Cat fighting question

alisandeMay 15, 2013

Two months ago I brought a young neutered male cat, Rocky, into my home. Before his arrival, the indoor cat population consisted of three adults, all neutered/spayed: Pogo, the male, and Annie and Peachy both females. Peachy is a 2-year-old orange tabby. Pogo is 7 years old, a calm black.

Annie, age unknown, is Pogo's mother. We've jokingly called her Annie the Mean because she doesn't like other cats. We acquired her and Pogo from a horse barn when Pogo was still nursing. Once he weaned, that was the end of that relationship--as usually happens, I know. We had other cats in the house when Annie arrived, and she would have nothing to do with any of them either. I remember how she used to stalk Princeton, a shy adult male, and terrorize him.

Getting back to recent times, Peachy joined the household two years ago as a kitten, and I was glad she was able to co-exist with Annie. And then this year Rocky arrived.

Pogo and Peachy weren't exactly thrilled to see him, and did their share of hissing, etc. But as expected, Annie's reaction was the worst.

As a dog owner, I observed what can happen when a puppy is terrorized by an older dog. The puppy grows up and can decide to eliminate the bully. Naively, we never expected this to happen with cats, especially with Rocky. He's such a lover, so laid back and sweet.

But this morning a fight broke out between Annie and Rocky. It was serious--fur was flying. Spraying them with water separated them for only seconds; then they were back at it. More specifically, he went after her. This happened three times. It was horrible. When I finally broke it up again I stupidly grabbed Rocky to put him upstairs. He was still in a state of agitation, and bit me badly. I just got home from getting sewn up at the urgent care center.

I came home to fur (theirs) and blood (mine) on the floor, and the difficult question of what to do now. Annie is hurt, but I don't know how badly. She's getting around okay. I have Annie, Pogo, and Peachy upstairs and Rocky downstairs, but I can't do this indefinitely.

It doesn't seem right to get rid of Annie, who has been here so long. Also, considering her personality, putting her to sleep would be the only option.

Rocky is young and truly beautiful, a white and orange cat with one blue eye and extra toes on his big white paws. He loves people and is super-affectionate. It breaks my heart to think of getting rid of him, but at least he'd have a chance of getting adopted from our shelter. It's only a chance, though........all those little kittens at shelter are awfully appealing, and he'd probably need to be the only cat in the household.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of Rocky attacking Pogo or Peachy? They still hiss at him occasionally, but have never behaved like Annie. Rocky and Peachy sometimes chase the same toy, but Peachy usually backs off and lets him have it. It looked to me as though they might be playing together soon. Rocky is very playful!

When it comes to food, Peachy has been the alpha cat. But here, too, she yields to Rocky now.

What do you foresee in this situation? I'm in pain and it's hard to think. I'm feeling awfully discouraged right now.


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Since you asked, and because I've been in similar positions in my own feline household, I'll give you my opinion. Your first obligation is to Annie, since she has been a member of your family the longest. She gave you Pogo and accepted Peachy. She's earned her place in your family, in spite of her antisocial nature. It would be a great unfairness to disrupt or end her life because she can't live peacefully with the handsome newcomer.

As you've already stated, it's much more likely that Rocky can be successfully rehomed because of his handsome appearance, loving nature, and younger age. He doesn't need to go to a shelter. You can keep him separated in your own home while you find him a new home yourself. You can list him on or on your local Craig's List or check and see if you have any local Facebook groups for rehoming pets. You can ask your local shelters to list him as an adoptable pet while you "foster" him until he is successfully rehomed. You can take great photos of him and place adoption ads for him on your local vets' bulletin boards and in your local papers/shoppers. There are a lot of options for rehoming your boy without sending him back to the shelter.

If you decide to keep both Annie and Rocky, you will need to be able to keep them separated any time you are not available to directly and closely supervise their interactions. It's time and labor-intensive to keep cats who hate each other safe from injury if they live in the same environment, but it can be done. It may not provide a great quality of life for either cat, depending on how much time you spend out of your house.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 3:04PM
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Thanks for your input, Laurie. I talked to the vet's office a little while ago. They suggest making one of the cats an outdoor cat or medicating Annie. I have an app't for tomorrow to have her examined post-fight and explore the medication possibility. Arbitrarily ending her life was never an option. Medication, however, is something worth checking out. It might actually make Annie a happier cat. I think she suffered some brain damage when we first got her. She was never the same after a nearly fatal bout with liver disease.

