The Pets Doc

Dr. Kevin Watkins, DVM

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Catty Behavior – Getting Your Cats To Socialize Can Be A Challenge

I’d like to share a problem I was experiencing among my own cats recently, and my resolution.

Cats are not pack animals, but they do colonize, or live in a common area, so conflict in multiple cat households can become a problem.

We already had several cats, and then a few months ago we adopted Kit. Kit is now five pounds of solid black slink and mischief. Esmie tolerates him but hisses when he jumps on her, or chases her down the hallway.

Chloe immediately decided she was his mommy, allowing him to “nurse” and happily bathes him several times a day. Kit also adores Stretch Bob because he plays rough. Uncle Stretch seems to understand that Kit is a baby and shows him the fundamentals of “attack” and “pounce.”

The only spoiler in our cat colony is Celestial, the calico. I hope you calico lovers do not take exception to this next comment because calicos can be very loving, but they are notoriously temperamental, and Celeste is true to her breed. Celestial simply doesn’t like other cats and would be quite content if it were just her living with us humans. But the Watkins house will always have lots of cats, so Celeste decided that she will at least have “Alpha” status, and they all seem to respect this. I haven’t interfered with their hierarchy because they always worked things out and nobody ever got hurt.

A few weeks ago, however, the hissing turned ugly. Suddenly, we were hearing full blown cat fights, growling and screaming, and chases that ended with lamps on the floor, always on the other end of the house. All the cats were giving Celestial a wide berth, except Kit, of course, because no one is excluded from his playful torture. Since I could not allow what was happening among the feline members of my household to continue, and Celestial was the only one exhibiting “bad behaviors,” I decided to assert a little “Alpha-ness” of my own.

The next altercation wasn’t long in coming, and this time I happened to be in the room. Celeste attacked Kit, and I hit the floor, determined to catch her. I think I surprised her because she jumped and ran. I cornered and caught her, scruffed her pretty firmly, and growled. If she did not understand my words, she certainly understood my tone and the look on my face. Then Celeste spent the next several hours outside.

When I did allow her back inside, she pouted mightily and avoided me for the next several days. There were a few more growling altercations after that, and Celeste received the same treatment each time. But I’m happy to report that we’ve made up completely and everything is back to normal.

I decided my cat colony could use a little socializing, so I’ve started feeding them all tuna from a common plate while I keep a watchful eye nearby. This seems to be working because the fighting has ceased. Celestial is behaving herself again because her desire for tuna (and being inside) is stronger than her dislike of others and, frankly, I’m feeling like the cat’s meow.

Margo Watkins, Pet Behavior Counselor

Pawsitive Pet Behavior Blog