Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

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SophieLou
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Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by SophieLou » Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:41 pm

Hi all - I posted not so long ago about my two cats. They're sisters from the same litter and are 3 years old.

We had an incident where one cat got stuck in the cupboard and she knocked a box over when she came out. This spooked the other cat and this sparked up aggression, particularly hissing, growling, yowling etc.

It's been 18 days and we've gone from day one where the cat would hiss at anything with her sister's scent on, to now day 18 where they can sleep in the same room together, sometimes pass each other in the corridor without hissing and take treats pretty much nose to nose. The 'aggressor' has groomed her sister a little but she still hisses at her sister after grooming her for a bit, there are still somewhat frequent bouts of hissing which we interrupt. She's clearly still not comfortable, which we are hoping with persistence we can get her at least comfortable again.

Just want some reassurance - will these two cats ever return to their normal selves? They used to nap together, groom each other and eat happily together, I can't see me being able to leave them unsupervised again, ever. :cry:

Thanks.

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Mollycat
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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by Mollycat » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:30 pm

With your care, they can be the best they can be together again. There is progress. When climbing a mountain, don't forget to look back every now and again to see how far you've come, otherwise all you see is your goal in the distance and get disheartened.

There are no guarantees and as much as I know you want reassurance that the old normal can be restored, we'd be doing you no favours if we said it's possible. It's up to the girls.

Unfortunately it's just like us, if we have a falling-out with a work colleague, we can tolerate each other afterwards, but if we fall out with a close friend, it can be much harder to get back to the closeness we had before. You are doing the most important thing, making sure the situation doesn't deteriorate. Beyond that, it's up to them. Try not to be too hooked up on them achieving the result you want. Cats can love each other and be close without curling up together or mutual grooming, the signs you want may not appear even if the feelings get back to what they were.


Edit to add: I don't suggest you do this just yet but when I got my girl and she would hiss (in fear not aggression) at my boy who was desperate to make friends with her, the real big steps of progress happened whenever I left them alone for the afternoon and went out. There may come a time when your presence can hold them up from making their peace. Also, separating them means restricting their access to the whole house that they used to have free access to all the time and this in itself can cause confusion and fear and lead to aggression. Keep an open mind.
Last edited by Mollycat on Mon Jul 22, 2019 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ruth B
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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by Ruth B » Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:49 pm

It sounds like a case of redirected aggression, something happened and without anything else to blame and turn on, she has decided to blame her sister for it.

They may never get back to how they were, at three years old they are really just becoming fully mature and they may have started to grow out of sleeping together even without the incident, but I do think they can learn to live together in peace and be left alone without them coming to blows.

You mention there is still a lot of hissing, is there still any growling or any sign of actual violence, and how is the non aggressor reacting to being hissed at. You say you have to intervene, is either of their body language telling you that it is going to escalate from hissing to coming to blows. If it is just hissing, you might actually be better not intervening and letting them sort it out. If her sister isn't reacting to being hissed at then it could be that just letting her calm down by herself would work, you intervening could be backing up her feelings that she needs to deal with something even if she isn't quite sure what, but it is very hard to remain all wound up and aggressive if you are just ignored, you do however need to keep a close eye on things and make sure that there isn't any sign of violence if you do leave them be, you don't want either them or you ending up getting hurt.

Make sure you give them both plenty of praise and fuss when they are happy together, if possible offer some treats after a bit of mutual grooming (this may mean having treats packets scattered about the house so they are close at hand), make sure you get in there before she stops grooming and starts hissing, make it so it ends on a good note for both of them. and hopefully redirects the aggressors attention to the treats before she realises what she is doing and feels the need to hiss.

Time works wonders and I'm sure they will be accepting each other's presence in the future, even if they don't return to being best friends. If you think it might help make a diary of what happens, how often she hisses and how often they are together, that way you can look back and actually see the improvements over a week even if they don't seem to be occurring day to day.

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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by Catotum » Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:08 pm

Oh yes, redirected aggression. Little elderly girl cat had her home invaded & got VERY upset with the aggressor, who ran off. Not so younger male housemate, who was screamed at, threatened & generally intimidated, losing all his confidence & treading very carefully around madam thereafter.

I hope it will wear off - you've been given very good advice. I can only add that if intimidation starts, rather than intervening directly, apply a little misdirection yourself. This might be a cat treat, game or just a bustling pass with a friendly word. Something that diverts the attention from the sibling. In a roundabout way this serves to reduce the idea of the sibling being a threat. It distracts the aggressor & shows how unconcerned you are, which is an important & influential image for the cats in their perception of your mothering role in their life.

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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by SophieLou » Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:01 pm

Mollycat wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:30 pm
With your care, they can be the best they can be together again. There is progress. When climbing a mountain, don't forget to look back every now and again to see how far you've come, otherwise all you see is your goal in the distance and get disheartened.

There are no guarantees and as much as I know you want reassurance that the old normal can be restored, we'd be doing you no favours if we said it's possible. It's up to the girls.