I hate seeing Free to Good Home ads on Craigslist and elsewhere. Dog fighting is a big business here--indeed, all over the country--and many of those "good homes" are actually people looking for bait (in the case of cats or small dogs) or dogs to train for fighting. They have been known to show up with children in tow to reinforce the image of opening their home for a family pet. I urge everyone to stop advertising animals in the classifieds.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 3:44PM
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I don't understand why you or your vet want to "medicate" Annie---you said that Rocky was going after her. He's the interloper... it sounds like your 3 had come to an understanding between themselves and things were relatively OK until you added a 4th cat. From what you say, NONE of the 3 cats welcomed Rocky into the family.

Just because she is less "loveable" than Rocky you are considering booting her out of the family home, or "making her an outdoor cat" - what's that about? You just keep shutting the door in her face?

If it were me, I would return Rocky to wherever he came from (you don't say) if possible, or give him up to a cat rescue organization. Plenty of adult cats get adopted - all of mine were adults when I got them. Many people prefer animals that have progressed past the curtain-climbing stage!

This just didn't work out. Sometimes enough cats are enough cats.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 5:15PM
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From what you say, NONE of the 3 cats welcomed Rocky into the family.

It's a rare cat that welcomes a new arrival. I don't know that I've ever seen one. I've had many cats over the years, and Pogo and Peachy's reactions were about what I expected. Annie's was hostile in the extreme.

I don't know who initiated the fight this morning. I do know that Rocky went after Annie twice after the first go-round. But I also know that she's been the instigator in the many confrontations (but not actual fighting) before this. I think Rocky had had enough.

I said putting one of the cats outside was a suggestion from the vet's office. I didn't say I was following the suggestion, nor did I say the cat would be Annie.

Rocky arrived here as a half-starved stray. I wasn't eager to take on a fourth cat (I've had more than four at once, but that was before I lived alone); however, when I was unable to find a home for him I had him neutered, examined, tested, treated, etc., and kept him. I live in a very rural area. We have no cat rescue groups, just an overcrowded shelter presently loaded with kittens.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 5:55PM
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You might try Feliway.

& you might try that one thing in the universe that changes everything: time.

You can't keep them apart forever, but you can keep them apart today. tomorrow. etc.

Two months is a long time for a suffering human living with squalling cats, but it's not very long for cats trying to dominate or scare each other off.

about medicating Annie:
if it makes her easier to live with, I my own self would certainly give it a try.
It's likely to improve her quality of life, & it's almost certain to make me feel better.

& I agree with you on craigslist, "free to good home", etc.

Even vets' offices & shelters don't know what happens after someone takes an animal, & even if you ask questions, you can bet that mean people know exactly how to answer the questions correctly.

Even if you get a vet reference, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Vets can't know everything, & they can't blurt out an unattractive truth about a client.
They can know if someone keeps up vaccinations & if their pets have fleas...

but are they going to tell a third party that those pets have fleas, & risk the third party telling the client, & the vet can lose a paying client & maybe face worse consequences?

& unless the pet comes in with cigarette burns or bites or scratches or some such, or flinches at the sound of, say, a male voice, even the vets can't know how the pet is treated at home.

In effect, they can't do anything but give a good reference.

I would never advise anyone to give an animal to anyone you don't already know.
my own true story gives a sort of sideways example:

I acquired my dog Katie by accident;
I answered a craigslist ad for "Border Collie/Chow Mix" (my last dog was this very mix, & she was the world's most perfect dog; she had several strokes at 15 & I had to have her put to sleep).

I arrived to find the last remaining female puppy was a giant, short-haired, goofy-looking blonde critter with one blue eye, obviously a mostly-Lab with maybe a little Aussie.

The woman said, "so you don't want her?"


"but people *always* want these puppies; one real nice guy took 3 males this morning."

so I "changed my mind" & took this giant puppy home, & she's made a happy difference in my life.

