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cat fight inside

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Two of my cats had a terrible fight inside today. Both are neutered males and former stray/abondoned/homeless cats. I've worked hard to get them inside and litter box trained but they've never gotten along. One previous fight. I have Feliway spray and room atomizer and made a separate room for a stray in which I can close the doors and have tried it with one of them, Big Gray, who won't stay in it. He'd be a perfect only cat. Unfortunately, he isn't. From this site I've learned about classical music and I have that in this room along with toys, food, water, litter box, a big piece of cat furniture, etc. I hate the upset that this fight has caused and feel bad because it's upsetting my other 2 cats, who were here first. I also want this to be a nice home for all. I have another area upstairs that is pretty much the apartment of Spot, the other one involved but do I lock them up? I hate to restrain them but I can't stand this happening. If anyone can think up anything I've missed please let me know. This cat/computer room I set up for a stray from outside but have tried to use it with one of mine,Big Gray, who claws at the door until I can't stand it. Should I try to ignore it? It's not like it's a prison but maybe it is to him. I've never kept him, or anyone else, in there but should I try? Any herbs anyone knows about to calm them down? Sorry this is so long.
post #2 of 16
This is going to take longer to answer than I have right now (I have to be across town in 15 minutes). So, I'll come back tomorrow and give you a hand. Hopefully some others will help you before then.
post #3 of 16
Sorry it took so long to get back. I was swamped at work and couldn't get overe here for more than a moment or two.

I think you've got a big problem. It sounds as if you've followed most of our suggestions for situations like yours and that they haven't helped.

It might be to the point where you need to completely separate them for a minimum of two weeks and then slowly re-introduce them following the directions found in this thread.

Also, if there are any animal behaviorists in your area, it might not be a bad idea to have one come to your house to view the situation and help find a remedy.

If all else fails, you will need to decide whether it is fair to the cats for the aggressive one to remain. It might be most fair to all for the aggressive one to find a new home where he can be the only cat. But...try the suggestions above first, because they just might work.

Keep us updated on how it is going.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the suggestions regarding the perfume and vanilla trick to stop aggression. I've tried them both, once, today and will see what happens. How often do you do this? Big Gray has started to bat at Bailey which scares her, as it does all the others (3). I wonder if Big Gray is trying to play, socialize or interact and simply scares the others. They've been afraid of him all along. I didn't know anything about the proper way to introduce a new cat and I worked long and hard to get Big Gray to come close to me and even longer and harder to touch him and get him inside. I did it all wrong and hope there is some hope. I hope I didn't ruin the relationships for life. Have you guys had this problem of the wrong/bad/poor introduction and had things work out sometime?
post #5 of 16
You can look at Big Gray's behavior to see whether he is being aggressive or just wanting to hang-out with the others. If he is crouched low with ears back or doing any stalking behavior he is likely being aggressive. If he is standing normally, with tail in the air, he is being friendly.

The two week separation with a gradual re-introduction might be the best thing in this situation. Would that be possible?
post #6 of 16
It also sounds to me like Big Grey is trying to become Alpha Cat. Till that is resolved, expect some posturing and agression.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
I thought everything was OK today when I got home from work. Later I saw Big Gray staring at Spot who was on the stairs. They stared at each other until Spot started the low growl, then I distracted Big Gray. I don't know who wants to be alpha cat but I agree it's Big Gray as Spot would like to be left alone. He has stalked Big Gray, however, but I think out of fear and wanting to know where he is. I bought vanilla for the vanilla trick, which didn't work tonight, and some "calming drops" from Petmedicinechest.com I hope these work. Has anyone tried calming drops in their cats water? How often would you recommend the vanilla application? I feel like bathing Big Gray and Spot in it. Thanks for all the suggestions and I hope something works. Once again, how often do you apply the vanilla extract?
How, and when, do cats determine who is alpha? It isn't fighting all day long is it? When do they decide who is alpha and quit trying? If Spot is reacting with fear he isn't trying to be alpha is he? And if it's a fear reaction that makes Big Gray alpha doesn't it? Why doesn't he know this and when will he? Tell me it'll be soon !!!
post #8 of 16
I have a large number of indoor cats -- that is, they have given up being ferel and either hang around the house (eating inside when they feel like coming in), or the spend the bulk of their time draped over furniture, bookcases, the bed, the TV, etc. There are often territorial disputes, but only a few of them try it on from time to time to be alpha. Since I feel comfortable with all my cats (and know just how far I can push them when it comes to shove), I watch for the following signs:

