When your cats no longer get along

Back in July of 2009, we found two kittens outside of our apartment. They weren’t with their mother so we assumed them to be around 6-8 weeks old. We felt bad for their chance of survival as outdoor cats especially in Rochester winters so we captured them. Yes, we lay a trail of tuna to a box and once inside, we closed the lid! We caught only one the first day we saw them. It took us 3 days to find the other brother! Anyways, when they were reunited they clearly knew who the other was and loved each other. Here’s the proof:

catsThey were such best buds that when we tried to find a home for them, we said they had to be homed together. We had a couple close options for a home for the kittens together but nothing panned out. So that’s why we have these 2 cats today!

You can imagine that I was quite shocked when around 3 years of age, these brothers started not getting along. I couldn’t believe it. They had been the best of friends up until that point! Always sleeping together and cleaning each other. I had them both fixed as soon as the vet would let me. It just didn’t make sense when their relationship began to change. I’ve since learned that around this time, cats reach full sexual maturity and that can cause them to no longer like sharing their house with another cat. This only happened to our one cat (Indy), he wanted to be the top cat and seemed like he’d prefer to be the only cat. Our other cat (Storm) was clearly confused by this as he carried on as usual in trying to cuddle and be best buds.

Now, at 2 years later, our cats have a love/hate relationship. Mostly, they are good together. Sometimes we will catch them sleeping together. At other times, Indy doesn’t like Storm’s presence and chases him around the house trying to fight him. Common triggers for him wanting to attack Storm are: if he gets scared by something, if he sees another cat outside, and especially if Storm smells different for any reason. This could be due to Storm going to the vet and coming home smelling different or if he escapes outside by accident.

At one point, we seriously looked at re-homing one of our cats as we felt there was no point having 2 cats that don’t get along. In the end, I couldn’t go through with it. Instead, we waited it out and it got better with time. Here are some things that have helped us when our cats aren’t getting along:

1. if you must take one cat to the vet, take both (the other can just stay in the carrier). this way they will both smell the same.

2. if one cat escapes outside and the other one is bothered by their new smell, wipe them down with something so that they both smell the same. this may not be the best option but what I’ve found works well is using a dryer sheet. I’ve “petted” both cats with a dryer sheet before and it seems to cut down on or eliminate completely the cat fighting (as they both smell the same).

3. try not to let their relationship dynamic change get to you. this one is hard for me! I would have never kept them together  as kittens if they weren’t going to be best buds. I have to accept a new normal – one where they tolerate each other most of the time and cuddle sometimes and fight at other times.

4. let your dog(s) play referee. I’ve trained our dogs to leave the cats alone. They never chase them, ever. We are lucky that way. When the cats start to fight/not get along it upsets the dogs. One of our dogs is sure to try and stop it. I used to tell the dogs to “leave it” but now I let them play referee. The cats listen to them and sometimes it stops completely!

5. for the future, I’ll only own one cat at a time. When I talked to my vet about our situation, she shared that Indy is like most cats re: cats doing better when the only cat of the home. She said that cats are solo creatures, they aren’t like dogs in this regard. Lesson learned.

At first, it was completely devastating when our cats would not get along. Now, I try not to let it bother me as much. The other night the cats were tearing around and sounding like they were trying to kill each other (there’s a difference between play fighting and real fighting and we know the difference!). Later that night, I came downstairs to make sure all of the windows were closed tight (I heard foxes around our house). Go figure, our cats were curled up together on a chair! I guess when you have two cats, they are more like siblings who love each other AND fight. Unlike dogs who tend to be friends.

If you are dealing with a sudden change in your felines friendship, I feel for you. Hang in there. Try new things and see what helps make it better. Also, learn the art of ignoring it. It’s hard but necessary when your cats dynamics change. If you have any experience or tips, please add to this post by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

**I wrote this post with the hope that it may help someone struggling with this same issue. I know that when we first encountered our cats suddenly no longer getting along, I googled and didn’t find a lot of info or experience to pull from. **

2 thoughts on “When your cats no longer get along”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’m sorry to hear about your situation but am glad you have found some things to help. We have three cats, and although they don’t always get along, they usually do. I didn’t know that cats prefer to be solo most of the time.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I also assumed that most cats would like to have a cat buddy. But I guess what the vet said makes sense when you look at what most wild cats prefer (ex cheetah’s and mountain lions), they live totally alone by choice. I’m glad that yours mostly get along! 🙂

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