, give them one each so that they won’t fight. Give one a treat on one side of the room, and the other a treat on the other if necessary!
You may not notice an immediate improvement if you take this approach. That’s because it takes time for cats to learn new behaviors when they aren’t in their critical 2-to-7-week-old learning period. What you can expect is for the pair to be slightly calmer with each passing week.
5) Play With Your Cat
What makes things more difficult is that cats can play fight as well as fight for real. These play fights are normally a good thing, as they allow the pair to build their bond with each other. They each take turns pouncing on the other, but they build a bond of trust because neither bites or scratches the other with real force.
The problem is that play fights can turn nasty if the pair don’t fully like each other. It may seem like one is intent on goading the other into a fight, and maybe that’s the case. But it could also be that the pair genuinely want to play fight, but get irritated with one another and end up lashing out.
You can lessen this tendency by having your cats let off steam. Have each play separately with toys; don’t play with one toy and two cats as they’ll fight over that instead. You can play with any toy that each cat enjoys. This should make them a little less playful with each other, and less likely to get mad when playing together.
6) Does Feliway Work?
You could also consider using Feliway. Feliway is a product that’s like a plug-in air freshener, but instead of smelling like Alpine Lodge or Fresh Cotton, it smells like F3 Facial Pheromones. It contains chemical compounds that mimic a cat’s natural pheromones, which makes the cat feel more secure in its territory and generally calmer.
This isn’t likely to work in a case of two cats fighting each other. That’s because each cat already thinks that it owns the house, and that the other cat is an interloper. But you could give it a try anyway and see what happens.
7) Neuter Your Toms
Unneutered males are more aggressive than neutered males. That’s because the male’s testicles produce hormones which heighten its responses to threats like other cats. With much of those hormones removed, it won’t react as aggressively to the other cat in the house. It’s best to neuter male cats anyway, because the unfortunate end result of most litters is that they end up as strays, or with families who can’t care for them as well as they’d like.
8) Stop Your Cat Going Outside (Outdoor Cats Only)
If your cat is fighting with other cats in the neighborhood rather than other cats in the home, there’s a simple solution. Stop it from going outside!
As is often the case with simple solutions, while the idea itself is easy to understand, it’s less easy to put into practise. That’s because your outdoor cat won’t want to stay indoors all the time. There are a few ways to give it its outdoor fix without it getting into fights:
- Teach your cat to walk with a harness on. This is a long process, but if you go through with it, then by the end your cat will enjoy walking with you.
- Construct a run for your cat. People make runs for other pets, but less frequently for their cats. There’s no reason not to though. It’s a lot of effort, but this would allow your cat to go outside without supervision.
If neither of these options is possible, then you could turn your outdoor cat into an indoor cat. You can do that by gradually reducing the amount of time you allow your cat outside. This may not be the best idea, because your cat will pester you frequently to be let out; but if your cat is getting into frequent fights that could harm its health, it may be your only option.
9) Contact a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB)
CAABs have taken advanced animal behavior studies so that they can understand cats or other pets. Hiring one could help you determine the underlying cause of your cat’s behavior and how to correct it.
If your cats keep fighting despite all that, you will have to consider rehoming one or both of the cats. That’s because neither cat will be happy if it has to live with the constant stress of conflict. You’re also presumably unhappy with how the pair yowl, screech and hiss at each other, and you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a fair part of the violence too. There’s a stigma associated with giving an animal up to a shelter, but in certain cases, it’s best for the welfare of both the animal and the owner. You could either keep the less belligerent cat or give them both up. If you do keep one of them, don’t get another cat to replace the one you gave up!