I would do just about anything for my cats, as any good cat parent would do. So when I began noticing Momo becoming increasingly aggressive towards CiCi, I knew there was something I had to do.
Is My Cat Jealous?
At first, I thought Momo might be experiencing jealousy. After all, he was the only cat in our household for the first year. He received every ounce of our attention; he didn't have to share; every bed, perch, blanket, and toy belonged to him; he was king of the castle. When CiCi showed up, he had to learn to share, and Momo is not exactly the biggest fan of sharing.
I decided to try some tips from fellow cat parents of multi-cat households. I gave Momo reassurance; I fed him before CiCi; I gave him special treats, and I snuggled with him to make him feel like he hadn't lost his position as Number One. Nothing worked. Momo would soak in the attention one minute and turn around the next to terrorize CiCi until she growled, hissed, and ran away. They were having scuffles nearly every day. It was truly heartbreaking to watch, and it made me feel helpless. They deserved to feel relaxed, safe and loved in their home.
What Was I Going To Do?
I started brushing up on cat behavior. Play therapy, a form of enrichment, was recommended for many behavioral issues. I had tried playing with them together in the past but noticed that Momo would get so excited he would turn around and attack CiCi. I knew it wasn't intentional, but it made for a lousy play session. At the time, I had given up. After all, if they couldn't play together, what was the point?
According to the book Think Like A Cat from Certified Cat Behavior Consultant Pam Johnson-Bennet, "interactive playtime should provide pleasure and confidence [...] Your goal isn't achieved if they simultaneously pounce on a toy and one cat crashes into another. But you can avoid that problem [when you] take one cat at a time into another area of the house and conduct an individual play session."
I realized neither cat was enjoying playtime when they were together. As the more assertive cat, Momo basically turned into a toy hog while CiCi sat on the sidelines. I re-evaluated the situation and decided to give interactive play another shot, only this time, I separated them.
One-on-One Interactive Playtime
I brought Momo into the office; feather wand in one hand and treats in the other. I shut the door and began moving the feather toy back and forth, imitating the movements of a bird. Immediately, Momo started chasing the feather, jumping up to catch it, stalking it when it hit the floor, chasing it when it scurried from side to side. He loved his play session! Best of all, since there wasn't another cat in the room stalking the same toy, he had nothing else to attack but the toy itself. Mission accomplished!
Once I figured out what worked for Momo, I started dedicating some one-on-one playtime with CiCi. As a former shelter cat, CiCi came to us with very little confidence. She was fearful of just about everything. By educating myself, I learned that interactive playtime is extremely beneficial in not only easing tension in multi-cat households, but it builds confidence in shy or nervous cats and reduces fear! Utilizing Mikel Delgado's Interactive Cat Play worksheet was super helpful in learning which toys to use and how to use them during playtime.
What I Learned
By applying the things I learned about interactive play, I saw a noticeable difference in the way Momo and CiCi acted around each other. Within just a few days, I noticed the scuffles had stopped. No more did he lie in wait to attack her when she ate food. No more did his attempts at initiating harmless play escalate into all-out warfare. Finally, there was peace in the house!
This experience allowed me to discover something: the power of interactive play! I always knew environmental enrichment was necessary for cats, like providing scratching posts, cat towers, bridges, shelves, and windows. However, social enrichment was just as essential. Interactive playtime gives our cats what they need to be happy and emotionally balanced. When they know they are getting time every day to tap into their primal instincts of stalking, hunting, and killing prey, they will feel satisfied. As a result, we as cat parents will be relieved to see our feline friends content and confident.
We would love to help give your cats the interactive playtime they need! Contact Snuggle Bug Cat Care of Greensboro at email@example.com or click here to Become a Client.