The Stare. When I see one cat get that that fixed lion-stare while focusing on another cat, I step in immediately. I either get between them, or put my hands or whatever I have in my hands (book, newspaper, pillow, towel...even a small piece of paper or other object) about 6 or 7 inches away from the cat's eyes to make it difficult for it to maintain the Stare. The cat will often bob its head from side-to-side to try to keep the Stare going, but I just follow the bobs and after a few minutes reach over and massage the cat's neck gently while telling it that it isn't nice to fight. It is the firm and loving tone of voice that helps, plus the massage, which loosens tense muscles used in maintaining the posture of aggression. If the cat is really angry, I use a more commanding tone and fix my own eyes on the cat's, which cause it to blink and look away. All the aggression starts with that Stare, and it is important to break the focus. I DO NOT try to pick up the aggressive cat. I may, in an emergency, pick up the victim by the scruff of the neck and very quickly (like playing "hot potato") deposit him/her on a nearby high spot (dresser, bed) and move off fast. This usually works just fine and everything will simmer down. When I think I can, I pet either or both cats and talk to them. They know better than to fight, but the mood just takes them over to try to kick up some trouble. It's a cat thing.

When you know your cats, you can actually break the mood when two cats are almost ready to launch at each other by putting your hands in front of both sets of eyes and commanding them to STOP IT! in a loud voice. But if you do not know them well, or trust their affection for you, don't try that.

Occasionally they get at each other when I am not nearby (it is a tiny house, so that means that I am outside or gone to town, since everywhere in the house is nearby). So some fur flies, one cat turns tail, and an hour or so later comes back to eat or drink as if nothing happened. They rarely really injure each other, and scratches -- even bloody ones -- usually don't bother them very much -- their ski is literally thicker than ours (put an antibiotic ointment on scratches to help healing -- I make my own gel from the pulp of aloe and olive oil, which works better than commercial concoctions).

When a cat does not sleep in the house but only comes in to eat or drink, the house cats sometimes treat it roughly. I will try the vanilla trick, which I did not know about. It may just work (but it means using a lot of vanilla -- I presently have 26 cats coming in for the winter).

The major thing about aggression is that it is natural to some cats, even when neutered or spayed, and so you have to be a little extra vigilant all the time. Like having two kids who are always shoving and pinching at each other. You train yourself subconsciously to watch for the danger signs. In cats, first there is the Stare, then one cat (often the endangered one) will yowl and begin to flatten its ears and hiss. Then there is a yowling contest and some posturing. If it gets to the blood-drawing stage, you need to insert a broom between them and yell. At that point the cats are beyond reason and unable to stop themselves until one triumphs. So catch it early and catch it often at the Stare stage, and the cats will begin to understand that you really will not put up with the behavior.

PS -- when bitten, let the bite bleed out -- if it doesn't bleed well, squeeze it gently to get the blood flowing. Then wash vigorously with a washcloth and soap and water. In 9 years I have had a bite get infected only once, and that was a time I was helping the vet neuter a cat on the diningroom table, and the cat objected to the anesthetic jab. We were busy, so the vet insisted that I pour some iodine (which he had in his bag) over the bite. I did so and had an infection that lingered for three weeks and required antibiotics. I will not try that advice again...
post #9 of 16
Catspride: thanks for your suggestions with the 'stare'. I will try to use your remedy with Simba, the agressor and Faline, the 'victim'.
Both of mine love me to death, so if need be it, I am able to get in-between and I know they won't bite me. I will try getting in-between-the stare with Simba and massaging his neck with a 'firm no/loving no', like you suggested...when he attempts to pounce Faline. So far, he's never caused Faline to bleed, but he's sure caused growls, hisses and fur to fly.
post #10 of 16
I was reminded of my reply to you a few minutes ago when a half-in half-outside cat (male, 8 years old) came in and wanted to sit on the right side of the pillow on the bed. He walked carefully around my oldest cat Gypsy (female, 12 years old), who has told everyone that the left side of the pillow is hers alone for all time. I heard the initial hiss and got up and went in. The male (Little Black, for historical reasons -- he is huge) was giving Gypsy the look and she was reacting with her ears back and a return stare that would curdle milk. I waved my hand in front of Little Black's face and drew it back toward across Gypsy's vision and said in a pleasant voice, "now you know better than that..." Little Black blinked and curled up with his back to Gypsy, and she went back to sleep on the other side of the pillow. The 9 cats who were lying in a heap on the rest of the bed, who had all been disturbed and were, heads up, waiting to see if a fight was going to spill over on them, settled down again and went back to sleep.

Since then, several hours now, I have not heard an unpleasant voice.

