Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Cats

Font Size

Aggression Between Cats in Your Household

ASPCA logoSome cats just won’t give peace a chance. There are several reasons that cats might not get along. The most common is undersocialization—a lack of pleasant experiences with other cats early in life. If your cat grew up as the only cat, with little or no contact with other felines, he may react strongly when he’s finally introduced to another cat because he’s afraid of the unknown, he lacks feline social skills, and he dislikes the disruption to his routine and environment. Cats tend to prefer consistency over change. This is especially true if the change involves a newcomer to your cat’s well-established territory. Cats are a territorial species. While some cats overlap their territories a great deal, others prefer to keep a good distance from their neighbors. Two unrelated males or two unrelated females may have a particularly hard time sharing space. Another cause of strife may be a feline personality clash. Cats usually don’t get to pick their housemates, and sometimes we humans just don’t select the right match. In some cases, however, cats get along just fine until something scary or unpleasant (like fireworks or the odor of the veterinary clinic) becomes associated with the other cat. In other cases, relationships change as the cats mature. If one cat reaches the age of one to three years old and then trouble brews, social maturation may be a factor.

Any sudden change in your cat’s behavior could be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If you notice any unusual physical or behavioral symptoms, or if your cat stops eating, please see your veterinarian right away.

Other Types of Aggression to Consider

Maternal Aggression

A female cat with a litter of kittens may hiss, growl, chase, swat or try to bite another cat who approaches, even one with whom she was formerly friendly. Maternal aggression usually subsides once the kittens are weaned. It’s a good idea to spay maternally aggressive cats to prevent future litters and future aggression problems.

Play Aggression

It’s common for kittens and young cats to engage in rough, active play because all feline play consists of mock aggression. Cats stalk, chase, sneak, pounce, swat, kick, scratch, ambush, attack and bite each other—all in good fun. If they’re playing, it’s reciprocal. They change roles frequently. Their ears are typically forward in play, their claws may be out but they don’t cause damage, and their bodies lean forward not back.

Suggestions for Managing Your Cats

  • Never let the cats “fight it out.” Cats don’t resolve their issues through fighting, and the fighting usually just gets worse. Interrupt aggression with a loud clap of your hands, spray from a water gun or a burst of compressed air (no noise).
  • Neuter the cats. Intact males are particularly prone to aggressive behavior.
  • Separate their resources. Reduce competition between the cats by providing multiple, identical food bowls, beds and litter boxes in different areas of your house.
  • Provide additional perches. More hiding spots and perches will allow your cats to space themselves out as they prefer.
  • Don’t try to calm or soothe your aggressive cat, just leave her alone and give her space. If you come close, she could turn and redirect her aggression toward you.
  • Reward desired behavior. Praise or toss treats to reward your cats when you see them interacting in a friendly manner.
  • Try pheromones. Feliway™, a product that mimics a natural cat odor (which humans can’t smell), may reduce tensions. Use a diffuser while the aggression issue is being resolved.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

Today on WebMD

kitten with onions
Slideshow
Night stalking cat
Slideshow
 
Young woman holding Papillon
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
cat on couch
Evaluator
Kitten using litter box
Quiz
 
sleeping kitten
Slideshow
sad kitten looking at milk glass
Slideshow
 
cat at table
Slideshow
muddy dog on white sofa
Quiz
 
Maine Coon cat breed
Article
Pets: Behavior Problems in Cats
Slideshow