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The "Frisky Feline's" Guide to Troubled Cat Relationships

Two orange cats laying together
Photo Credit: Diane L.

While chasing, stalking and swatting behaviors might seem like "normal" cat behaviors, they often are signs that there is conflict occurring between your cats. If these and other "bully behaviors" seem to set tone for your cat's relationship this guide will help get you on a better path for their future.

Much like cats themselves - cat relationships are unique, delicate and often misunderstood. While many cats adjust to sharing their lives with other cats, there are also some who struggle with a multi-cat lifestyle. Unfortunately, tensions between cats can lead to more complex problems such as urine marking, redirected behaviors and stress related health conditions so it is important to work on these relationships early on to avoid further problems down the road. So how do we help our cats to have better relationships with one another?

Tip #1 - Don't Rush Introductions

Just like with us humans, cat relationships need to go at their own pace. Introductions should be structured using "safe barriers" such as doors or baby gates so that your cats have time to learn about one another before "life together".

When using these "Safe barriers" it is important to listen to what their interactions and body language says. Are their eyes wide? Tail whipping? Ears back? Are they displaying that they want more or less interactions from the other cat? Who is more stressed? Don't feel on a time crunch with your introduction. There is not set time on how long it "should" take and it's important to know that introductions can take months to get through. While living with gates or closed off rooms is not ideal, this time is crucial to get your cats on the right path for their future.

Tip #2 - Support Choice

After the introduction phase, allow your cats to choose how and when they want to interact with one another. Avoid placing your cats together as a means of "helping them love each other / get over their differences" as this can greatly increase the tensions between them. If your cats choose to not share spaces with one another or not to engage with one another understand that they know they can - but they do not want to. Some cats will become inseparable soul mates, however, others may live under the same roof without ever really interacting for years. If there is one thing I have learned in my time as a cat behavior consultant is that our cats will choose the relationships they want to have - we cannot choose for them.

Tip #3 - Location, location, location!

When setting up your cat's environment, understand that placement of resources is so important because while your cats live together under one roof - it doesn't mean they want to live in the same room together. Often times major resources like litter boxes and food/water bowls are found grouped together for convenience but this set up can be a big contributor to unfriendly games of chase. Why? Well as your cat(s) are doing their business or enjoying a few bites of food, it creates a perfect opportunity for your other cat(s) to know right where to go to catch them off guard or with their back turned. By having multiple locations for these primary resources, you can greatly reduce the opportunities for stalking and chasing.

Tip #4 - Playtime Therapy

While having a "furr" friend is great for socialization and companionship - it will not fulfill your cat's predatory instincts to hunt. As kittens, pouncing and tackling is simply just kitten play but as adults these behaviors quickly escalate into big problems. Without regular playtime your cats may be fulfilling their predatory behaviors through chasing, stalking, and pouncing on your other cat(s) - so be sure to offer play as part of a regular routine.

Tip #5 - Get support

If you find that you have tried everything to help your cats to get along but are still not seeing progress, consider seeking the help of a trusted professional such as your veterinarian or a cat behavior consultant who is experienced in working with these behaviors. Seeing conflict between your cats and need support NOW? Schedule your behavior consultation with Frisky Feline Behavior Counseling HERE.

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