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Dr Pete
Dr Pete, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3004
Experience:  Bachelor of Veterinary Science University of Melbourne
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i have 2 female cats that have been living together for the

Customer Question

i have 2 female cats that have been living together for the better part of 3yrs. the older cat has seemed to mother the younger cat since i brought her home as a kitten. they have never displayed any aggression (other than playing) toward each other. yesterday a friends cat was brought over to be "cat sitted" for a few days and instead of my cats showing aggression toward the "intrudrer" they turned on each other. i decided against wathching my friends cat in hopes my 2 cats would go back to normal, but now the 2 (my cats) can't even make eye contact without tearing each apart. What should i do?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr Pete replied 5 years ago.

Hi

This is a commom behavioural issue in cats. It is called redirected aggression.

We must remember that cats are not social creatures by nature. By this I mean that in their natural state they lead solitary lifestyles and only come together for breeding and fighting. We have managed to convert cats to out lifestyle and in time cats will often “get along together” but relationships can suffer when anxiety develops. The introduction of the new cat has caused one or both of your cats to develop a deep concern about the change in the structure of the household. Certainly in many cases this will simply cause fighting between the existing members and the new addition but very often the anxiety causes action to be taken out on an existing member of the household and this is called redirected aggression. Sometimes the victim can even be the owner. It’s a little bit like the child who has issues at school and takes it out on the sibling at home.

This redirected aggression rarely disappears straight after the triggering situation clears…it takes time and unfortunately it can sometimes even destroy a previously good relationship.

You must be careful not to increase the anxiety so punishment will not work…it can make matters worse. Separation will also be ineffective.

Time will be the main healer here. However sometimes we need to resort to medication in some form. There are two products that can be effective for this problem. The first is Feliway. This product is available on the internet, at pet supplies and from your vet. It is a spray that contains cat pheromones. Cats produce these chemicals from specialised chin glands. You will see them rubbing their chin on household objects, effectively marking these as "safe zones". So you can use the Feliway to mark your home as such. This reduces the anxiety. The product is safe and odourless to humans. If things aren't settling down within 2-3 days I strongly recommend you obtain this product before the behaviour becomes too ingrained..
http://www.feliway.uk.com/
The other product is Clomicalm. This is an anti-anxiety medication tailor made for this problem. You would need to see your vet to obtain it. If you are in the USA it is not registered for cats (just dogs) but this is a licensing issue. It is used all around the world in cats and most US vets will prescribe it for cats. It must be used for several weeks to have its effect so I generally use it in combination with Feliway. It would need to be used on both cats.
http://www.clomicalm.novartis.us/qa/qa.htm
Most importantly, remember that this is an anxiety based problem. Don't do anything that will increase this. So try not to show your anger or frustration (I know that will be hard).
I hope I've been of help.
Good luck, Peter

Dr Pete, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3004
Experience: Bachelor of Veterinary Science University of Melbourne
Dr Pete and other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dr. Pete,

Thank you very much for getting back to me about my situation. I
appreciate the advise on the explanation of my cats problem.
I noticed that you mentioned that seperation would not fix the problem
entirely. I have already seperated them and was wondering if you had
any advise on how to unseperate them safely for myself and for them?

Also when you stated the problem being "to far ingrained" is 2 to 3
days to long to go without treatment? Or should I keep trying to place them in the same area or room?

I'm pretty sure I'll be investing in some of the Fe
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dr. Pete,

Thank you very much for getting back to me about my situation. I
appreciate the advise on the explanation of my cats problem.
I noticed that you mentioned that seperation would not fix the problem
entirely. I have already seperated them and was wondering if you had
any advise on how to unseperate them safely for myself and for them?

Also when you stated the problem being "to far ingrained" is 2 to 3
days to long to go without treatment? Or should I keep trying to place them in the same area or room?

I'm pretty sure I'll be investing in some of the Feilway, I don't foresee the problem going away on it's own. I thank you again:)
Expert:  Dr Pete replied 5 years ago.
Hi again
I guess separation will fix the problem if it's permanent but if you hope to get them back together again it's no fix at all. The animosity will simply build with the separation as they lose any feelings of familiarity. Two days separation won't be enough for them to have totally lost their familiarity, but the less separation the better.
It's best to reintroduce them on the most "neutral ground" that you have...so don't suddenly bring them together in the area they normally play, sleep or sit with you. Sometimes though reintroducing them at feeding time works well if they are both good eaters. So what we are doing here is using distraction...the hope is that they will be so intent on eating that they will forget the issue. Usually the feeding area is not what I would call neutral territory so it won't work so well if food isn't a major part of their lives.
Have a water spray bottle so that if they look to be getting a bit fractious you can give them a spray to break their concentration...saves you taking the risk with your hands.
If you can get the Feliway soon then you can actually spray it on yourself (legs in particular) and also on your hands and wipe it all over each cat's coat. That will help. If the Feliway isn't working within 2-3 days I'd see your vet about Clomicalm or perhaps even Prozac as that works faster. I'm not suggesting anti-anxiety medication be used long term...just to re-establish their relationship.
Let me know how things go. Cheers, Peter

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