Our Two Cats fight

by B. Roberts
(Melbourne, Australia)

Hi there,

About two years ago we bought a male British Short-Hair kitten ('Hank', jet black all-over) who we we love dearly and he seemed almost perfectly happy growing up in our house/property. The only thing we thought would make his life better would be to have some company as we both work full-time and are away regularly for 10 - 12 hours on weekdays. We figured he may get a bit lonely and had also observed that he is quite an intelligent cat that might need the extra stimulus of a companion.
About a year ago we bought a second male British Short-Hair kitten ('Josh', silver-grey tabby).
Right from the start Hank seemed suspicious, threatened and angry about the arrival of Josh. We kept them separated for about the first 12 weeks (only letting them mix together when we were able to supervise). It appears that Josh likes Hank (when not being chased off or attacked) but Hank doesn't tolerate Josh for long at a time. I guess I would have to say that both of their lives are not as happy as they could be (and ours because of their problems).
Hank is no longer as relaxed and secure as he used to be. He was always very close to Lara and now seems to hold her responsible for bringing Josh into his previously 'perfect' world and now often ignores Lara and runs away if she tries to pat him of show any other sort of affection. This is very sad and worrying. We also worry that Josh has not entered the world in a totally loving environment. He has to put up with Hank chasing him and fighting him until he has Josh pinned to the ground by biting him on the neck to hold him down. This must be distressing for Josh. I would say that neither cats are aggressive by nature and it seems very out of character to see Hank 'rough-up' Josh.
Initially we spoke to any pet lovers we knew who would either say "Give them time" or "When Josh grows to the size of Hank they will fight it out, and arrive at an understood hierarchy"... Unfortunately Josh is a small cat and probably won't ever grow as large as Hank to be able to stand his own.
We did hear something about a method of separating the cats within your house and then slowly re-introducing them to each other, but we don't think we can try that approach as our house is large and an 'open-plan' style.
Now people recommend that we give up the newer cat Josh to a good home but this would be heartbreaking to both of us as we also love him dearly and we would only consider this as a last resort (and only in the hope of giving Josh a happier life).
Is there anything we can try and do that might make Hank friendlier towards Josh (or at least be able to tolerate him?)
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as we are very sensitive people who love both our cats and don't want to give one up.
Kind regards,
Bevan

Answer from Kate
Ah sadly you have fallen into the trap that many of us do, i.e in believing that a cat needs another cat for companionship. Cats are solitary animals by nature and unless they have been brought up with another cat from birth or were very well socialized during the first 7 weeks of their lives in most cases they are not happy to live with another cat on their territory (especially if this territory is limited)

So the sad but simple answer to your question is that no there is nothing we can do to try and make one cat like another. All the behavior you describe is completely normal cat behavior. And yes the advice some people gave you was correct. What normally happens is the two cats will fight it out from time to time to make sure that the top cat keeps his place. this is then followed by a period of ignoring each other followed by another scrap. theses scraps are normally not too bad as cats dont like to risk serious injury and they can sound a lot worse than they are.

What can I say, some cats get along and some dont and just like us humans you can;t force anyone to like each other. in the cat world territory is everything.

I assume both cats are neutered (if not then this would help greatly in calming them down).

At the end of the day the two cats will live side by side but not necessarily in harmony and that is just something we as cat owners have to accept unless we rehome one of the cats which I know is not always possible or desirable.

I do have a web page about the introduction technique you mentioned about separating the cats. However this normally works best when they are first introduced.

http://www.our-happy-cat.com/introducing-cats.html

The only other thing i can think of which you could try is to use one of those plug in felaway sprays which is supposed to help relax cats. i haven't tried them myself but some people have reported some success. Your pet shop should know more about this product.

I am sorry for your situation and have come across it many times before. Some owners decide to rehome one cat and others decide just to let the cats work things out for themselves. Unfortunately for us humans both of these solutions is not the one we would seek.

best wishes and I hope your two cats can find a way to eventually get along better.

Kate

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