Why Won’t My Cats Get Along?

You’ve never heard of such thing as a herd of cats. There’s a good reason for that. Cats aren’t enormously social animals. They don’t tend to hang around in packs, and they don’t always socialise well with each other. Most cats are happy to be the only feline in the house, and have their primary social relationship be with their owner. They should, however, be able to tolerate the presence of other cats within the home. In a lot of cases, they’ll even welcome a little company and friendship. If you have two or more cats who are happy to live together, you never have to worry about them getting bored when you’re not home! That only works, however, if the cats get along.

If you have feuding cats in the house, it’s stressful for you and them. They tear lumps out of each other. They knock things over and break them whilst fighting around the house. And then there’s the constant meowing and hissing to put up with. When cats get along, it’s wonderful. When they don’t, it’s like living in a war zone. So what can be done about it? And what causes it? Read on to find out!

Are They Definitely Fighting?

cats get along

Ears forward, body forward – this is a play fight! Image courtesy of Pixabay

Before we start treating your cats like they’ve had a schoolyard punch up, are we sure they’re fighting at all? Cats play fight a lot. In fact, it’s their primary social behaviour with each other. If you watch closely enough, you can spot the difference between real fighting and play fighting. The body language is completely different. Look out for which way the ears are facing. If they’re facing forward, chances are it’s a play fight. Back, and it may well be a real scrap. Cats who are play fighting tend to lean forwards when doing so, rather than leaning back, which is a defensive pose. They’ll also switch roles rather than one cat constantly being on the attack while the other defends. Sometimes when cats get along, it looks like they’re fighting anyway. They can be confusing creatures!

A cat who’s recently given birth is likely to be more aggressive than normal, as she’ll be very defensive of her kittens. It may be best to shield a maternal cat from any other intruders until they’re finished weaning. They can be very aggressive, even to cats they were once friendly towards. That sometimes even includes the father of the kittens!

How Can I Help My Cats Get Along?

Well, that depends a little on what the situation was like before they fell out. Were they friends once? Has something changed within the house? Could there be a biological or psychological cause? As with any good therapy, finding the answer relies on getting to the root cause.

If Your Cats Used To Get Along, But Don’t Now

Something has clearly changed. One of them may have crossed the other’s personal space boundaries. Also, there may be a leadership challenge happening. Even if you’re not aware of it, if you have more than one cat in your home, one of them is the pack leader. Every now and then, there may be a challenge to their position from a cat who isn’t in charge. Such disputes aren’t settled quickly, and they may need your help to get them back on the same page. Here are some useful tips:-

  • cats get along

    Ears back, defensive pose – this is the real thing. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

    Give Them A Time Out. Put them into separate rooms for a few days – ideally with separate beds, litter trays and feeders. In some cases, there’s been a feud building for a while without your knowledge. Creeping territorial debates about facilities like beds and food can eventually turn violent, and giving the cats their own new facilities ends the debate. When you reintroduce them a few days later they should be calmer, because they have their own ‘property’ in their own rooms.

  • Put Their Feeding Bowls Either Side Of A Closed Door. This is all about psychology. The cats are close together but physically separated. Despite that, they’ll be aware of the other’s presence via their sense of smell. Subconsciously, they’ll associate being close to the other cat with a pleasurable activity (in this case, eating food).
  • Swap The Rooms Around. Take the bowls, trays and feeders with them, too. The cats will have their own ‘possessions’ with them regardless of which room they’re in, but they’ll become reacquainted with spending time around the scent of the other cat, without fighting. It’s the sense of familiarity and acceptance that we’re looking to restore.
  • Let Them Peek. After a few days, it’s time to see if your cats get along again. Open the door to both of their rooms, but don’t rush them out. Let them come out at their own pace, and see if they’re ready to be friends again. If they’ve had enough time around each other’s scent, and they’ve been eating close together, they should automatically be more accepting.
  • The Tuna Juice Trick. Most cats respond to bribery, so there’s no harm in trying it here! Once they can tolerate being in the same room together again, put a little tuna juice on their heads and bodies. This will automatically provoke a grooming response, which is relaxing to cats. They’re unlikely to be able to get all the tuna juice off themselves, so they should groom each other to get more of the tasty juice! Grooming between cats is a bonding experience, and should strengthen their relationship.

If Your Cats Have Never Got Along Together

Sometimes, cats get along at first sight. Other times, it’s instant hatred. Creating a bond between cats who’ve never been friends is a little harder than repairing damage after a fall out. If your cats instinctively seem to hate each other, they may both be ‘alpha’ types with no intention of taking a secondary role in the pack. Alternatively, it might be down to not spending enough time around other cats as a kitten. Cats get along best when they’re used to being around other cats. If you have a solitary cat who’s been with you since it was young, and you suddenly introduce a new cat, this can be very stressful for your existing pet.

It’s also a disruption to their routines of daily living, and cats are creatures of strict routine. Pairs of unrelated males, or unrelated females, may be particularly resistant to sharing living space. Give the following a try if you have one cat completely rejecting the other.

  • Do everything listed above, but for longer. If your cats start fighting from the moment the new cat is introduced, separate them immediately. The fights are likely to be inconclusive, and one or both cats may end up injured. Keep them apart and let them slowly get used to the scent of the other over the course of a couple of weeks.
  • Bring them out on a leash. There are such things as leashes for cats, and they can be useful for this scenario. When you do introduce your cats, put them both on a leash when you bring them into shared space. That way, they can’t attack each other, and so have to deal with being in each other’s presence without resorting to violence. Being put on a leash may not make your cats get along, but it’ll stop the problem from getting worse.

    cats get along

    Cats don’t generally observe Queensbury Rules when fighting. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

  • Keep their time together short at first. Don’t just bring them together and let that be the end of it. Let them spend some time together – peacefully (even if that peace is forced!) – and then take them back to their separate rooms after an hour or so. Repeat the process over three or four days. If keeping them on leashes proves difficult, maybe contain them both in cages with food. Keep the cages close together, but not so close that they can attack each other through the bars. If they can eat around each other without attacking each other, they should slowly become more tolerant.

General Tips For Good Behaviour

Never Let Fights Continue

Cat fights can be violent, bloody, and lengthy. There’s also a strong chance nothing will be decided by the end of it, so it’ll happen again. Therefore there’s nothing to be gained by letting the cats ‘fight it out’. Instead, clap loudly whenever you see them fighting, or stamp your feet. That ought to shock them out of it. If that doesn’t work, spray them with water. Teach them that fighting isn’t tolerated.

Neuter Males

Female cats, as we’ve already said, are aggressive when they have young kittens. You may wish to consider getting them spayed. Male cats should always be neutered, as it’s been shown to make them much less prone to aggression.

Try Pheromones And Sprays

There are various cat supplements and products which are designed to have a soothing and calming effect on cats. We’ve covered them in more detail in our cat bad behaviour guide. If your home smells peaceful and tranquil to your cats, they’re less likely to fight in it.

Give Treats When Cats Get Along

When your cats are playing together happily, or just having friendly interaction, give them a nice treat or two. Create a link in their minds between good behaviour and being rewarded. Bribery works every time!

Hopefully, if you’re able to follow the above, you’ll be a step closer to feline harmony within your home. Thanks for reading our article today!