I wish a happy home for those little male puppies, but I doubt that they got one.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 7:16PM
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No cat ever welcomes another cat into the house. I say keep both Rocky and Annie and keep them separated till the aggression ends and it will. Many years ago my daughter rescued a nice male cat . A year or two later, she brought into the house another mature male. The newcomer bullied the resident cat mercilessly, but after a few months they worked it out and have lived together peacefully for 13 years now.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:40AM
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I'm another one who feels your responsibility is to Annie. As others stated, the three kitties had a sort of detente...until Rocky arrived. I understand the "free to good home" aversion, but leaving his info at your vet's office is a good start to rehome him.

I hope things work out okay. : )

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:49PM
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As of this morning, Rocky is outside. He was locked up last night, as was Annie (separately). Annie was happy with her solitude, I think--Rocky, not so much. Peachy and Pogo were skittish this morning, and I was nervous myself. When Peachy hissed at Rocky and he responded by taking a step toward her, I decided at that moment I'd had enough for now. So I put Rocky outside.

I know he'll want to come in. I hated doing this; I have loved watching him enjoying the comforts of home. But we'll try this for awhile, and continue to give the situation some thought. I wonder if some time will help. Rocky was neutered just last month; maybe he has some tom-cat hormones still circulating that might disappear in a few months? At least in the warm weather Rocky will have lots of human companionship outdoors, as we're a family of gardeners.

I cancelled the vet appointment. Annie has never been easy to handle, and the last thing I want is to risk another cat bite.

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 1:01PM
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I'm a little confused re: the time he was neutered. You first said he came to you neutered 2 months ago, then the last post says he was neutered last month. If he was a young cat (vs a kitten) when you brought him in then hormones are definitely playing a role. The fact Peachy is backing down from Rocky is a sign Rocky is the dominate one. I think it's strongly possible that he'll eventually attack the others.
His time outside will allow the other cats to get back to normal and maybe regain their territory. At some time in the future, you could try letting Rocky back in the house to see if he has lost his dominate position.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:11PM
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My fault......I thought he came in March. And I guess it's true that he showed up on the property some time in March, but when the Department of Health called my vet yesterday (because I was bitten), they told him Rocky got his rabies shot, neutering, etc., on April 1.

Now I'm worried about Bonesy, our permanent outside cat. Because there are so many places for a cat to hang out on this property (outbuildings), and normally I see Bonesy only a couple of times a day, I thought they'd pretty much avoid each other. Silly me.

A little while ago they were both on the porch, Bonesy hissing and Rocky with his tail fluffed. She tends to be prickly, even with people. I don't know who would come out on top in terms of domination, but I hope they can settle it without a fight.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Susan, I'm worried about Bonesy, too. I think there's a strong likelihood that Rocky will injure and/or run her off permanently. One of my cats, Footsie, strayed onto my farm with who, I've always assumed, are two of his siblings in the summer of 2005. All three were young adult, intact toms. I ended up integrating them all into my household, which included having them all neutered ASAP. Footsie was and continues to be the dominant male. Neutering a tom after he has reached sexual maturity doesn't do much, if anything, to reduce aggressive or dominant behavior that was present before the neuter, in my experience.

Footsie will try to dominate other neutered males in the house, but he knows he'll get in trouble with me when he does. Outside is a whole different ballgame. When Footsie is outside, he will aggressively attack any other resident cat who dares enter his outdoor territory (which is all of outdoors, as far as he's concerned). He knows I can't easily catch or control his behavior out there, so his aggression is MUCH worse.

No matter how "prickly" Bonesy is, she won't be able to effectively stand up to a young, strong, aggressive male. Rocky could easily hurt her, or he may just run her off. This is not the solution you're looking for, I'm sure.

Your best option is still to rehome Rocky. It can be done responsibly if you get a reference from your OWN vet or a local shelter or rescue who can screen potential adopters for you. Also, charging a moderate adoption fee will discourage folks who want a "free" cat for nefarious purposes.

