It’s pretty obvious when your cats are fighting and the fur is flying. But cat conflict can be subtle so how do you know when trouble is brewing?
A Quick Reference Guide For Identifying Problems
As with any individuals who aren’t ourselves, it can be very difficult to get inside the minds of your cats. The guide below is meant to help you consider if your cats really are getting along or if there could be some conflict that needs to be addressed. If your cats fall mostly in the first category, you probably don’t need to worry. If there are multiple warning signs or any behaviors from the last column though, you probably need tp taking steps to build a better relationship, even if you are certain that issues between the cats are not the biggest problem in your home. Issues with a roommate can affect behavior in a lot of ways.
|All Is (probably) Right
|No, They’re Not Getting Alone
|Occasional hissing or light swatting at one another
|One cat will not walk past the other
|Sleeping touching each other or very close
|Litter box issues
|The cats actively avoid each other
|Mutual play (see below)
|Changes in normal behavior such as preferred sleeping spots or eating habits
|There have been fights, with or without injury
|Both cats are eating and using the litter box
|Chasing (that isn’t play)
|One cat gives the other lots of space when walking by
|Frequent hissing or growling
Is it Play or Fighting?
Because cat play is based on hunting behaviors, it can be a challenge to decide if your cats are playing or fighting. Check out the chart below for guidance:
|Little or no hissing or growling (individuals vary however)
|Little chasing or cats take turns
|Deep growling, lots of hissing
|Continued chasing when one tries to run
|Movement back and forth, into and out of game
|Tense bodies, airplane ears, claws out
|Cats take breaks in action
|Both cats initiate the interaction at various times
A good way to tell if the game is fun for both cats, especially if there is lots of chasing, is to “consent test”:
- Briefly interrupt the cat that seems to be instigating or chasing
- If the other cat returns to the game, it’s play! If not, remove first cat and give the other cat a break.
- Do this when you see the “game” get intense or occasionally when it is just starting and you will soon see a pattern that should make it clear if everyone is having fun.
If you feel one cat wants to play but the other doesn’t find it fun, look for ways to give the first cat play in other ways, such as interactive play.
Building a Better Cat Friendship
Have you discovered you may have “frenemies” in your home? Mild conflict can often be handled with a few changes in the home.
If your cats are really fighting, one cat’s behavior has changed (hiding, not using litter box), or you see other signs that they are definitely not getting along, you need to take more dramatic action. Separate them to prevent fights and injuries. Start a process of reintroducing them slowly. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. The longer the conflict goes one, the harder it will be to rebuild the relationship.
If your cats are fighting or maybe just getting a little tense, consider scheduling a private behavior consultation.