Momo and CiCi. My two cats. A male Korat. A female tabby (maybe Abyssinian mixed with Ocicat).
I would do just about anything for my cats, as any good cat parent would do. So when I began noticing Momo become increasingly aggressive towards CiCi, I knew there was something I had to do.
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?
After revisiting the issue of Momo's aggression, I decided to give play therapy another shot. This time, I chose to separate them. 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 social enrichment session! Best of all, since there wasn't another cat in the room, he had nothing else to attack but the toy. Mission accomplished!
After our short play session, I offered treats as a reward and gave him time to settle down before allowing him access to the rest of the house. Within just a few days, I noticed the scuffles between him and CiCi 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 social enrichment! 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.
If you are struggling to find time in the week to engage in interactive play with your cats, Snuggle Bug Cat Care of Greensboro (formerly Snuggle Bug Pet Sitting) offers daily cat sitting and enrichment visits! To get started, click here to Become a Client.