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Dominance issues, breaking up catfights. Help?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Glitch's post about dominance issues raises a couple questions that I'd like to address to this wise forum.

- What are the signs of a serious problem between them - i.e. warning signs of a serious cat fight? Do you guys normally have to take your cats to the vet over injuries arising from dominance struggles??

- In the event of a serious catfight: how do you separate the two cats?

- How does one cat establish dominance over the other, in your experience?

- If the younger / new cat does establish dominance over the resident / older cat, can emotional problems arise with the resident cat as a result? (i.e. depression, anxiety etc?) What should I look out for?

The following incident is what prompted my concerns:

I have a 6 year old spayed female who has never been a stray, and has not been around other cats since she was small.

We took in a 6 month old male stray, whom we neutered immediately and relieved of other medical problems.

Lucky (the male) accidentally went toe-to-toe with my resident cat a few weeks ago. He got the door open to the room where we had put her. It was **scary**. They both crouched, were moving side to side, he advance slowly on her, crouching. He then started yowling really loudly, hisses on both sides. My father happened to be visiting at the time, and he was able to separate them by coaxing him away out with a sweeping motion of a broom. (He insisted that I go into another room, just in case something horrible was going to happen.) Just the sounds alone were terrifying.

As soon as we closed the door, and thus ended the standoff they both relaxed immediately and acted like nothing happened. It makes me nervous about the eventual introductions. (We're going to start next weekend.)

My husband, who has always had cats, said that it was just posturing. They were both asking: "Who the heck are you and what are you doing in *my* house?" He said that it would have been a while before one went at the other, and it ends when one backs off and dominance is established. But how far would they go against each other? Especially considering our 6 month old has been in fights before. (He had an abscess on his back when we found him, due, as the vet said, to a fight.) From your collective experience, do you guys think they could learn to co-exist? (DH said that if they can't we'll keep them separate and time-share the living room.)
post #2 of 12
Thread Starter 
If you all don't mind, I'd like to appeal for help here. My resident cat is actually my first pet and I've never had more than one animal in the house. I'm just being a bit of a nervous nellie. My initial post probably has too many questions that you could write a book on...!

If you could perhaps comment on the situation that has already occurred. If I ever see them doing that again, and I am the only one there, what the heck should I do? (Trying to distract either of them with a kitty teaser toy did absolutely nothing. Their attention was firmly locked on each other....) I just don't want anyone to get hurt.
post #3 of 12
There are ways to do introductions that have been tried and true winners, such as rubbing a towel or blanket on one cat then on the other so they get used to the smell of the other cat, also putting vanilla extract on the base of both cats tails and back of the neck or under the chin where they can't lick it off...cats go by smell so if they smell the same that's a good thing. Also the blanket/towel if that smells like the one cat can be put near the other cats food so they associate the smell with a good thing!

My cats mostly playfight no one has ever gotten hurt...yet

Good luck with the intros...do it slowly
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'll try the towel idea immediately. Do I have to rub anywhere in particular for it to catch the scent? (I don't think I'll be able to do this to Lucky, but Bonnie will let me, and I can present that towel to Lucky.)

Vanilla extract? Wow! Had no idea cats liked the smell of vanilla!

Thanks so much for humoring a nervous mommy!!!
post #5 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by KittyCurledUp View Post
Vanilla extract? Wow! Had no idea cats liked the smell of vanilla
it's not that they like it - it's that it makes them both smell the same.
post #6 of 12
- What are the signs of a serious problem between them - i.e. warning signs of a serious cat fight? Spiked fur, yowling and growling, ears back, teeth bared, claws out, slow movements towards each other Do you guys normally have to take your cats to the vet over injuries arising from dominance struggles?? If there is excessive bleeding, punctures and even bone injuries, the cats should be brought to the vet

- In the event of a serious catfight: how do you separate the two cats?Put a chair between them, or dowse them with a bucket of water. Important: Avoid shouting. Cats will take it that you are goading them on

- How does one cat establish dominance over the other, in your experience?It just happens. The submissive cat will walk away from a confrontation with the dominant one

- If the younger / new cat does establish dominance over the resident / older cat, can emotional problems arise with the resident cat as a result? (i.e. depression, anxiety etc?) None. It's a cat thing. Being the top cat is never permanent anyway
post #7 of 12
If you see them locked into a more serious standoff and want them to break it up, stomp over there and tell them no. Clap your hands. If you know you won't get any redirected aggression - pick up the more gentle/calm of the two and walk off, be careful with this though as you do not want to get bitten or clawed( I don't suggest this if they've reached the growling and yowling stage). Tell them "No fighting".

The neighbors toms (yes, unaltered unfortunately) have learned they're not to even try getting into on or near my yard. I'll put a stop too it, with the water hose if I have to - water is a lot better then bite wounds. Usually me saying "No fighting" gets them to back down right away... it also works when Max (my easily stimulated/aggressive outdoor kitty) decides he wants to go after another animal - dog or cat.


If they're already in the middle of a scuffle, water will break them up. But the idea is to never let it get that far Do proper introductions and take it slow. Since you have an older female she may not be too happy to give up her role and share her territory - they tend to be more stubborn. Your male is young and will have more energy, and as you pointed out may be leery of becoming a target again himself.