Unfortunately, Rocky poses a problem for your other cats, both inside and out. Before he seriously injures or displaces Bonesy, I recommend you bring him back indoors and keep him separated from your other cats while looking for a new home for him.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 6:42PM
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I adopted a cat, Figgy, who came from shelter, neutered at a relatively old age (3 yrs) after having been living feral. I adopted him with Orange, who had been his pal at the shelter sleeping & playing together. When feral cats fight for territory it is serious - the intention is to eliminate the opposition. That is what he learned out on the streets. Figgy attacked my old girl cat several times before I decided to keep them strictly separate. Re: "you can't keep them separate forever," well - yes you can. May be more difficult if you're living with family or other people though who may not be on board with this set up.

Now - 3 1/2 years later, Figgy is finally settling down - he goes into Kashka's space sometimes but doesnt bother her - he's just interested in eating her food! Kashka doesn't automatically hiss like she used to but if he gets too close she just might - which might set him off again. I don't completely trust them yet - I may try putting him on a leash and work on introducing them in a systematic way. He also had issues with Orange even drawing blood once which also seems to be resolved.

Re: adopting a cat, yes in your location it may take a long time, but you can do that safely by 1) spreading the word thru family, friends, coworkers, local groups, neighborhood grocery, etc. (vs a more anonymous craigslist ad)

2) if it's someone you dont know - screening the people thoroughly (to the same degree a shelter would) and make it clear in your ad that this is not a "first come first served situation." Anyone who gets huffy and does not understand or care why you are doing that is not the kind of person you want to give your cat to.

And 3) you will deliver the cat to the home and you will also want to come back just to visit and see how the cat is doing. Again, the person who balks at this and thinks that giving away a cat is the equivalent of giving away a piece of used furniture is not someone you want to adopt to.

It's kinda like you have to develop a relationship with the person before you turn you're cat over to them. Some people will be willing to do this with you, and some not.

(Voice of experience here - I've found what I"m postive were good homes for about 5 cats over the past few years.)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 9:49AM
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I agree with Lily. It's way too soon to expect everyone to be getting along. Just give it time. None of my 5 cats grew up together. Some of them still swing at each other if they pass too closely. But they all coexist and take turns loving on each other and there is no fighting. Keep them separated for awhile, let each see you loving on the other. I believe that they need time to realize that the other cat is a permanent resident, a member of the family, not a threat. As you see them relax a little, try small, supervised "visits" in the same large area, etc. Do this gradually. It's not that difficult. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 10:44AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I would advise getting a pair of oven mitts or padded snowmobile gloves so you can get ahold of one of the two fighting felines safely and move him to another room next time a fight breaks out. Even buckets of water thrown at fighting cats or dogs is unlikely to break up a serious fight.

If Annie has bite or scratch wounds, protective clothing would allow you to treat her wounds with hydrogen peroxide without being further injured yourself. Puncture wounds can turn very nasty if not treated.

I hope the situation works itself out. It does sound like lingering hormones might indeed be causing Rocky's aggression, and should subside with a bit of time. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 5:35PM
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I have cats.

I would never ever attempt to touch a screaming, hissing, insanely angry cat, oven mitts or not.

Those teeth are way too sharp to be stopped by an oven mitt, to say nothing of claws.

The safest thing to do to break up a fight without getting sliced, diced, & punctured is to throw water on the combatants.

I do wish you the best.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 7:21PM
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With all due respect, there is absolutely nothing "safe" about allowing cats to fight out their differences. I have seen a cat permanently blinded during a fight. I have taken care of numerous abscessed wounds after cat fights. I have seen cats completely lose all sense of safety and security in their own living environments when forced to live with aggressive feline housemates. There is nothing to be gained by allowing this situation to continue in a manner that makes physical cat fights possible.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 8:49PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Water didn't work in this instance, and I can't imagine it ever would. The best it would do is break up the participants for an instant, giving the human caretaker a fleeting opportunity to grab one of them. I've broken up numerous fights between cats and dogs, and been scratched and bitten in the process, which is why I recommend gloves/gauntlets. The only sure way to minimize injuries to everyone involved is to get hold of a dog's collar, or a fighting cat, and physically move it to another room behind a closed door, ending the altercation at an early stage. (Best would be for two people to intervene, each taking control of one of the fight participants.) Any other action will simply exacerbate the conflict.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 3:08PM
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Grabbing a dog's collar will get you bitten.

