If you’re here, my guess is you’ve came across this article because you were looking for a solution to a problem you already have, or one you’re expecting to have in the upcoming months. Either you’ve taken in multiple cats, and at least one of them doesn’t get along with another, you’ve just adopted a second cat, or you’re hoping to adopt kitty #2 and are trying to troubleshoot before issues even crop up.
No matter the situation you’re in, this article should definitely help. And I honestly believe that even if you’ve been living in a household where two or more of your cats haven’t gotten along for years, some combination of the tips I’ll be presenting should work to relieve the tension.
You may not get perfect peace and harmony at home, but you should see some results, at least in most situations. But you do have to be a little patient, because in my experience, these tips take time to have proper effect. Have time on your hands? I certainly believe you can make it work!
In terms of what’s already been published on this blog in this vein – first, before I even had a second cat myself, I wrote about how only-child Velcro cat personalities change sometimes the second a newcomer feline hits the household. Some only-child lap cats do change, and I was worried about this happening in my own household when I took in kitty #2. Wanted to see what other pet parents were saying, and put together the piece based on what I found on forums, Reddit threads, and stories posted elsewhere online.
Then, as often happens in life, fate struck and I didn’t have much of a choice but to adopt a neighbourhood feral/stray we fell in love with. We took in cat number 2, and I was happy to announce in a new article, my lap cat’s personality absolutely did not change when the newcomer came into his home.
Now there’s this article, for those who need help in the getting along department. Because while my first kitty’s personality didn’t do a 180, his stress levels went through the roof, and yes there was absolutely a heck of a lot of fighting initially.
I think my first cat’s backstory is an important element in his tension toward the second cat, so let me catch you up on that in case you’re completely new to this blog.
My husband and I took in a stray/feral cat back in 2013, a male whom we named Avery, when we were living in Canada. We moved with him a slew of times, once to a new continent and twice to a new country (from Canada to the UK, then from the UK to Portugal).
He lived as a single/only child cat all that time, with about a month of his life spent under the same roof as another cat, when we were living at my mother’s while we were getting ready to head off to the UK.
In that time, Avery was always separated from the other cat, unless supervised and on a harness for a few hours visit a day with the other cat. I wanted to make sure if a fight broke out, I could easily pull Avery out of a fight, though luckily, that never happened (most likely because the cats were constantly monitored).
We always wanted to adopt a second, but the timing wasn’t right for ages, first because of the move to the UK (which we thought was permanent), then because we needed more space to be comfortable adjusting Avery to living with a sibling, and we lived in a studio for two years while in the UK.
Once we moved to Portugal, into a big enough house, fate intervened again, and an incredibly friendly neighbourhood cat just wouldn’t leave our property, so we also took him in once we realized he had no home. This new cat, Bjorn, is also male, and is roughly 3-4 – absolutely not a kitten.
So I expected problems to say the least. Two adults thrown together when one is not at all used to cohabiting with other cats is typically completely inadvisable. Two cats of the same gender is typically not advised if you want to have an easy time as well.
But we weren’t about to turn the new cat away – it’s not as though we had much of a choice. Things sort of had to work, so I got to work testing, trying different things. It’s been months now, and yes, I’ve had major success.
I first want to note – I didn’t ever really care if the two liked each other. I still wouldn’t say they like each other now, but they absolutely, 100% get along. By this I mean, they don’t fight anymore, besides the occasional teeny spat once in a blue moon.
They are not aggressive with each other like they used to be (well really, it’s just the one who was aggressive). They even eat together (not all meals yet, and this took time, but we’ll get to that), without issue. They are successfully cohabiting together and they are by all measures getting along, even though they aren’t BFFs or anything of the sort.
I may see some progress yet on the BFF front. I feel there’s still room for that in their relationship, and if the two do get to that point, I will write an update post about it. But for those of you who just want to keep the peace, just want two of your favourite felines to get along at bare minimum, without anxiety and bloodshed, I have plenty of advice for you based on my experiences over these past couple months.
Is it possible to get more than two cats to get along using these techniques? I’d say yes, but it may be tricky as a lot of what I’ve done depends on sectioning off cats, so you may need as many rooms as cats to try to get them all to get along simultaneously. But I think it’s perfectly doable, even if it might take longer.
That being said, if you have any control over the situation, I would absolutely advise only adopting in a new cat once the old cats have gotten along acceptably. Then it’s just the newcomer who has to get used to the clowder, and the clowder that has to get along with the newcomer, and so only one cat (the newbie) needs to be sectioned off temporarily.
Okay enough preamble, time to get into get into the meat of this article.
How I Got My Two Male, Adult Cats (Who Fought at First) to Get Along
The most important thing I learned during this whole process, and the only thing you should keep in mind if you’re going to take away anything from this article is the following:
Probably the only reason your cats are not getting along is because they are stressed.
