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new behaviour in my household

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


first time poster, long time lurker. I value the information I've received on these forums and I'm a pretty experienced cat owner. I've got 5 of the little buggers and love them to death. But I have a new situation. I thought I was an expert at introducing cats, but my mews has proven me wrong.


I have 5 male/neutered cats varying from 11 months to 11 years. I brought the youngest cat (Scooter) into the home this January when he was just a baby, and have had problems with one of my other young ones (Chewy) being aggressive. I did slow introductions like always, over a period of 2 months and when they were able to eat together, I let them meet face to face.  I've done this a few times with them but still having the same result. They can eat together, side by side, from the same dish... no problem, but anything after that is a disaster.

Chewy will stalk, chase, swat, attack and dig his claws into Scooter to draw blood. Scooter has become fearful of him and knows he is safe where the humans are so he runs. Chewy was the last one prior to Scooter to come in. He is 1 year old and has lived very peacefully with the other cats, they're all the best of friends (no, really. They have an amazing bond for cats being of different litters). Scooter gets along with everyone but is horrified of Chewy.  I've tried Feliway, calming treats, and breaking up fights with water and loud noises. Its like until Scooter stops running from Chewy, Chewy won't stop attacking. It's very much a prey-like activity. Chewy will grab Scooter's neck and bite down so hard he screams and I break it up before anything bad happens. I have visions of him breaking his neck, though Chewy will sometimes let go and lick him. They are kept separated when we're not around but this has turned into a circus. I'm constantly rotating cats to give everyone equal time and attention, never leaving 1 alone because they will cry. When they are split up, they are very vocal about it.


No one is going anywhere. When I commit to pet companionship, I'm in it forever.

Do you have any suggestions?

post #2 of 2

Welcome to TCS! :wavey: 

It's wonderful that you're committed to keeping all the cats!:clap: Sounds like you gave lots of time for introductions, which is great too! ​


One important aspect once the introductions are over is our own response to conflicts between the cats. It's awesome that most of your cats get along so well but like you said, it's very special for cat that aren't littermates. It would be fine if Chewy and Scooter won't ever become best buddies. The goal should be not to have them put each other in danger and not necessarily much more. 


Sometimes, cats fight. It's actually normal in a multi-cat household where cats need to establish their hierarchy. What we often see is that cats fight during the initial phase after introductions and once everyone is content with the new order, they relax. Then, sometimes following an illness or some major event in their household, they start fighting again, as the "lower-ranked" cat tries to undermine the order and establish a new hierarchy (not always successfully).


The thing to remember is that we have zero influence on these things. Just why and how do cats establish their social hierarchy has to do with subtle physical cues, including scent and behavior, that we can't even tell. It is up to them entirely and we need to allow them to go through the process. Obviously, without getting to the point of them hurting each other (which can at times happen - more on that in a bit).


When humans intervene during cat skirmishes it's a recipe for trouble. Here's what happens - 

1. Cats sense each other's presence and prepare for conflict. Their bodies put the "fight or flee" mechanisms into action. Adrenaline is rushing through their veins.

2. They begin their calculated dance of threats, hissing, yowling, possibly batting each other.

3. Human steps in. The cats are so focused on one another, they have no clue that a human is even around them. They suddenly hear a lot of noise (human shouting), and sometimes feel something is sprayed on them - a direct physical attack! It's all associated with the object of their attention: the other cat.


Yes, they may freak out and run away, and you have achieved "breaking up the fight", but the price is they now view the other cat as a vile creature, one that can bring on the wrath of the loud noises and water sprays! Definitely foe and not friend!


This is an association you need to break now, to allow them to form a new positive association with one another. It's going to take time and sounds like they have a great owner with a lot of patience to help them through that :bigthumb:


How do we do that?


1. Patience.


2. Reduce competition over resources. Read more about that here - 

The Multi-Cat Household
By TheCatSite Posted 5774 views 2 comments


3. Work with both Scooter and Chewy on general stress reduction. Here's a few suggestions - 


Six Surefire Strategies to Reduce Stress in Cats
By Anne Posted 5862 views 4 comments


4. Work on positive associations. Give lots of praise and treats when they are in the same room and not fighting. Have a small bag of treats in your pocket and throw them each a treat, making sure they never have to compete over the treats. It's best if they are at the opposite sides of the room with enough distance between them. 


5. When they have a negative interaction (hissing or aggressive body posture) even if they engage in a an actual fight - never ever shout at them, create louds noises around, spray them with water or any other form of semi-violent deterrence.


6. Never use your own hands to separate fighting cats. You will get scratched and bit and it can be very bad. If a you have to, separate the cats using a barrier that will break their line of sight. Gently place a chair or some other piece of furniture you can move around easily and without making a lot of noise. Try to drape the chair beforehand so that it creates a barrier preventing them from seeing each other. Once that's in place, very gently use a broom or a similar long stick to move one of the cats into a nearby room where you can shut the door and give the cats time to calm down.


7. Again, patience. It's going to take some time but eventually they should begin to tolerate each other's presence. If they're already content with eating next to one another, you're doing well and it's highly unlikely that they will break each other's necks if they do get in a fight.


Let us know how it's going!  

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