How to make cats get along?
October 25, 2005 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Help us with our cat problem, please!

We have a 3-year old female cat. About three months ago we agreed to take in two more cats for an indefinite period of time. One is a girl and the other is a boy - both are fixed, as is our own cat. We introduced them gradually, gave them separate eating spaces, all the things you're supposed to do, but we are still having major problems.

Our cat, Sophie, is very high strung. We had an older cat who was her companion but she passed away several months ago, and Sophie has been our only cat since then. Since the two new arrivals, she hasn't come downstairs more than two or three times, she hisses and screams and hides whenever one of the other cats comes upstairs, and she's stopped using her litter box because the other cats have started using it. In the last two weeks she's even started peeing and pooping on the floor and in our clothes.

The other two cats aren't openly hostile to her, but they seem to want to antagonize her. They constantly go upstairs to chase her, especially when they hear her eating. It's getting very irritating, and we're tired of having to clean up cat poop, and we want our normal cat back.
posted by starvingartist to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to look into Feliway (link goes to the UK version of the site since the US version seems to be down). It's a product which reproduces certain pacifying properties of cat facial pheromones.

I haven't personally used it, but the feline-only vet I work for recommends it, and several of our clients have had success with it.
posted by mabelcolby at 9:36 PM on October 25, 2005

Is it possible to give her a litter box of her own, preferably in a place where the other cats won't have access to it?

My sister had this problem when she adopted a second cat (thinking that it would be company for the first). A second litter box solved it.
posted by padraigin at 9:38 PM on October 25, 2005

My sympathies. For the first week after we moved house, our tabby was a hissing, screaming, hypervigilant mess with the two cats she's lived with for years but, thankfully, this was only temporary. It was incredibly stressful while it lasted, though.

Yes, definitely make sure she can crap in peace and privacy. Her litter box should be set up, if at all possible, in a place where she can't be cornered by the other cats. Always make sure she has at least one clear escape route. She may not be using the box not just because it smells like the others, but because she may feel that she can't use it safely whle they're around.

We had some success getting Maggie to stop freaking out around the other cats by associating their presence with good stuff: for example, we would feed her canned food (a great treat) in the kitchen a few feet from our other female cat, gradually moving the plates closer together. The other cat can now even steal food from her plate while she's eatig without even getting her to growl.

BUT our cats lived with each other harmoniously for years before the stress of moving drove Maggie temporarily bonkers. Your cat has never had a normal, warm relationship with the new cats. Her behaviour is getting worse, not better. If you want your normal cat back -- and as much of a pain in the ass as she's being right now, she is one of your original cats and you sound as if you've had a long, affectionate history with her -- you may have to find someone else to take the new cats. They may be wonderful, friendly cats who are causing you a lot less trouble than Sophie right now, but she's the one whose world has been turned upside down for no reason that she can understand.
posted by maudlin at 10:05 PM on October 25, 2005

Go to your local animal shelter and see if they have someone who specializes in (or is at least familiar with) cat behavior. Chances are they've seen this kind of problem before either in their own cats or ones that are adopted from the shelter, and they could give you some advice.
posted by radioamy at 10:55 PM on October 25, 2005

mabelcolby gives good advice-- Feliway is available at Petco. We use the plug-in. It's expensive, but it you will see results within hours. Our cats still dislike each other (similar, slightly lesser, situation) but they can see each other now without fighting.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:44 AM on October 26, 2005

Seconding adding at least one more litterbox, in a different room and ideally a different floor of the house. Two additional litterboxes would be even better.

It's only a been a short while, odds are they will settle down as long as you provide for all of them to have access to a litterbox, food and water away from each other (food and water must be at least 12 feet or so away from the litterbox).

They may never be friends, they may always hiss and growl from time to time, but as long as you let them figure it out by themselves and don't push it (and make sure they all have places to go away from each other), they should settle into relatively peaceful co-existence. Keep in mind that it can take months for this to happen, they may always have spats, and they may never be friends.
posted by biscotti at 5:26 AM on October 26, 2005

We had a similar problem just recently in our multi-cat household. We had four cats, three male and one female. The one male is only a year old and started antagonizing our five year old female -- chasing her constantly, never giving her a moment's rest when he was around. They had co-existed for months before this started and we were stumped... our youngest male had just suddenly decided he didn't want the female in his territory.

We separated them, I read tons on introducing cats to each other, I dropped hundreds on Feliway Comfort Zone all around our house to calm things down, but none of it worked. Frickin' broke our hearts to deal with, especially since we had had to put down two other cats in the last hear for health problems (both were not very old... sniff)

After months we ended up having to give our female to the in-laws. Once she was alone she went back to normal. Weirdest thing. I talked to our amazing vet about this quite often. The vet made an interesting observation: most problems in multi-cat households happen when you have between two and five or six cats around. More than that and they just sort of deal with it.

One of the most useful resources I found was from the Dumb Friends League (Humane Society) of Denver. They have an excellent pet behaviour and you can even fill out a form or call their hotline and get in touch with a pet behaviour expert. They listened to me even though I was contacting them from Canada.

I wish you the best of luck. It's not an easy thing to figure out or deal with.
posted by chuma at 6:18 AM on October 26, 2005

My sister had this problem when she adopted a second cat (thinking that it would be company for the first). A second litter box solved it.

I often have heard the claim that you should have as many litterboxes as you do cats, plus one. Impractical for most people I think, but I suspect having multiples in your case is doable (multiple floors) as well as advised. You might also consider one of the litterbox airlock kind of things to provide better "ambush protection" for your cat from the others while she's doing her thing.
posted by phearlez at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2005

Definitely give an animal behaviorist a call. Like others have suggested, your local humane society may have one you can consult with for free. (If not, there are fee services like or your vet should be able to provide a recommendation.)

I would definitely try a second litter box AND feeding area and lavish lots of attention on Sophie.

Incidentally, on the subject of litterboxes, one of my cats has a litterbox neurosis. Switching over to the kind of litterboxes described at Cat Clinic of Roswell's Web site (scroll a quarter down the page) has put an end to 99% of his out-of-the-box activity.

There was a discussion about these boxes over That Home Site several months ago that you might want to check it out if you're interested in finding out more.
posted by Sully6 at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2005

Similar problem at my house. Feliway worked very well, and the vet also suggested additional litter boxes and feeding/watering stations. Another idea that was establishing a "safe zone" for the affected cat- she specifically suggested one of those carpet- covered towers, so the anxious cat could be up high, be alone and feel safe.
posted by puddinghead at 11:07 AM on October 26, 2005

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