Imagine this - you've brought a second cat home and you can't wait to make cute cuddling cat videos just like the ones you've watched over and over again on YouTube. And then, surprise, surprise! Your cats are not only refusing to cuddle, they can barely stand each other! So why do your cats hate each other? And, more importantly, what can you do to get them to at least tolerate each other enough to share a home?
Trust me - I've been there! My two cats, Nemo and Nala, started things off on the wrong foot! Fast-forward two years later and now they can be in the same room without attacking each other every five minutes! Not all cats are meant to be snuggle buddies. However, they can still live a happy life and get along with a little help from their human. Here are 5 tricks to try if your cat hates your other cat!
1. Give Them Time
It took us 4 months to be able to leave the cats in one room without them fighting. 4 months! We kept them in different parts of the house, leaving our older cat's preferred space (the living room) to himself and keeping our new kitten in the other rooms. We started by swapping toys and blankets so they can get used to each other's smell and slowly allowed for short supervised rendez-vous. The goal here is to avoid escalation. We knew they were not fond of each other, so we didn't want to give them even more reasons to dislike each other. Avoiding fights, scratches and bites is key. There's no second chance to make a first impression, so the first step is to make sure they don't associate each other with a stressful situation, like a fight or an injury.
2. To Each Their Own
Cats are territorial in nature. If an intruder occupies their territory, they will defend it. Make sure each cat has their own litter box, water and food bowls. These essentials should be easily accessible - i.e. place them somewhere where your cat can't be ambushed or blocked by your other cat. We even bought an extra litter box after we noticed that our male cat was standing in front of our kitten's litter box, making it impossible for her to use it. Buy plenty of cat toys and separate cat trees so each cat can claim their territory. Even now, our kitten always sleeps in our bed, whereas our old cat always comes to get petted on the couch. They did a pretty good job of divvying up the house so now everyone knows their place.
3. Tire Them Out
Cats spend most of the day napping, but they still need to burn all that energy by playing or hunting. If your cat is bored, he'll be more likely to start playing with your other cat which often escalates into fighting. In this sense, you can think of your cats as kids - if you tire them out, they will be a lot easier to manage. If you don't have time to play with your cat, try our winding mouse toy or a catnip toy that will keep them entertained and active on their own.
4. Carrots, Carrots and More Carrots
Offer treats, food and attention whenever your cats manage to stay in one room without fighting. The goal here is to create positive associations in your cats' minds. By giving them treats when they are together, they will start associating pleasant things with each other.
5. Play the Referee
Don't give your cats excuses to hate each other by letting fights escalate. Even though our cats have lived together for 2 years, we immediately break up fights when we see them. Cats do hold a grudge, so you want to avoid scratches, bites and bad memories. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between play and fight. However, you know your cat best. Cues for fighting versus play include growling, hissing, puffy tail and hair and ears bent backwards. If you see any of these signs, diffuse the situation by making a loud noise (such as clapping) or throwing a small light object (cat toy, small pillow) to distract your cats.
The important thing to remember is that it is totally normal for your cats to hate each other in the beginning. Some cats may be besties from the get-go. Others have a harder time getting used to each other. Keep in mind that in the end the dust will settle. They may never become snuggle buddies and that's OK - to this day our cats never sleep together or groom each other. However, with time and a little help and encouragement from their favorite human, they will learn to live together!