Behavior Issues in the Multi-cat Household Blog: Part 1

Behavior Issues in the Multi-cat Household Blog: Part 1


In the previous blogs we have explored the feline social hierarchy that exists in outdoor and household settings. An Irish proverb says that “Happy is the home with at least one cat.” If only that were always true. Am I right? Let’s face it. You may be lucky enough to have constant feline bliss in your home, but many people have a multi-cat household and feline behavior issues are much more common in these settings than those with just one cat. At any given time a cat will begin to display conflict with cats that they once got along with. Understanding these normal behaviors are key to reducing stress and strengthening the bond you share with your cats.


Multi-cat households can be the recipe for many different types of unwanted behaviors. But let’s first and foremost remember that cats are territorial. They mark the core areas where they feel secure enough to sleep, eat, play, use the litter box and potentially enjoy social interaction. They do this using scent derived from facial glands, urine, feces and anal glands. Territorial aggression occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory and is competing for resources within the home.  With this in mind, it is easy to see that having multiple separate resources for cats to sleep, eat, play, use the litter box and interact are critical to a happy multicat household.


Territorial aggression may take place when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or when a cat encounters neighborhood cats outside. Typical behavior includes stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places (such as the food bowl, litter box, bedroom, window perch, etc.)  Additionally, if a cat feels they can move up the hierarchy, they will challenge others cats in attempt to become top cat. Cats displaying this type of aggression will stalk, stare, yowl, howl, and puff up their fur (like a typical Halloween cat decoration with the arched back) to threaten each other. If you’ve ever witnessed this situation you probably hoped that one cat would back down and that the aggressor, having made his point, would simply walk away. Unfortunately, if no one backs down, both cats may actually fight. Fighting may look like both cats rolling around biting, kicking, swatting, and screaming. They may also suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away.


Defensive aggression occurs when a cat finds himself in a threatening situation such as when he tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker and he believes he can't escape. This may happen when a cat is punished or threatened to be punished, attacked or attempted to be attacked by another cat or any other incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid. Cats with defensive postures might crouch down with their legs and tail pulled under their body, flatten their ears against their head or roll slightly to the side.


Another type of aggression is referred to as redirected aggression. It is one of the most common forms of aggression among cats living in the same household and can be a challenging problem to resolve. This kind of aggression is directed to another animal such as another household cat, the family dog or person who didn’t initially provoke the behavior. A common scenario of this would be that your cat is looking out the window at another cat in the yard. He wants to get that cat because it’s in his territory but he can’t. This frustrates him so much that he becomes very aroused. Suddenly, his feline housemate walks by and your cat lashes out at his buddy whom he may have gotten along with for years. You may even get bitten if you accidently pet him during his super-agitated state.

Stay tuned for our next blog which will discuss steps you can take to fix some of these problem behaviors in the multi-cat household. To receive an email when this blog is posted, sign up at the orange button below.