I strongly urge him/her/you/everybody/anybody *not* to physically intervene in a fight, be it between dogs, cats, humans, or hamsters.

& although some hissing/spitting/screaming, some flying fur (but not body parts) is normal when cats are first introduced, you can't let it go so far that one of them is getting beaten to a pulp.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 8:31PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Grabbing your own dog's collar is unlikely to get you bitten. I've grabbed my dogs' collars several times over the years during several confrontations without a problem, although in these instances the other dogs' owners took hold of their dogs simultaneously. We each literally pulled our dogs away from one another in mid lunge, averting a serious fight.

Grabbing the collar of someone else's dog is more risky, but being bitten is not a given.

I have broken up cat fights over the years too, sometimes being bitten or scratched, sometimes not. The more a fight escalates, the greater the chance of injury and the harder it is to separate the two combatants.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 10:29PM
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Hi. Here is a possibility. Just a suggestion for you to mull over. You could possibly keep the newcomer, Rocky, outdoors during the day and bring him into the kitchen in the evening, keeping him in a large dog crate with food, water, and a litter box. You will think I'm crazy, but I have six cats, all of them found along the way through life, mostly too misfit-y to place in adoptive homes. I have three large crates in the kitchen. They go outside into the backyard during the day and each comes into his/her crate in the evening. I putter around in the kitchen, making dinner and doing this and that, so they are part of the family. If you can tolerate a large crate in your space, Rocky would still get love and attention. He would see you and the members of your family, but Annie would be safe (and vice versa) and household order could be maintained. Just last fall, a woeful kitten found me. I could not let him run loose in the house (too aggressive with my old cat), and he is/was too wild to place with someone else. He spends his days outdoors with the other "misfits" and comes in to snooze safely at night. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Oklahomarose, thanks for the suggestion. I guess I can say I'm doing something "sort of similar." Rocky spends his nights in my downstairs bathroom. He doesn't seem to mind at all....he goes in readily, and doesn't make a sound until he hears me stirring upstairs in the morning.

He is in and out throughout the day. The other cats are confined to the upstairs and attic when he's in the house; when he's out, the downstairs is open to them as well.

Rocky seems perfectly happy with this arragement, the other cats less so, and me not very much. I don't like that the other cats seem on edge much of the time, nor that one or more of them (I know it's not Rocky) keeps marking their territory--in the living room and dining room. And although I try to give each of them one-on-one attention, I worry that it's not enough.

Some of the cats' nervousness may be a reflection of my own. I was thoroughly spooked by the fight and my injury. The sutures are out, BTW, but the hand doctor predicts the nerve damage will take about six months to heal.

I also worry about Rocky outside. He hasn't fought with Bonesy or run her off; in fact, there's been no negative interaction with any other outside. But unfortunately, thanks to an infuriatingly negligent neighbor, plenty of other strays have been coming around, including a tomcat that mated with a small female. Rocky lets this female have his food on the porch, and I was nervous when the tom showed up and loudly declared his intentions.

I need to talk to the neighbor, but I know from past experience she'll deny any knowledge of the other cats, which now number six.

I'm not sure what I'll do next. A friend recommended Bach Flower Remedies for pets, and I may try this with Rocky and Annie. I still see Annie as the root of the problem, and Rocky's good behavior with the outside cats has reinforced this.

A close friend's adult son is thinking about getting a cat. He had one for many years, and the whole family are cat lovers. It would be a good home for Rocky. And painful for me to contemplate. Rocky is such a great cat, and he and I are so bonded. If my friend's son and his wife agree to take him, I'll have to deal with it. If they don't, I'll have to deal with it.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Well, I commend your efforts, Alisande. You clearly are a trooper with a kind heart.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 10:24AM
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spedigrees z4VT

My heart goes out to you, Alisande. Usually multiple cats eventually settle down and coexist, even if they dislike one another, but yours is an extreme example of what happens when they do not. I certainly applaud your perseverance, and I hope that it all works out. I also hope that your injured hand heals more quickly than the doctor predicts.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 11:09AM
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