It does work, but sometimes in the beginning you have to have a lot of passionate irritation in your voice. I couldn't live with so many cats if they were totally untrainable, or if they respected me less...
post #11 of 16
You apply the vanilla three times a day, and it only takes a little tiny bit, a dab on the end of your finger.

When my ferals are posturing, I take a large wool blanket (dark colored) and gently toss it over them. That startles them out of the behavior. I also have used a wooden chair when they are locked together, and carefully placed it over them, to break them up. That works too, but you have to be careful, you don't set the chair all the way on the floor and you are cognizant of their paws and tails.

As for if you get bit. I get bit a lot when the new ones come here, and you want to wash it off good with warm water and antibacterial soap. Then apply something like neosporin over it. Watch the bite carefully for swelling, excess bleeding, heat red lines, and if any of that occurs get to a doctor immediately! Cat Scratch fever is nothing to sneeze at.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all for the valuable info. I definitely know The Stare but am still learning about cats so all info is helpful. I hate the thought of them living together and fighting one another.
Hissy and Catspride, you have been very helpful and informative. I am trying all the tricks I'm learning. Thanks again.
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
After reading last nights help suggestions I felt hopeful. Tonight Big Gray went after Spot and scared him to death. It's like he is baiting Spot and wants to scare him. These are the 2 I've been having trouble with. I do all the Feliway, vanilla etc. tricks and tried to evert this by using suggestions written by all of you and Catspride. Big Gray wouldn't be diverted. I actually put him on the couch to be with me and distance him from Spot and he got off and ran up to Spot, swiping at him until poor Spot yelled, back into a corner and ran upstairs. Does anyone understand this alpha cat business and how long does it take for these guys to figure this out? More info and education is needed for me !!
post #14 of 16
You know, cats especially need to think long and hard about things before comitting themselves to any kind of decision or change. Little Black, mentioned in my earlier response, was very sweet until he lost some of his mates (not litter mates, but the kittens of a similar age, which I tend to raise together in their first months, since they require different feeding times and food and also need protection from larger, rougher playmates). He played king of the moutain for over a year, making all of us miserable, including the dogs. In those early days, I chased him out of the house with a broom. Not the best response on my part, but I had never had more than a single cat before, and there was no Cat Site to ask for advice.

Eventually he mellowed, but decided on his own that he would sleep on the grounds of a kindergarten/nursery, which is just across the street. He came home to eat and to stir things up, but I guess he figured if he couldn't run things, he would withdraw with dignity. Cats came and some went (killed by dogs or cars or rat poison, or just found a niche they preferred with fewer cats around). When the owner of the kindergarten began to let one side of the fencing deteriorate to the point that dogs could burrow under to get into the yard, Little Black decided he had had enough and now sleeps at home, either in the storage shed, on the porch, or on top of bookcases in the house. He is now 8 years old, and for at least 5 of those years he slept somewhere else. He is still aggressive, but pays more attention to what I say and allows me to distract him fairly easily these days.

Bottom line, cats are free spirits with complex minds and prone to have long memories of past traumas (more like humans that way). I don't try to confine a nonconformable cat -- and sometimes that means a dead or injured cat when they get into trouble outside my fence -- but some cats just can't accept togetherness. If you really give it a long time (anything from a few months to literally years) with techniques like "time out" in another room when they get too aggressive, the same distractions and commands repeated ad nauseum in the same steady, soothing tone, equal pats on the head and equal time on your lap or next to you on the sofa for all the cats, and all the other good suggestions, etc., then you will win something very special -- the friendship of a highly independent and thinking companion. But some cats need to be cut a lot of slack.

What you cannot allow is for an aggressive cat to brutalize the more conformable cats. You can train a dog within a few months or (for complicated things) a year. But cats require extreme patience. I do occasionally have a complete sweetheart of a cat who is so good natured that they get along with just about every species, but as often or not, each cat that I rescue has a traumatic background. Just like psychoanalysis doesn't work in a few visits, a few weeks of trying this and that will not work in the short term with cats. Give it time and patience.
post #15 of 16
The way that I deal with an aggressive cat is to gently show him that someone else is actually the boss. I take the aggressor, and lay him on his back on the carpet, gently scruff his neck hold him down for only 3 seconds and release. This is all done gently and quickly no shouting is needed, no loud noises is warranted. It is a very effective way to show a cat that the behavior he exhibited was unacceptable. But again, it is only seconds in duration and done gently.
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks Hissy and Catspride for the suggestions. I will try them. I'm already being incredibly patient and will continue to do so. I will also try the dominant hold on Big Gray. Hope he doesn't kill me.
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