In January, Petfinder held a live Q&A on Facebook with pet trainers Andrea Arden and Mychelle Blake. We’ve been posting some of our favorite cat-related questions and answers here in honor of Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Read all our FurKeeps Q&As here.
Q: I have two cats — a 4-year-old male and a 3-year-old female. Both were shelter cats and were adopted about a year apart. Recently, the older cat has been picking on the younger one — she has started to run from him when he walks in the room. Whenever I’m home she follows me around — I’m assuming because I’ll stop her brother from picking on her. She’s taken to hiding in the bathtub because the male hates it there.
I’ve also noticed recently that the female has scabs on the back of her neck, I think because her brother keeps biting her. Any suggestions on what I can do to help calm the male and keep him from picking on his sister? -Lisa R.
A: It’s not uncommon for cats to become more aggressive at the onset of social maturity, which is around 2 to 4 years of age, about where your two cats are. Sometimes aggression can also come about due to a medical condition, so I would recommend a vet visit to make sure there’s nothing hidden that is causing your male to become more aggressive toward the female.
For cats who are not getting along, you want to separate them for a short time and then slowly reintroduce them while helping to bolster the confidence level of the weaker cat. Here’s how:
1. Separate the cats and confine each in a comfortable location.
Since your female finds the bathroom comforting, confine her so that she has access to it.
2. Create new, positive associations in shared spaces.
When your male is not present, work on bringing your female into areas where the aggression has occurred and play with her there with toys, brush her, provide her with treats, etc. You want to make her have a more positive association with these areas and to boost her confidence, which can make the male cat less likely to attack her in the future.
3. Redirect aggression onto toys.
Likewise, have play sessions every day with your male cat to teach him more appropriate ways to play and what things he may bite, such as cat toys. You can plug in a Feliway diffuser as well to help calm him.
4. Do a slow reintroduction with lots of rewards for good behavior.
When you are ready to reintroduce them, make sure that there are plenty of spaces for the cats to go to if they need a break from each other, such as cat trees, cat-appropriate shelves, etc. Give them access to several litter boxes and food and water bowls as well.
Pair the introductions, which should be short, with positive things such as treats, brushing and play.
Mychelle Blake, CDBC
Pet trainer and deputy director, APDT
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