Some cats can live their whole lives together, whether they have known each other since birth or have been introduced to one another at some future point, and never have any issues with aggressive behavior. Other cats can have great difficulty getting along with one another and routinely display aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, this can be very frustrating for owners to deal with, not only because cat fights can be distressing to listen to, but also because persistent and intense aggressive behavior may result in needing to remove one of the cats from the home. Fortunately, if one understands cat behavior in general and specifically the most common cat behaviors, there are things you can do to help counter aggressive behavior.
Cat Behavior Signs
In the vast majority of cases, aggressive behavior in cats occurs among intact cats of the same gender. This is just one of many reasons why spaying or neutering cats before one year of age can be beneficial to their health and happiness. That said, sterilizing cats or even keeping two cats of different genders does not guarantee that one will never experience aggressive behavior among their cats. Instead, one needs to watch for basic cat behavior signs to determine whether your cats are just bluffing and posturing, or are truly being aggressive and need intervention.
One of the key points to bear in mind is that when cats are simply posturing and bluffing, no one actually gets hurt. Where injury occurs, cats are being aggressive and should not be let alone to continue. Cats may become aggressive with one another when their environment changes, which includes moving to a new home, the addition or departure of a cat in their social group, rearranging cat furniture and more, and when they don’t have sufficient space in their territories, which causes the other cat to encroach upon their territory. Essentially, cats can become fearful or stressed due to some condition around them and end up taking it out on one another. There really is no such thing as letting cats just fight it out, as what they tend to do is become increasingly aggressive over time. Instead, try the following five tips for resolving aggressive behavior in cats:
- Ensure cats have plenty of personal space. Cats like to divide up the space they have into territories, and when they each have their own locations to climb, hide and perch, they are less likely to move into each other’s territories and display aggression. If they are indoor cats, the house needs to be large enough to have plenty of toys, cat trees, litter boxes, and feeding stations so they can all have their own space.
- Reward good behavior and avoid rewarding aggressive behavior. When one cat is being aggressive, we sometimes make the mistake of giving that cat attention in order to calm them down. Unfortunately, this attention actually rewards their aggressive behavior, further cementing this pattern. If you begin to notice that your cat (or cats) become aggressive at certain times or in certain situations, jump in and entertain them before they become aggressive. This will serve to reward their good behavior. If they become aggressive anyway, use an aerosol hiss or a spray of water to distract them, and then when they return to desirable behavior, reward them with attention and play.
- Re-introduce cats to one another. When introducing cats to one another for the first time, it is advisable to sequester one cat while the other roams the house and becomes familiar with the first cat’s smell. Then, switch cats, sequestering one and letting the other roam the house. Doing this back and forth many times can help the cats to be acclimated to one another’s scents and territories so that when they are introduced they are more likely to calmly get along.
- Spend time playing together with and rewarding both cats. If you spend time playing with both cats at the same time and rewarding them for good behavior with delicious treats, they will learn to associate one another with fun and rewards.
- Speak to your veterinarian about natural and medical solutions. Some minor aggressive behaviors can be resolved with natural solutions, like Feliway, while some medical therapies can help to reduce a cat’s aggressive or fearful behavior while you use positive reinforcement to thoroughly smooth it out.
With time and patience, many cats that display aggressive behavior can learn to be calm and friendly. However, there are some instances where an extremely aggressive cat that consistently fights and draws blood will not be able to grow out of this pattern and is best suited to a calm, single-cat household.