You may have guessed this already. A lot comes down to stress and anxiety when you’re talking about abnormal, aggressive, and/or unhealthy behaviour. It’s a catch-all, but it’s a good one, and you can do ever-so-much for your felines just by reducing stress levels.
If your cats are not stressed, they should be getting along. If your cats are fighting aggressively, if they’re hissing, if they’re hiding from one another, there’s something going on that may or may not have to do directly with the other cat.
Your stressed cat may just be taking out his or her anxiety on the other cat.
There’s a good chance there’s a lot more anxiety because of the second cat, but keeping in mind it’s all about stress and not really about the other cat should really help you to remedy the situation.
So one cat’s bullying another. One cat’s being aggressive toward another. Both cats are being aggressive to each other. Cats are fighting over resources. Whatever the case may be. It’s stress. Get rid of that, you’re on your way to peace at home, even if there’s not much hand holding, cuddling, and love – they should be getting along to the point where blood will not be shed and fits of hissing will be few and far between.
I’ve discussed this thoroughly already in my article about how Avery’s personality didn’t change when we took in Bjorn, instead his stress levels did. I did a lot of things those first couple months to make the transition for Avery as stress-free as possible. The rundown being:
- Initially, I never fed them together.
- I gave Avery breaks from having to deal with Bjorn, and Bjorn a break from potential violence.
- For months, I only allowed them to interact while I was physically at home.
- For especially stressful parts of the day, like before meals, I would trap Avery and Bjorn together in a room with me monitoring.
- I started sitting training sessions (fueled by kibble bribes!) with Avery and Bjorn together.
- I had many different hiding spots, sleeping spaces, scratching posts, and even litter boxes out, to try to eliminate competition over these resources, and motored both cats’ use of them closely.
I’m not going to go over this in full again, so if you’re curious about any of these steps, you can read about them in this article here.
Doing all this wasn’t enough to get Avery and Bjorn to get along in my absence, but it was a huge step forward. If I had to stress the important part of those first few days the TLDR; is as follows:
- Until you’re sure no fighting will take place in your absence, separate cats unless you’re present with them. This means creating a safe-room for cats away from the others, one decked out with everything the cat could want or need and that you can place your cat in (for safety and to reduce stress), at a moment’s notice.
- Create as many happy or neutral moments when they finally are allowed together in the same space, and absolutely always separate the cats by placing a cat in a safe room when stressful situations may happen (for me this was when hunger struck Avery, right before feedings).
- Eliminate any and all stress your individual cats might be feeling as much as possible. This includes making sure resources are plentiful (lots of places to scratch, drink, use the litter, sleep, play, etc.). It also includes intuiting issues your aggressor has with his or her environment (not enough stimulation/play, for instance), and trying to make up for them (increasing playtime and/or frequency of play).
These three steps should absolutely carry you over to having peace within your little clowder of cats.
The Particulars: How I Reduced My Aggressive Cat’s Stress in Specific Ways
In terms of stress reduction, Avery was really the only cat I had to pay attention to. He was the aggressor, and he was the one obviously stressed out by interactions with Bjorn.
Bjorn was never phased or bothered by Avery’s presence at all. My guess is this was because he was used to interacting positively with other cats. It may also have been because he was used to getting into pretty bad fights (we used to see him defend “his territory” i.e. our property by chasing off other feral cats all the way down the street), and maybe, by comparison to the bad fights he likely got into, Avery’s aggression didn’t phase him.
Either way, that left Avery whose stress I had to alleviate. The majority of his stress came from only a few different places. Your cat may have a slew of different sources of anxiety, some which may or may not be related to your other cat. As you’ll see from my examples, very few of Avery’s anxiety triggers that converted into aggression had anything to do with Bjorn.
Having trouble coming up with solutions to your cat’s source of anxiety? Some examples include things like, construction next door being too loud, a neighbourhood cat visiting bothers your aggressive cat, or even you moving to a new house recently.
That being said, do let me know in the comments if you need help brainstorming, and I’ll try my best to help you come up with a few different things to test; hopefully one or more suggestions will help.
Let’s get into what Avery’s issues were, and what fixes I used to tackle these problems.
Problem 1: Energy bursts (converted to aggression) at odd hours of the day.
Avery absolutely is not a really playful cat. As a matter of fact, he’s probably the laziest cat I know. This didn’t end up translating into a positive, chill attitude toward his new furry sibling. He, like most other cats, was full of pent up energy – “zoomies” as some like to call the running around cats do when they become hyperactive – and these struck typically late at night after he ate his final meal.
For Avery, being stubborn and not liking to play with much meant that when he got hyperactive, it wasn’t easy for me to release his pent up energy.
who’s notorious for not only ignoring toys to play with on his own, but also that translated
Solutions: More frequent and longer play time sessions; more toys cats can play with on their own.
