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former tomcats (now neutered) still fighting

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have ten all-indoor cats, all of whom are spayed and neutered. None are declawed; everyone's still armed and dangerous. <g> Five are recent rescues (via humane traps); of these five, four are ferals, and one is a very well-domesticated stray. Three of these five are kittinish one-year olds, two are 2-3 years old adults.

The two adults are former tomcats. They include Shadow, a 2-year old male, father of two of the three kittens, and the former feral "top cat" of my area. The other adult is Bandit, a 3-year old, extremely well-domesticated stray.

I have known Shadow for nearly a year now. Last fall, I began a small feral rescue operation with a neighbor after a small colony had taken up residence in our yards. The colony included one male (Shadow), two female queens, and two sets of two kittens. The queens were trapped, spayed, ear-tipped, vaccinated, and released (we have shelters and food set up for them in our yards); the two sets of kittens were brought indoors (one set with me; the other, with my neighbor). Shadow proved untrappable.

I watched Shadow throughout the fall and into the winter, as he'd wander through the neighborhood and eat food off of my back deck. The only other cats I saw with any regularity were the two TNR mothers. Then in January, a fight broke out on my deck. It was Shadow and a large long-haired tuxedo cat I'd not seen before. I ran outside and the two cats scattered. I began seeing the tuxedo cat semi-regularly, and dubbed him Bandit. I also saw another terrible fight between the two (Bandit and Shadow) in March.

Meanwhile, the two feral kittens I took in (Satin and Selima, son/daughter of Shadow), were doing well, and adjusting to life indoors. I still saw Shadow (still an intact tom) and the two TNR mother cats almost daily, while the mysterious Bandit was only seen once or twice a month. I also talked to all three regularly, in hopes that Shadow could at least be trapped and neutered, and that both mothers -- like Shadow, still extremely feral -- might one day prove adoptable.

Flash forward to June. During an unrelated rescue trapping attempt, Bandit was trapped. I took him in, and as with the kittens, isolated him in a huge dog crate (with food/water/private litter box) while he was neutered, vaccinated, de-wormed, de-flead, tested for everything under the sun, and given time to adjust to life indoors. This is when, to my surprise, I found out he wasn't feral at all, but rather sweet, tame, and obviously happy to be indoors. He got along well enough with my other seven cats, including Shadow's offspring, Satin and Selima.

About five weeks later, during another unrelated rescue attempt, I caught Shadow, and as with Bandit, isolated him in a big dog crate, etc., etc.

To put it mildly, assuming that Shadow and Bandit were the only two fighting toms in the area, they has beaten the crap out of one another. Both has broken upper canines; Shadow's lower canines were so damaged they needed removed. Bandit's coat was torn off in huge patches; both have tears in their ears. Shadow has scars on the side of his face; Bandit, obvious deep puncture wounds.

Both are feline leukemia negative, yet both test "faint positive" for FIV via in-house snap test, yet negative for FIV when lab work is done on their samples.

Otherwise, both are OK.

Bandit is, again, very well-socialized, very playful, and handleable. Shadow came in untouchable, but has since warmed up to (carefully) being petted. Both get along well with my eight other cats, including our resident top cat Franklin. Neither Shadow nor Bandit show any outward signs of aggression towards the other. Yet the two have already fought here twice, pretty badly at that.

As best as I can tell, Bandit is the instigator. Whether he wants to play (he's extremely playful) with Shadow, and Shadow misinterprets as an attack, attacks back, and causes Bandit to attack is unclear. But until I can be certain that the two will get along, I'm keeping Bandit in a huge dog crate in my living room (with food/water/box) unless under my close supervision.

OK, that's the long-winded explanation of what I have going on. Two former enemy tomcats: one feral, one domesticated stray. The feral -- Shadow -- has a hair trigger, and is very guarded. Bandit is playful like a puppy. Bandit is also the bigger of the two, and was here for five weeks before Shadow joined us.

Both, again, are neutered, and there are multiple food bowls, water dishes, and litter boxes in multiple locations to prevent any kind of competition for resources.

So how can I learn to trust that letting Bandit out of the cage when I'm not around will be OK? How can I be sure that these two, Shadow and Bandit, won't fight? (Bandit doesn't come close to fighting anyone else, even when my much-smaller and bratty cat Crawford swats him.) Has anyone ever taken in two former enemies like this and made it work?

I appreciate any thoughts on the matter. Thank you.
post #2 of 8
Since the two males involved have established order as tom cats - neutering them will not help their attitude towards each other. They still would be "enemies" as they know it from before.

If possible I would rehome one of them (or both) so that they will not have continued contact.

Think of it this way. If a breeder had to toms who were breeding cats and these boys really hated each other (no physical contact), and they were both neutered, do you really think it would change their attitude towards each other?
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

I can't possibly rehome either one of them. Like other cat rescuers I know, there aren't enough homes to go around in my area as it is. Plus, I have cared for each of these guys; they are my responsibility, and I simply don't trust anyone else to care for them properly.

Someone abandoned Bandit, and he's lucky to be alive. I'm not going be the second person that abandons him. And Shadow was feral, he can't be picked up, and one wrong move when petting him will get me swatted. That doesn't make him a prime candidate for adoption.

Plus he trusts me enough to let me pet him, and I won't betray that trust.

