Vertical territory gives the cats some safe places to perch and oversee their territory. For a very assertive cat it can be a way of displaying his confidence. By claiming the highest perch in the area, it may be enough of a display so that he doesn’t feel the need to engage in aggression. For a fearful cat, it can be a safe place to nap so that he isn’t at risk of being ambushed from behind. He has more visual warning time to see if his opponent is approaching. Even in a shelter cage environment, the ability for a cat to be off the cage floor creates security. A hammock bed suspended in the cage or a shelf attached to the cage wall helps. That’s how important vertical territory is in a cat’s world. On the fun side, vertical territory is great for watching the birds outside, napping in the sun, climbing and playing.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to create vertical territory is by purchasing a multi-leveled cat tree. A multi-leveled one makes it easier for a less mobile cat to be able to access the top perch. The multi-levels can also create enough space so that two cats may be willing to share the tree without competition.
Vertical territory can also be created by installing cat shelves on the wall or attaching window perches to a few choice windows. Cat walkways, cat stairways and wall perches are wonderful enrichment additions. Just make sure there is more than one way to exit so you don’t create a dead end perch where a cat can be ambushed. Even a cat bed on a book shelf increases the cat’s real estate. Look around your house and I’ll bet you can find lots of inexpensive and homemade ways to increase your cat’s vertical environment.
Make Positive Associations for the Cats
The behavior aspect of helping your cats become friends again involves giving them a reason to like each other. Create positive associations. Provide opportunities for good things to happen when they’re in the presence of each other. Maybe they get treats when they’re together.
Be aware of giving equal amounts of attention so one cat isn’t favored over the other. You may be upset with the one cat whom you feel is initiating the aggression but it’s important to show each cat an equal amount of attention.
Playtime is a Valuable Tool When it comes to Cat Behavior
Use playtime as a behavior tool. Conduct individual interactive play therapy sessions so each cat has chances during the day to focus exclusively on being a hunter and can enjoy the game. Do these sessions separately so the cats don’t have to worry about each other. In addition, conduct parallel playtime sessions so the cats can play “together” but not have to compete for one toy. If there’s another family member available, have him play with one cat while you play with the other. The cats will see that they’re in the room together but no one is doing any intimidation. If you don’t have another family member to help, you can still do parallel play by holding a fishing pole-type toy in each hand. It’s awkward at first but you’ll get more adept at it with practice.
Solo playtime is also a valuable behavior modification tool. If the cats have something to focus their attention on other than each other, it may ease the tension. Cats are hunters and they’re born to be active. If you provide an enriched environment by providing opportunities for discovery, hunting and reward, they get to work off energy with less of a chance of it building up into something destructive.
For solo play you can use puzzle feeders. There are many food-dispensing toys available on the market or you can create your own. These are a great way to provide some fun activity for each cat during the day where they get a reward for their hard work. You can also create other puzzle toys to keep your cats busy. A little ball in an empty tissue box or a crinkly little toy in an open paper bag are a couple of simple ideas. There are also several cat puzzles available at your pet product store or online that can be very entertaining.
Clicker Training Your Cats
This is another valuable tool you can use when dealing with two cats who are not getting along. Clicker training involves the use of a little sound-generating device that makes a cricket-type noise when you press it with your finger. The sound of the clicker can be used to mark the behavior your want from your cat. By pairing the sound of the clicker with a food reward, the cat will learn to associate the clicker with something positive. This way, you can reward the cat for any positive behavior – however small. For example, you can click and reward a cat for walking by his companion cat. If he normally would hiss or growl and he just walked by, that deserves some positive recognition. You can even click for something as minor as one cat walking into the room where the other cat is sitting. Clicker training gives the cat a road map of what behavior will result in a good consequence.
Be Calm to Help Your Cats Remain Calm
How you behave can have an influence on your cats’ reactions to each other. If you’re tense when they’re together because you anticipate something awful happening, they’ll pick up on that. If you punish a cat for reacting to his companion cat then that will do nothing to help them find a reason to like each other. Be calm so your furry little emotional cat sponges will hopefully be calm as well.
When Things Go Horribly Wrong Between Your Cats
What do you do if the relationship between your cats is so serious that there’s a risk of someone getting injured? What if they can’t even be in the same room together for one second without a battle erupting? Then it’s time to do a reintroduction. There are times when the best way to heal the relationship involves starting from scratch. Instead of continuing to go down the current road which clearly isn’t working, it’s better to separate the cats and introduce them again as if they had never met.
If the situation is too serious or you’re afraid of the cats then it’s time to talk to your veterinarian about a referral to a certified behavior expert. The behavior expert will be able to evaluate the cats and the environment so he or she can provide you with a detailed, customized behavior modification plan.
Things Won’t Change Overnight
Be patient. When you’re helping your cats change their association with each other it will take time. Unless you’re dealing with a redirected aggression episode then chances are this relationship didn’t deteriorate overnight so it won’t be healed overnight.
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