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How to Help Your Cats Get Along

two cats sitting side by side

If you live in a multi-cat household, you might be concerned with tension between your cats and whether anything can be done to help them get along with each other. Below are some helpful tips you can try to keep the peace in your home.

Get Your Cats Checked Out

If there's tension in your multi-cat home, it's important to have your cats examined by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Not all problems are behavioral so make sure your cats get a clean bill of health.

The book Think Like A Cat suggests behavioral changes may be due to underlying medical conditions. For example, a sudden dislike of being touched may be due to arthritis or a change in personality could have hyperthyroidism as the underlying cause.

Identify the Type of Aggression

If your veterinarian rules out health problems and your cats are still experiencing tension or aggressive behaviors, your next step will be to identify the cause of your cat's aggression. If you're unsure, speak with your veterinarian who may recommend you work with a behavior specialist. The following are some common types of aggression seen in cats.

Non-Recognition Aggression

If you've ever brought your cat home from the vet only to have their companions hiss at or attack them, they may be experiencing non-recognition aggression. This form of aggression occurs because the cat who was away from home for an extended period of time now smells unfamiliar and may be perceived as an intruder.

Territorial Aggression

This form of aggression is most commonly displayed when a new cat is introduced to a home with an existing cat. Take care to observe subtle displays of this form of aggression such as a cat who blocks access to key resources like food or the litter box.

Play Aggression

Owners can unintentionally bring about this form of aggression if they rough-house with their cats or use their hands as toys rather than interactive toys such as wands.

Implement Practical Suggestions

Depending on the type of aggression your cats are experiencing, you can try the following suggestions:

  • Increase the number of elevated locations and hiding places around the house so your cats don't have to compete.

  • Key resources, such as food, water, and litter boxes, should be spread throughout the house to prevent one cat from blocking access.

  • Follow a regular schedule of interactive playtime to provide adequate stimulation.

A Final Note on Helping Cats To Get Along

If, after ruling out any underlying medical conditions and implemeting practical suggestions, you still don't see an improvement in your cat's behavior, ask your veterinarian to refer you to a certified cat behavior specialist. These professionals have the education and experience to identify the triggers of your cat's aggression and offer assistance.

Beware of "cat whisperers" or those who "guarantee results." A certified cat behaviorist can explain to you how and why the process of behavior modification works and the science behind it. Professional organizations, such as the Animal Behavior Society, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants lists the locations of certified professionals near you. Contact them for more information.

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