When Cats Hate Each Other

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It’s been one of those nights. Katie and Sizzle had a heated discussion about … well, only they know what they were disagreeing about before Katie turned on her heels and stalked off into another room. Then, Ginger got so annoyed with Belle, she disappeared into the woods, leaving Belle confused and alone outside our door.

My cats have their moments, and I think Katie and Sizzle really do not like each other. But they’ve managed to arrange their lives so they can live happily and in peace with each other, at least most of the time.

But not all cats are so fortunate. Some truly hate each other. And what do they do then? It’s not like mismatched cats can get a divorce.


Subdividing The Turf

I used to pet sit for some cats who hated each other so much they had to live on separate levels of their home. When Lucy and Junior met at the baby gate that divided their territories, they only wanted to kill each other.

Then there was Grace, who lived her entire life on the second floor of her house, separated from the other cats in the family by three baby gates stacked on top of each other at the bottom of the stairs. Three more were stacked at the top.

Despite the blockade, one of the cats sometimes managed to get to the second floor to attack her. I was so afraid Broadway would hurt her, I closed her into the master bedroom when I was pet sitting because I couldn’t be there 24/7 to supervise. 

The separate but equal living arrangements seemed to work well for the cats, even if they were a bit inconvenient for the people. Grace appeared to be happy, as long as Broadway wasn’t vaulting over the baby gates to start a fight. And Lucy and Junior always seemed satisfied with their living arrangements, too. 

Turning Newcomers Into Friends

Broadway and Lucy lived in their houses for a long time before Grace and Junior came along. Unfortunately for newcomers, cats can be very protective of their territory and don’t always welcome new family members when they first move in. That’s why proper introductions are so important

But there are other things you can do to help the cats associate each other with pleasant experiences and learn to like each other, too. Here are some suggestions.

  • Feed the cats together. Nothing says friendship more than sharing a meal. 
  • Give them both special treats. Halo Liv-a-Littles and PureBites are very special.
  • Play with them both with a wand or fishing pole toy. They might form a tag team and work together to catch the toy on the end of the string.
  • If they enjoy being brushed, brush them together. They’ll feel relaxed and content in each other’s presence.
  • Just sit and talk to them, and pet them while you’re talking. Most cats love it when their people do nothing except enjoy their company. 

You can do all of these, even if the new cat is in her own room separated from the others by baby gates. If you feed them together, put the bowls of food close to the gates on either side. When the cats are done eating, put the resident cat’s bowl back in its usual place, and move the new cat’s further into her room. You don’t want them to be afraid to finish their meals because you’re not there to provide reassurance. 

Don’t…

  • Force the cats to be together when they don’t want anything to do with each other at the moment.
  • Intervene unless it’s absolutely necessary. Expect some hissing and growling. That’s how cats establish the new rules of the household.
  • Let them fight. If you see a fight brewing separate the cats by clapping your hands loudly or tossing some toys or treats across the room to distract them. One ugly fight could sour their relationship for life. 

Setting Them Up For Success

​Even cats who are close friends need their own space. Your resident cat and her new friend will be happiest and most likely to get along if they have at least two litter boxes in different locations. Also give them a water bowl in a second location. You want them to be able to get to the necessities without having to deal with each other if they’re not in the mood. 

All cats appreciate having high places for napping and watching the world go by, but that’s especially important when you live with more than one cat. High places, like floor-to-ceiling cat trees, provide an opportunity for each cat to have additional personal space. 

But The Cats Still Hate Each Other

When cats hate each other, one might be happier in a different home.© Tseytlin – Fotolia.com

You’ve done everything you can, and the cats are still not getting along. If one decides she really does not like the others in her family, there’s not much you can do to change her mind. Sometimes the personalities just don’t match. And some cats are unwilling to share their homes and lives with other cats.

You could divide your house into separate living quarters as my clients did. But a happier solution might be to rehome the new cat. Sometimes showing your love and respect for a cat is knowing when to say goodbye.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you adore the cat. I know this from personal experience because Ginger was so miserable when she first came here, I tried to rehome her. My heart was breaking, but I wanted what was best for her. Happily for me, and I hope for her, the right adopter never came along, and four years later, she’s still here. 

She’s fiercely independent and resourceful, and she’s figured out how to create a lifestyle that’s absolutely perfect for her. But not all cats are as independent and resourceful as she is. And not all cats are able to go outside so they can get far, far away from their annoying or frightening family members. For them, an amicable divorce is often the best option.

Since I started writing this, Ginger has reappeared from the woods, and she and Belle are thinking about how they want to spend the rest of the evening, although they might not spend it together. Sometimes Ginger loves hanging out with her family members; other times she prefers to be by herself in the woods. For her, it’s all about the freedom to make choices, but that’s the way it is with all cats.

One of those choices should be the ability to move on if a cat and her housemates don’t get along. You wouldn’t want to share a home with someone you despise, and neither do out cats!


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