Luckily, there is one thing he will play with most days that also works amazingly well as an exercise toy. This toy tuckers him out with a lot of physical exercise within a very short span of time. The style of toy is a kicker toy, and right now, his favourite version (though he likes many) is the KONG Kickeroo.
I started making sure I used the cat toy with him as often as I could remember, 2-3 times a day, which translated to not long at all considering he’d drop the toy within 2-3 minutes of aggressively kicking at it with his hind legs.
My goal was for Avery to hopefully be spent of his prey drive by the time his zoomies typically arrived and turned into aggression toward his new brother. The frequency you should play with your cat if you have this problem (i.e. aggression from at least one cat toward another when they really just want to play) depends a lot on the cat in question. You can try increasing both the frequency and the length of the playtime sessions, and continue to up the activity levels until your cat is spent.
You absolutely should invest in a few high energy cat toys or use the ones you have lying around (feather wands are included on that list, I’d be surprised if you didn’t already have one of those around!); they’re not expensive but they do a better job than most cat toys at releasing energy in short bouts of time.
You should also try to grab at least a couple different types of self-play cat toys that cats can play with on their own – ones in particular you think your cat will love engaging with.
These are perfect in case you’re not home when your furry gets that kick-start to his or her prey drive, or in case your cat is happy to play by him or herself sometimes. Ridiculously handy. And yes, there are many cats will actually use on their own, though nothing can substitute for a human-involved play time for most cats.
Problem 2: Aggressive when moody due to feeling hungry.
This one was a little more obvious to me, but a little more difficult to fix. Avery and Bjorn got fed twice a day, and right before they ate, Avery typically chased Bjorn down and tried to take out his frustration on the poor thing. Obviously, I caught the hangry connection – it was difficult to miss.
Solutions: Separated right before meals; automatic feeder set to go off every 4 hours.
I started separating the two right before meals by keeping Bjorn in his room, or monitoring the two for around an hour before they ate by trapping them in the same room as I was in. Avery is never violent or aggressive with Bjorn unless he thinks I’m not watching, so this also worked – to an extent.
But if Avery felt hungry because he smelled human food and this made him moody enough to feel stressed, the same would happen – aggression – even if it was in the middle of the day. So I bit the bullet and for the sake of progress invested in an automatic pet feeder – one that was hard for my new, feral kitty to “break into” for more kibble – the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed. I scheduled the food to be let out once every 4 hours.
The feeder drops kibble into my Mogoko Cat Catch Interactive Feeder, as it’s the slow feed cat bowl I was previously using for Bjorn. I want to rig it to fall into the Catit Design Senses Food Maze, as it’s still by far the best feeder toy in my opinion, but to do so I’d have to elevate the timed feeder and brace it to a chair or something along those lines (Edit 2020/07/07: I did this ages ago by elevating it with a stool – perfect fix! You can see what I did in my review of the feeder here), so it can spew out the kibble into the top of such a tall puzzle toy. Haven’t gotten around to switching yet!
Without a feeder toy, Bjorn would eat all the kibble in 2 seconds flat since he’s still quite an aggressive eater. With the Mogoko, Avery gets in on the action a bit, but doesn’t in my opinion in on as much action as he should.
With the Catit, since it has three levels to go through before the kibble falls out and is thus much more tricky and takes much longer to get kibble out, I’m sure each cat will have the amount they need. It also makes the cats feel fuller as they eat, as they’re not able to guzzle down grub even close to as fast. Important to me, since it will likely train Bjorn to not be so food obsessed as it did with Avery over the years.
I can’t say the two haven’t fought since I implemented the automatic, timed feeder. That being said, I still haven’t set the food schedule to go off at night, and I think this would make a huge difference, so I’ll be starting to run it all day soon. Avery no longer fights with Bjorn during the day, and picks little to no fights at night even when he’s no longer monitored by me. With the food toy set to go off every 4 hours 24/7, I absolutely believe his anxiety will be reduced enough so that fights are extremely rare between them. Time will tell, but seeing how things have been going in the mornings, I’m very hopeful.
Problem 3: Bjorn’s feisty attitude bothers Avery.
Bjorn’s a pretty chill cat most of the time, but every so often, his inner wilder beast comes out and he’s a maniac. Not quite like Jekyll and Hyde, he’s more like Stitch after vs Experiment 626 before in the movie Lilo and Stitch. He sort of goes all weapon-of-mass-destruction around food, toys, and anything that gets him real excitable. And the way he walks is pretty quick, he hasn’t got much of an understanding of personal space – basically for a very low-key cat like Avery, Bjorn can be way too energetic, and maybe a little nuts. 😉
Solutions: Trained Bjorn to be calmer around food; fed two cats snacks (one for each cat at a time) together.