For your other questions, it depends on the cats.
Some will assume dominance through play, taking preferred sleeping spots or high ground, and pushing the other away from food. For unlucky owners the cats do it through peeing/spraying and scuffles.
For issues with preferred spots and food, you can step in. What I do with my two is take whatever chair they arguing over, push them both off the bed, and make them stay at their own dishes. They deal with it or share.

How the older cat responds depends on how the younger one acts. If he's always aggressively after the older cat, then yes, it's likely the older cat will be very stressed. If the older cat is fine with giving up the dominate role, then it should be ok -as long as the younger one doesn't keep pushing. The older cat hiding all the time and running from the younger cat would be a sign that the younger one is stressing it too much. Same applies if it turns out that the older cat is still dominate.
Quote:
Originally Posted by yayi View Post
- What are the signs of a serious problem between them - i.e. warning signs of a serious cat fight? Spiked fur, yowling and growling, ears back, teeth bared, claws out, slow movements towards each other
Huffing and lip smacking are a couple more things cats do before a serious fight, you're unlikely to see the lip smacking in play but worked up/breathing hard cats may pant and huff.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by yayi View Post
- What are the signs of a serious problem between them - i.e. warning signs of a serious cat fight? Spiked fur, yowling and growling, ears back, teeth bared, claws out, slow movements towards each other

Oh boy.... that sounds exactly like what happened. Sounds like we narrowly averted a major incident (gulp).
If there is excessive bleeding, punctures and even bone injuries, the cats should be brought to the vet[/color][/b] [quote]

......and is this something that happens a lot???

Quote:
Put a chair between them, or dowse them with a bucket of water. Important: Avoid shouting. Cats will take it that you are goading them on
Bucket of water -- good idea!

Quote:
None. It's a cat thing. Being the top cat is never permanent anyway
So later she could decide that she's had enough and reclaim her place? Well, that makes me feel better.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
If you see them locked into a more serious standoff and want them to break it up, stomp over there and tell them no. Clap your hands. If you know you won't get any redirected aggression - pick up the more gentle/calm of the two and walk off, be careful with this though as you do not want to get bitten or clawed( I don't suggest this if they've reached the growling and yowling stage). Tell them "No fighting".
They were growling and yowling immediately, but again, that they even saw each other was an unfortunate accident. We will take the introductions very slow, and even keep them permanently separated if necessary.

Quote:
water hose if I have to - water is a lot better then bite wounds.
Very true! Should I pour water over both equally or just the aggressor?

Quote:
is young and will have more energy, and as you pointed out may be leery of becoming a target again himself.
My little rescue boy is also very easily overstimulated. Hopefully he'll grow out of it as time goes on. Do you think his experiences may have marked him for life, as it were?

the cats do it through peeing/spraying and scuffles.


Quote:
For issues with preferred spots and food, you can step in. What I do with my two is take whatever chair they arguing over, push them both off the bed, and make them stay at their own dishes. They deal with it or share.
Good idea! How many cats do you have? I am getting so stressed over 2, it's a wonderful marvel to me that say 5 or even 10 cats can co-exist peacefully! You guys are awesome!!!

Quote:
How the older cat responds depends on how the younger one acts. If he's always aggressively after the older cat, then yes, it's likely the older cat will be very stressed. If the older cat is fine with giving up the dominate role, then it should be ok -as long as the younger one doesn't keep pushing. The older cat hiding all the time and running from the younger cat would be a sign that the younger one is stressing it too much. Same applies if it turns out that the older cat is still dominate.
My older cat has a heart problem, which is why I am especially nervous about this....she doesn't need the extra stress...... but I couldn't just leave my little boy in the train station either....he cringed every time a train went by and let mwe pick him up without struggling.

Quote:
Huffing and lip smacking are a couple more things cats do before a serious fight, you're unlikely to see the lip smacking in play but worked up/breathing hard cats may pant and huff.
Thank you for the warning signs! The yowling was terrifying!!!
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen227 View Post
it's not that they like it - it's that it makes them both smell the same.
Very clever, thanks!!
post #11 of 12
First cats will take more then a few days to get used to each other. You have to do introductions slowly. Females tend to take longer for acceptance and are more territorial. So you have a longer adjustment period. Males tend to end up being the dominate cats for awhile (at least when younger). They mellow out with age and usually its a female who winds up as boss in the end.

Ling (female) was resident cat; she hated Charlie for months. He was 4 months old and neutered, but has a dominate personality. He started challanging her at 5-6 months old and as he grew, he's probably the dominate one now. He's bigger then Ling and they still get into a few matches (mainly vocal, but sounds worse then it really is).

I keep all nails cut because they still wrestle from time to time. I'll stop the arguing by clapping my hands and sometimes just walking over to them and telling them to stop it and break it up. Sometimes I think they do it on purpose to get our attention

It helps if you try some cornstarch baby powder on both and rub it in or a dab of vanilla extract on their nose/chin and tail (base). But take your time. Eventually they will be ok. They have to establish who is boss and you can't interfer that much.
post #12 of 12
http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=67321

You'll find excellent information here. There are a number of "stickies" at the top of each forum that help answer frequently asked question types of issues. Hope this helps.
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