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Don't ignore cat squabbles. Board-certified veterinary behaviorist Christopher Pachel, DVM, DACVB, says being peacemaker is easiest if you take the right steps before a little irritation turns into ingrained habit.
And don't forget to check with your veterinarian, who can assess whether there is a medical cause behind increased irritability or aggression. Your vet may recommend behavioral medicines, such as antidepressants, as part of the solution.
When cats get along, they approach each other with tails in the air. They touch noses. They share food and water, they groom one another, and they nap close together, Dr. Pachel says. But if one cat hogs all the good resting places or blocks the way to the food bowls, trouble is brewing. Fighting is actually a very late step in a progression of more subtle behaviors owners often miss. If you see signs of escalating tension, or if one cat has grown aggressive, there may still be time to step in and turn the situation around.
Dr. Pachel offers these tips to help keep — or restore — the feline peace.
1. Somebody stop us! Interrupt mild conflict by walking through the room or distracting the cats by tossing a toy nearby. Never put your hand into the fray—injury is highly likely. If the battle is really out of hand, splash the cats with water or throw a blanket over the aggressor. A laundry basket can also dothe trick, as can the quick introduction of a couch cushion between the fighters. Then, keep the cats in separate rooms with food, water, and litterboxes. Give them a chance to calm down without you, another cat or the kids interfering. When both seem to be their old selves, you can open doors, allowing a chance to interact.
2. Yay! We're rich! Cats who feel like there's plenty for all are less likely to fight over access to food and water. One way to enhance your cats' perception of abundance is by spreading the good stuff around. Add climbing structures and hiding places in multiple rooms of the house. Split meals into multiple portions and place them throughout the house—now kitty must forage, an activity that will help keep him mentally engaged. Put water dishes inseveral rooms. Give cats plenty of litterboxes in various locations—the rule isone litterbox for each cat and one extra. Provide a peaceful, separate eating place if dietary restrictions are an issue.
3. I'm bored. Food-dispensing toys for meals, short play sessions throughout the day or safe outdoor access—if practical — can keep cats from practicingtheir hunting skills on a housemate.
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