“Help! my cats don’t get on” is a frequent call I get from cat owners. It usually follows after another cat is introduced to keep an existing cat company.
But do cats need a friend? The short answer is generally NO! Cats are solitary animals. Unlike the dog, who is a very social animal, they hunt alone and feed alone.
Some cats do get along really well and can have a close bond. However this is generally with cats that they have grown up with or ones introduced at a young age. My general advice therefore is, if your cat is happy living alone with you and has an enriched life – it does not need another cat to keep it company.
What do I do if I already have two cats and they don’t get on?
This is another frequent call that I get. This can be a challenge but here are some top tips to help reduce conflict:
- Make sure that cats are given enough space to get away from one another. Being forced together is a definite no no. So never restrict cats to make them share the same space.
- Cats generally don’t like to share! Provide your cats with their own resources. This includes their own litter trays (one each plus one extra), their own separate sleeping quarters, feeding and drinking stations, cat tree and toys etc. Make sure they have space between these resources too.
- Pheromone therapy can help. Feliway Classic and Feliway Friends are designed to reduce conflict. Other products include Pet Remedy, a herbal scent that can help ease friction. These are not a cure and will only help in combination with my other recommendations.
- Providing outlets for mental activities can help. Interactive feeders work well and provide enrichment too. (See my recommended products below)
- For cats that really don’t get along – I recommend that you set them up in different rooms altogether. A bit like them having separate flats in the same house! Each cat should have its separate set of resources so that they don’t have to come in to contact with one another. This may help reduce tension.
- Time sharing systems for cuddles and play time might be necessary and definitely recommended for those that have had a history of showing aggression or fighting.
- It is vital that you do not use punishment if one shows aggression to the other – this only makes them associate something bad with the presence of the other! They may also begin to associate you with something aversive which can harm your relationship with them.
- If they do get in to a fight – use a remote distraction. In other words, don’t let them see it coming from you. Rolling a ball with a bell in it can help break a scuffle. NEVER intervene as you may get badly injured in the process!
- After a fight it is better to separate the cats until you can get help from a suitably qualified behaviourist. Repeatedly trying to put them together to “sort it out” rarely works and in most cases causes long term problems.
- Once a relationship has broken down, there are never any guarantees that the cats will be closely bonded. However, giving them space, their own resources and choice will help them tolerate one another without conflict.
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