Worse case scenario, I'll somehow put in a doorway to divide my upstairs and downstairs, and make sure that Shadow and Bandit stay on respective floors. I'm just hoping to avoid that for the sake of the others.
post #4 of 8
Sounds like you have two choices. Put Shadow back out with the two females in the feral group or hunt for a home for Bandit. That Bandit is very friendly, gets along with most cats, and is long haired should help. But you have to try before saying it's impossible.

It also sounds like you're very attached to both of them (it happens) and that's why you're unwilling to part with either one.
post #5 of 8
I have ferals that had no where to go and only a rescuer would understand and give them what they needed, so they stayed with me. They are happy and get along well. I then later brought in another feral and some orphans. Trouble ensued with territory and the ferals were not happy to share.

I was/am new to rescue and there may be better ways to handle this situation. This is what I did. I made an upstairs and downstairs territory for the rivals. Put a cheap screen door up separating upstairs/downstairs. Left it that way for several months. Spent time reading, working, whatever in both places. After these few months passed, I felt like each may have claimed an area for territory. I then started with treats and food on either side of screen door. Then I took blankets that were slept on by each and swapped the upstairs/downstairs blankets. Then I opened the door and sat close by. Not making an issue or trying to get anyone to cross the door. I kept doing this and then I get out of their site and open door.

Going very slow seemed to help. Hey, I've got time and nobody was going to leave. I think that helped them to respect each others territory. Now they mingle back and forth but each will retreat to their respective territory to sleep. Not to say that each didn't occassionally lay down some ground rules with a hiss or swat. No fights though!

Hope that made some sense. Only time will tell.
post #6 of 8
Personally, I think you just need to give it more time. I am not an expert here at all, but having two intact boys in my own home for a while does give me a unique perspective on your problems ... I read and then re-read your original post but still for the life of me cannot figure out how long both of these boys were neutered, but if it has only been a short while, there are still some testosterone issues (let's call that Scenario One) ... if it has been more than 3 months for both of them, then you are dealing with a learned behavior, which can be un-learned with time and patience (let's call that Scenario Two).

It sounds to me from your second post that you intend to keep these two boys no matter come what may. I admire your fortitude and conviction here. It won't be easy, but I think it can be done.

If Scenario One is in fact the circumstances currently in your home, then wait for a while longer, keeping these two segregated from each other until 90 days has passed for both of them to have been altered. Then, gently introduce them each other using the proven methods described here - hopefully, and with time and consistant patience, this will be successful for you.

If Scenario Two is in fact the circumstances in your home then, again, I urge you to employ the methods in the article link I provided to you and give it a little more time to see if this cannot be worked out. Cats, especially formerly feral ones, tend to try and establish a very firm hierarchy ... it may just be that they need to work it out between themselves, so long as no one gets majorly hurt.

If neither situation corrects the problem and if you are still determined not to rehome one or both, then you will need to establish separate quarters for them as another member suggested ... it seems unfair, but it really can be done. My boy has a room all of his own (I am fortunate to have a room to give him all to himself) and the other three have the run of the house. I use that room as my craft room, so he gets lots of company during the afternoon and evening hours.

I wish you the best of luck.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks Skimble and gayef for the excellent advice.

Both Bandit and Shadow are recently neutered: Bandit, June 12; Shadow, July 3. Both cats were treated identically (still fully clawed, neutered, de-wormed, de-flead, microchipped, given breakaway collars), and both began life here in private cages (big dog crates). Shadow did have his lower canines removed due to damage, so he is at a slight physical disadvantage. He is also physically smaller than Bandit, and -- as the true feral of the two -- far more skittish and prone to cower.

I think the latter fact -- Shadow is still skittish and cowering -- is a big factor. When Bandit came out of his cage, he made himself right at home as if he'd been here his whole life. Upstairs, downstairs, on the futon sofa: The place was his from the start. Shadow is still too afraid to venture far from the sofa, as he hides under it when he feels threatened. He (Shadow) is at least starting to interact with Little Boo, the other summer rescue not mentioned in my first email. And Shadow loves to be affectionate with me, so he's starting to come into his own.

I have been letting Bandit out of his cage quite often today, under my supervision, and he seems to be "getting it" that Shadow is off-limits. Yes, this will take time, and ultimately may take a screen door upstairs to physically separate the two (great suggestion), but I am committed to make it work.

I have seen each of these cats wandering my area in the rain, snow, and middle of the night. I have called out to each and watched them disappear into the dark, wondering if they'd live to see the sun come up the following day. Not that they're safe, they are here to stay, that is not negotiable. I often work from home, so I have that advantage in caring for them. Further suggestions appreciated. Thank you.

Finally, here's a link to a pic of the two, when Shadow was still in the cage getting up to speed with veterinary care. Bandit is the one looking at the camera as if to say, "You must be brought HIM in HERE???"
post #8 of 8
Your guys are beautiful, and what a nice area you set up for them. It gave me some ideas, I also have picked up strays and am now caring for a few ferals, its so heart breaking to see them out in all kinds of weather, I tear up when I see little paw prints in the snow. I've converted my shed and my garage into cat havens, I had a cat door put into my garage door. Often I've gone into the garage to have a sick cat in there that came in to get out of the cold or for a bite to eat, I always keep food in there in case I have some little travelers that need a night sleep or something in their tummys, as their passing by. I know people must think I'm a little whacky, but I sleep just a little better at night knowing that they are warm and tummies full. It does take a lot of time and patience but I've found that eventually they do tolerate each other. Good luck with your boys.
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