By Claude West (Cat Man)
Litter mate aggression is very different from aggression between cats whether it is a neighbors’ cat or one you bring home. I love the idea of two cats to exercise and entertain themselves but cats tend to be very territorial and you must take several steps to identify aggressive behavior and perform proper steps to introduce the new cat in the house. First let’s define the types of aggressive behavior often demonstrated by cats.
This occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory.
- Cats can be aggressive toward one cat yet friendly and tolerant with another.
- Aggressive behavior problems often occur when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or a cat encounters neighborhood cats outside.
- The most typical behavioral actions are stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places such as the litter box, or another room.
- Female cats can be just as territorial as males. This I know because I have one.
Adult male cats may threaten and sometimes fight with other males. This aggressive behavior is common with unneutered cats typical of feral cats. They may fight over a female, for a higher place on the totem pole, or to defend territory. Cats stalk, stare, yowl, howl, and puff up their fur to back each other down. If one does back down and walk away, the aggressor, having made his point, will usually walk away as well. If no one backs down the cats may actually fight. They may roll around biting, kicking, swatting, and screaming then suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away. When you see signs that a fight may occur, distract them by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby, or squirting them with water. These actions can also be used to break up a fight.
Defensive aggression behavior occurs when a cat tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker he believes he can’t escape. This behavior may be in response to the following:
- Punishment or the threat of punishment from a person
- An attack or attempted attack from another cat
- Any incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid
Demonstration of aggressive defensive behavior postures include:
- Crouching with the legs and tail pulled in under the body
- Flattening the ears against the head
- Rolling slightly to the side
Approaching a cat in this posture is likely to cause an attack.
Cats direct this type of aggression toward another animal, or even a person, who didn’t initially provoke the behavior.
A good example of redirected aggressive behavior is when your cat sees another cat in his territory and you happen to pet him during or shortly after and the cat attacks you. The cat doesn’t even know who you are at that moment because it is so worked up about the other cat that he attacks the first thing that crosses his path.
First steps you should take with a cat that demonstrates aggressive behavior:
- Contact your veterinarian for a thorough health examination. Cats often hide symptoms of illness until they’re seriously ill. Your aggressive cat may be feeling sick and taking out his misery on others.
- Should your cat get a clean bill of health then consult your vet for further steps or get a referral to an animal behavior specialist for help. A behaviorist will advise you on what can be done. You may need to start the introduction process all over again between the two cats. Also, you may have to keep the cats in separate areas of your home, or even find one of the cats a new home if the aggression is extreme and can’t be resolved.
- Consult with your veterinarian about a short course of anti-anxiety medication for your cats while you’re working on changing their behaviors. Never attempt to medicate your cat on your own always seek professional advice.
- This could mean keeping the cats separated from each other while you work on the problem, or at least prevent contact between them during situations likely to trigger a fight.
The behavior of one intact animal can negatively affect all of your pets. Always have your cats spayed or neutered as a first action step to curb aggressive behavior. Actions to avoid during the reintroduction process:
- Don’t count on the cats to “work things out.” The more they fight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise such as clapping your hands, squirt the cats with water, or throw something soft at them like clothes or a pillow.
- Don’t attempt to touch them. Your chances of personal injury from a scratch or bite are highly likely.
- Don’t punish the cats involved. Punishment will only cause further aggression and fearful responses that will make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression.
- Don’t add more cats or get litter mates in the beginning. Some cats are willing to share their house and territory with multiple non litter mate cats, but the more cats sharing the same territory; the more likely it is that the cats will not get along with each other.
In summary, the aggressive behavior found in cats is usually due to introduction of another cat you brought home or from other neighborhood cats in its territory. Litter mates tend to get along better if you are inclined to have more than one pet. Some cats are just aggressive in nature regardless of other cats and a trip to the veterinarian or a cat behavioral specialist may be needed. Remember there are several types of aggressive behaviors that can be demonstrated and you should be aware of the signs.
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