top of page

Help! My cats are fighting! How to help restore harmony and decrease fighting in a multi-cat household

By Francesca Lees, BSc(Hons), NCert(AnBeh), ISFM, CertFN, ABTC-ATI, RVN

 

If you are the lucky owner of more than one cat, you may have had some issues with conflict between your feline friends within the home.



Inter-cat aggression and tension between cats living in the same household can be quite a common predicament, but why does it happen and how can we create a more harmonious home environment for our cats?


Firstly, it’s important to consider our cats’ ancestry and the history of cat domestication. Our domestic cats are all believed to be descended from the African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica). Our domestic cats still share most of the same DNA as these cats and their innate needs and behaviours closely replicate their wild counterparts.


Wildcats live very solitary lives and tend to only interact with other cats to breed. In the wild these cats are very territorial and tend to avoid other cats. They use scent marking to deter other cats from entering their territories and they avoid entering the territories of other cats. They prefer to eat, drink, hunt and toilet alone.


So, how does this lifestyle differ from the lifestyle of our domestic cats within our homes? Massively! When our cats share a home with another cat, they have to share all of their resources such as food, water, beds and litter trays – something which is very unnatural for a cat. They have to share their territory and don’t have as much space as a wildcat. This is often why conflict happens between cats.


Helping cats who are living in a multi-cat household to get on is hugely dependent on us, as their caregivers, to mimic some of their wildcat ancestors’ natural environment and provide the cats with the opportunity to have time alone and space from each other.

 

So how do we do this?

• Provide each cat with their own resources – for example, each cat needs their own food bowl, own water bowl, bed, scratching post and their own litter tray. Cats don’t like to share resources as this is very unnatural to a cat and it can cause stress and tension between cats.


• Space out all of their resources. Try to avoid placing their food bowls and water bowls and litter trays next to each other. Cats don’t like to eat, drink or toilet near other cats, so space them out around the house to make them feel as if they’re not on top of each other. Make sure to place them far enough away from each other that they cannot see each other while they are eating, drinking or toileting!


• If you are really struggling with tension between cats within your home and you would like some advice and support, please contact a feline behaviourist. You can find a qualified professional cat behaviourist at ABTC.org.uk.

 

• Try adding multidimensional space to the home. Adding in some cat climbing shelves can really help cats who do not like to share their space. Cats can choose to sit up high while others may walk below and this gives the cat sitting up high a sense of control and the security of knowing that they can see where the other cats are and they’re not going to be ambushed.


Cats like to be able to climb – to get a good view of their surroundings.


• Try using a pheromone plug-in. There are a few different ones on the market but one specifically for multi-cat households can be really effective in helping all the cats within the home to feel more relaxed around each other. Plug the pheromone plug in the room where the cats spend the most time.

 

If you’re thinking of getting a cat and you’re considering getting two, then bear this in mind – two kittens from the same litter will be much more likely to bond and tolerate sharing resources. If you’ve already got a cat and you’re considering introducing a new cat to your existing cat, then this can be so much harder for your existing cat to accept. A new cat entering their territory can be seen as a threat and not a friend!


Not all fighting is aggressive. Kittens from the same litter will bond through play-fighting.


Be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to fighting between cats. Observe their body language and if you see one of the cats showing signs of stress (ears flat, pupils dilated, tail swishing) when another cat enters the room then separate them immediately. Try not to wait until the cats start fighting before you break it up.


Never punish your cats for fighting. Although it may seem distressing, they are not being “naughty” or “nasty”, they are just trying to cope with the situation the best they can. Punishments such as shouting, spraying them with water and physical reprimands can break down the relationship you have with your cats and cause them to lose trust in you and become fearful of you.


Francesca Lees, BSc(Hons), NCert(AnBeh), ISFM, CertFN, ABTC-ATI, RVN, is a registered veterinary nurse and feline behaviour specialist from Devon. After qualifying as a veterinary nurse in 2017, Francesca worked in first opinion clinical practice while studying for further qualifications in feline nursing and animal behaviour. In 2022 she graduated with a BSc(Hons) degree in Applied Animal Behaviour and then set up her own feline behaviour consultation business offering support and advice to cat owners with behaviour issues. Francesca is an ABTC registered Animal Training Instructor and a full member of the CFBA.



41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page