I started to train Avery and Bjorn to “sit” together, and this helped a lot with calming Bjorn down and showing Avery he could improve his feisty attitude. I detailed how I did that fully here, but basically that, in combination with the use of slow feeder toys, and honestly the introduction of the timed feeder (removing too much hunger from the equation really helped calm Bjorn down a lot), makes Avery a happy boy since he doesn’t have to deal with a wildling version of Bjorn all that often anymore.
Have a cat who often gets hyperactive, and an aggressor cat who hates it? Figure out how easy it would be to calm the hyperactive kitty down, or separate the cats for playtime and/or feeding (whenever the hyperactivity happens) until they’ve got a more healthy relationship between them.
Tips I Didn’t Have to Implement That You May Want To
In terms of advice I can think of to make cats a lot more happy, a lot less anxious, and thus a lot less likely to get into fights with one another, here are a slew off the top of my head:
Make sure you’re giving your cats enough attention. If one wants more, and the other doesn’t seem to get jealous, give the cat that needs more attention what he or she needs. If both cats are getting what they need, what you give doesn’t need to be equal. There’s only tension when a cat feels they’re lacking in something.
Make sure you have a tonne of places for cats to sleep, scratch, and use the litter. You do not want competition in these fields. Invest in small cat trees like the AmazonBasics Cat Scratching Post and Hammock or cardboard cat scratchers like the Necoichi Cat-Headed Cardboard Cat Scratcher Bed, as these typically have scratch posts or pads and cat beds, two-in-one essentially, if you need more of both beds and scratch spots, but don’t want to spend a lot (who does?).
Pay attention to who the aggressor is, and if it’s the same cat every time, try to reduce their anxiety. How? Pay attention to when they’re anxious, and when you find that cat bullying another cat, do things like try to play with him or her, or move him or her to a new sleeping spot/spot to scratch until you figure out what’s wrong. Then be proactive. Try to reduce the chance that that kind of frustration will happen again by playing with your cat more like I did, for instance, or increasing the amount of spots your cat has to sleep or scratch on. If there’s a favourite spot and every cat likes it, get a second, or a third. Reduce tension and anxiety – it will help.
If there have been a lot of changes in your cat’s life up until this point, it may take your cat a while to recover. Cats hate change and the aggression toward another cat in my opinion often has little to nothing to do with that cat – just the levels of stress the first, aggressor cat has that sets him or her off. Your aggressor is taking out their stress on the other cat, sort of like you’d do if you came home from a really hard day at work and your partner said something incredibly annoying. You’d snap, when typically you’d have more patience. Give your cat stress-free days for long enough and their lack of anxiety should help reduce the “snapping” to a great degree.
If you know a few different things your cat likes – specific spots to nap in, specific foods, treats, cuddles in sunny spots, scratching under his or her chin – do it. As much as you can. Spoil that cat rotten! He or she will be so much better off in terms of anxiety levels for it.
Do your absolute best under all circumstances to make sure a cat’s experience while being in the presence of the other cat is not negative. If you think something bad might happen, stress levels might be high, keep the cats apart for that time until the anxiety or threat passes. This includes keeping your cats separated if they get moody before meals. It includes keeping them separated if you going out for long periods of time stresses your cat out. It includes keeping them separated if there are noisy construction hours which your cat seem to be unhappy with. Don’t let your cat associate the fear, anxiety, and disdain for a bad experience with another cat.
Do your absolute best under all circumstances to make sure a cat’s experience with another cat is going to be positive or neutral. Spoil your cats rotten in the presence of the cat they’re aggressive toward. Allow them to feel happy and care free in the presence of the other cat and they should start to associate happy emotions and feelings with the other cat.
Give your cats time. It takes ages to train cats to do something as simple as being comfortable to be driven around in a car, but you can train a cat to do that, and you can train a cat to be okay with another cat as well. Just don’t assume it’s going to happen on your schedule.
If you’re able, I’d firmly advise keeping cats separate unless you’re present with them as I did. Your cats already thrown together? No biggie, you can give one a room starting today if that cat has no issues having a room all to him or herself. I find it helps all parties when they’re able to take breaks from one another. It helps you make sure your cats are always safe and no one is being picked on in your absence. It helps make sure you’re able to spot if there’s a particular source of anxiety in the aggressor cat. Finally, it means you can nearly guarantee all interactions will be either positive or neutral, as they will be really heavily controlled by you.
Your Turn: Advice for Encouraging Cats to Get Along?
Now I’d like to take to the comments and leave tips and advice for pet parents whose cats are not getting along.
Has this ever happened to you before? Did your cats ever get along? What did you try? What do you wish you tried? Please share your story.
Any thoughts you have on this topic – please leave down below! You absolutely would be helping so many pet parents out if they stumble across your comment.