Cats Suddenly Fighting

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The Royal Trio
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Cats Suddenly Fighting

Post by The Royal Trio » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:36 pm

Hello all, this is my first post but probably not my last!

I’ve had cats for 40 years now (crikey :shock: ) and have dealt with all sorts of personalities and behaviours, but my current situation has me baffled.

We have three cats - Elsie, Reg and Fergal - who we adopted when they were tiny kittens almost four years ago. They’re all from the same litter, and all were neutered/spayed as early as our vet would do it. They have always got along; I wouldn’t say that they all adore each other but up until now after a bit of chasing each other around the house they settle together, and give each other ‘baths’. They go out during the day, coming and going, but they’re all indoors by the time darkness falls.

Recently however the play-fighting seems to have taken a dark turn, it’s almost as if the boys are ganging up on Elsie. She is not innocent of occasionally winding up one or other of her brothers, and when it’s one on one she can usually give as good as she gets. But recently both boys go after her at the same time, and whilst we are fairly sure they’re playing (we check frequently for evidence of physical injury) her yowls of protest are getting louder. I dread to think what language she’s using :shock:

I’ve been doing some research and it seems that neutered cats can retain some of their male-ness and Fergal in particular seems to be Adopting The Position with her so that would fit - except we’ve had them for nearly four years and this has never happened before. I also know that sometimes cats will pick on other cats who have medical issues but as far as we are aware Elsie is fine, she’s just half the size of her brothers. If it continues we will probably pop her to the vet to make absolutely sure but in the meantime I was wondering if anybody else had encountered this kind of behaviour seemingly out of the blue.

Any and all advice/suggestions welcome! And I apologise for the long first post!

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Ruth B
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Re: Cats Suddenly Fighting

Post by Ruth B » Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:57 am

Welcome to the forum and don't worry about the long post, more information is always a good thing.

I'm not sure I can help much, but two of my cats are a similar age to yours, they are about 5 years old, one male and one female, and I have noticed that the male is a lot more boisterous in his play than she is, chasing and pouncing on her when she really doesn't want to, her play is far more gentle, chasing jingly balls around or 'killing' catnip fish, so this does occasionally lead to the type of yelling I think you are used to. I've seen a lot of advice regarding giving the cats escape routes and breaking up bottleneck areas, but as I live in a rather small house there isn't a lot I can really do. If you have space it might be worth adding some extra cat trees, or high level shelves and cat beds for her to go on, ways for her get around the house without having to directly pass the boys and places where she can feel more confident and able to defend against them.

I will also add that if it has only really been going on for a few months and you live in the UK it could just be a case that the weather has been bad, they don't feel like going out and running their energy off and are bored, so finding fun where they cam. It might all resolve in a couple of months time when the weather improves.

One last one I will add, and this is just a personal opinion, female cats seem to mature earlier than males. At 6 months a female cat can be having her first litter of kittens, by 4 years, assuming she had survived in the wild, she would be an experienced mother no longer a kitten herself. Male cats on the other hand have to fight for the right to mate and there does seem to be a teenage period when they are learning to fight and the older males know they aren't really a threat and give them that bit of leeway. At 5 years old they are coming into their prime and it goes from play fighting to a more serious thing. Neutered toms don't have the hormone drive of an unneutered one, but I do wonder if there is something hardwired in their brains that triggers slightly harsher play as they mature. Others will probably have plenty of evidence against this theory.

And of course if you have any concerns, take them to a vets just to get them checked out.

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Re: Cats Suddenly Fighting

Post by Mollycat » Wed Feb 19, 2020 6:15 pm

You made me smile mentioning her 'language' that was always my dad's term for it - shocking language!

I've no real experience here either and have only twice had multi-cat households, all adults brought in or wandered in at from different places. So none of the relationships has been very close, though some attachments were strong, most were invisible to the naked human eye and only became evident when one died, and one absolutely blossomed once the others of the house were all gone and we realised how much she had been bullied. Never a physical fight or a hiss, just that strategic sitting and cute-looking but actually very aggressive back rolling. They have taught me a lot, I'm sure you're the same after 40 years.

One thing I can pass on is the warning not to let it escalate, as once it becomes fighting it's extremely hard to reintegrate them and it seems listening to other people that the closer they are the harder they fall out and the more permanent it is. I don't know much more than that, I've never seen it for myself.

What's your own sense of the situation? Are they playing too rough or ganging up? Is she avoiding the boys or showing any uncomfortable or distressed behaviours? Has she changed towards the human members of the household at all? And when you say the language is so bad, is it hissing and fight-yowling, or more complaining moaning kind of talk?

Totally agree with Ruth about more hiding places and high up shelves though if the boys are being truly aggressive you don't want her trapped on a shelf or falling from it under attack, so positioning would matter.

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Re: Cats Suddenly Fighting

Post by The Royal Trio » Fri Feb 21, 2020 1:28 pm

Thank you for the replies. Please know that I haven’t been ignoring you, I didn’t have email notifications turned on so apologies :oops:

Elsie has plenty of escape routes, being the smallest she can get into spots that the boys can’t, and she is far more adept at reaching the high places too. Her yowls when the boys are in attack mode seems to be more “FOR GOODNESS SAKE GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!” than cries of actual pain. And I’ve been watching the boys roughhousing together; for all of the shouting and growling they’re not really fighting, claws are in, ears aren’t back and tails aren’t puffing.

As far as their behaviours towards us goes, nothing has changed.

I think I might have a theory though and I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me before. A couple of weeks ago one of their outdoor cat friends moved house. He was always in our garden and during the summer when the back door was open he was often in their food bowls too (uninvited, I hasten to add) and now he’s gone. Reg used to make sure that the guest cat knew who was in charge but he tolerated him, the other two always seemed faintly bemused if the guest cat crossed their boundary but the hissing and growling was all Reg. I think that now that the dynamic has changed, Reg particularly has chosen Elsie as a replacement target.

If that is the case, hopefully it’ll settle down soon but if not then we‘ll all be off to the vet. And to the pub, for the grown ups :lol:

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Re: Cats Suddenly Fighting

Post by Mollycat » Fri Feb 21, 2020 5:03 pm

It's more common for a cat to become aggressive towards its family when a stranger invades than when it leaves, but there's nothing to say it couldn't be that. The dynamics of cat relationships are very complex. Be interesting to see what develops, keep us posted!

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