Why Do Cats Hate Each Other?

Cats are affectionate creatures and can develop close bonds with their owners. However, some cats tend to hate one another. In a multi-cat household, the cats will either get along really well, or they will be arch-enemies. Read on to learn the reasons cats hate, and fight with, one another. 

Why do cats hate each other?

Due to their territorial nature

Cats may fight or hate each other due to territorial unease. They are territorial animals and changes in their routine and environment could trigger behavioral issues and conflict. Territorial insecurity and stress may be triggered if there are new family members, or if you change your work schedule or move to a new home. Your cats may feel insecure and will take that stress out on each other.  

If changes occur in your household, stick as closely as possible to your cats’ routines, such as mealtime and bedtime. Spend time with your cats and play with them so they feel they are important to you and won’t get jealous. It takes time to adjust, so be patient. Stray cats in the area can also trigger your cats’ territorial instinct. Be sure to close the shades and set up cat repellent systems in your yard to ward off feral and stray cats. 

Male cats fight more than females and have larger territories, while unneutered male cats tend to have larger territories than neutered males. 

If one of the cats suddenly smells odd 

Cats identify their fellow cats through smell, voice and sight. Unfamiliar smells signify intrusion, even if the cat with the different smell comes from the same household. This can happen if you have taken one of the cats to the groomer or the vet. The cats will usually figure things out, after some fighting. 

Some pet owners schedule vet visits for both or all their cats at the same time, to avoid this situation. You could also rub the returning cat with a blanket that both cats have slept on before reintroducing her to the household after a vet visit. Water from canned tuna, gently rubbed on the cat’s fur, might also help mask the scent of the vet’s clinic. 

If the cats are overcome with fear 

Cats can sometimes get confused and scared, leading to a misdirected fight or flight response. This happens if they are suddenly roused from a deep sleep by a loud noise. The cats may leap up and position themselves defensively. 

Both cats seeing each other in defensive postures may be misinterpreted as a signal to attack. This often leads to fighting until the cats figure out that they are actually friends. 

Due to medical conditions 

Cats have medical problems, just like humans, but they are more adept at hiding them. Felines suddenly withdrawing or fighting more than usual may indicate medical issues. Unneutered cats may fight if they are undergoing puberty. Take your cat to the vet if the uncharacteristic behavior persists beyond a short period of time.  

What to do if your cats hate each other?

Provide them with sufficient resources so they do not have to compete with each other. 

Place litter boxes and multiple feeding stations around your home. Allow the cats to have sufficient playtime and if they prefer to play alone see to it that they have individual playtime. Ideally, install multiple cat perches and cat trees. Having more resting spots reduces the tension and competition between the cats. 

If the cats interact amiably, reward them by giving them treats and praising them. As soon as they have some positive associations with each other, they are less likely to bicker. 

Re-introduce the cats. 

Put the cats in separate but adjacent rooms with their litter boxes, food bowls, beds and other essentials. When you feed the cats, place their bowls on either side of the door. The distance can be minimized over time. Separating the bickering cats allows them the space they need and lets them establish positive associations, such as eating.  

You can eventually open the door wider during mealtimes and allow the cats to smell and size each other up. If they are either curious about each other or ignore each other, reward them with treats. Continue to allow each to familiarize themself with the other’s presence and smell. 

Once the cats are relaxed in each other’s presence, establish interactive play sessions. Be calm and alert as you observe both cats and give them equal attention. It is essential during the reintroduction process for each cat to become familiar with the other’s scent and for their scents to be distributed throughout the household. Do a room swap every few days between the cats.  

The reintroduction process could take a few weeks, and may or may not work out. If the process does not succeed, the cats should be given separate living spaces, or you could find a new home and family for one of them. 

Conclusion

Cats are affectionate animals and they can get along well, especially if they are siblings. However, some cats may also hate each other because of their territorial nature. Sudden changes in their environment or routine could trigger stress, and they may take that stress out on other cats. They may also fight or hate each other if one of them smells different or if one is suffering from a medical condition.

Image: istockphoto.com / Nils Jacobi