Unfortunately it's just like us, if we have a falling-out with a work colleague, we can tolerate each other afterwards, but if we fall out with a close friend, it can be much harder to get back to the closeness we had before. You are doing the most important thing, making sure the situation doesn't deteriorate. Beyond that, it's up to them. Try not to be too hooked up on them achieving the result you want. Cats can love each other and be close without curling up together or mutual grooming, the signs you want may not appear even if the feelings get back to what they were.


Edit to add: I don't suggest you do this just yet but when I got my girl and she would hiss (in fear not aggression) at my boy who was desperate to make friends with her, the real big steps of progress happened whenever I left them alone for the afternoon and went out. There may come a time when your presence can hold them up from making their peace. Also, separating them means restricting their access to the whole house that they used to have free access to all the time and this in itself can cause confusion and fear and lead to aggression. Keep an open mind.
Thanks for your reply. For the past 2 days we have let them both roam free and it started really well. She started sniffing and grooming her sister a bit more (with a small hiss occasionally) but it seemed to be improving. However, today she has been in a foul mood and now the hissing has turned into swiping. So I've had to separate her again. Just no idea what to do, I thought they were starting to get better. :(

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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by SophieLou » Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:03 pm

Catotum wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:08 pm
Oh yes, redirected aggression. Little elderly girl cat had her home invaded & got VERY upset with the aggressor, who ran off. Not so younger male housemate, who was screamed at, threatened & generally intimidated, losing all his confidence & treading very carefully around madam thereafter.

I hope it will wear off - you've been given very good advice. I can only add that if intimidation starts, rather than intervening directly, apply a little misdirection yourself. This might be a cat treat, game or just a bustling pass with a friendly word. Something that diverts the attention from the sibling. In a roundabout way this serves to reduce the idea of the sibling being a threat. It distracts the aggressor & shows how unconcerned you are, which is an important & influential image for the cats in their perception of your mothering role in their life.
Thank you for your reply, we have given this a go over the past 2 days. We have let them roam free together and all seemed to be much better, a little hiss here and there but nothing serious. However today, for some reason the cat is in a foul mood and the hissing has escalated into swiping, I've had to isolate her again. Which is frustrating as that stresses her out, shes pulled up the carpet where she tries to get out. I'm so clueless on what to do, it seemed to be going well.

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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by SophieLou » Tue Jul 23, 2019 9:06 pm

Ruth B wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:49 pm
It sounds like a case of redirected aggression, something happened and without anything else to blame and turn on, she has decided to blame her sister for it.

They may never get back to how they were, at three years old they are really just becoming fully mature and they may have started to grow out of sleeping together even without the incident, but I do think they can learn to live together in peace and be left alone without them coming to blows.

You mention there is still a lot of hissing, is there still any growling or any sign of actual violence, and how is the non aggressor reacting to being hissed at. You say you have to intervene, is either of their body language telling you that it is going to escalate from hissing to coming to blows. If it is just hissing, you might actually be better not intervening and letting them sort it out. If her sister isn't reacting to being hissed at then it could be that just letting her calm down by herself would work, you intervening could be backing up her feelings that she needs to deal with something even if she isn't quite sure what, but it is very hard to remain all wound up and aggressive if you are just ignored, you do however need to keep a close eye on things and make sure that there isn't any sign of violence if you do leave them be, you don't want either them or you ending up getting hurt.

Make sure you give them both plenty of praise and fuss when they are happy together, if possible offer some treats after a bit of mutual grooming (this may mean having treats packets scattered about the house so they are close at hand), make sure you get in there before she stops grooming and starts hissing, make it so it ends on a good note for both of them. and hopefully redirects the aggressors attention to the treats before she realises what she is doing and feels the need to hiss.

Time works wonders and I'm sure they will be accepting each other's presence in the future, even if they don't return to being best friends. If you think it might help make a diary of what happens, how often she hisses and how often they are together, that way you can look back and actually see the improvements over a week even if they don't seem to be occurring day to day.
Thanks for your reply! There never was any show of violence, she seemed to just hiss and wait or hiss and walk off. We let them roam free for the past 2 days and all seemed well, bit of sniffing and grooming. However today she has been in a foul mood and has swiped a few times at her sister, I've had to isolate her. I have actually been keeping a diary, they've made great progress but still feel so sorry for them. :(

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Re: Will my two cats ever go back to their old selves?

Post by Mollycat » Wed Jul 24, 2019 5:39 am

I know it's hard but try not to take an off day as a failure, and try to relax a little about it. Our emotions have way more impact on our cats and their behaviour than we let ourselves believe. They don't know why we are tense, all they know is something is wrong, and if they feel tense then our stress will reinforce their stress. Cats may not be a pack animal (the only domesticated animal that isn't, which makes them unique in having a different psychology to any other pet or livestock) but they do form bonds. It may be that because it's not in their wild adult nature to form bonds like this that they are not so good at handling the emotions that go with them, but our emotional states impact on them in a way that is observable in many cats.

I have had some amazing successes with my traumatised cat with some simple mind exercises. Believe it or not I have a very mellow cat these past few days after playing some cat relaxation and healing reiki videos from You-tube, and with a short guided animal communication one a few months ago. I can hardly believe it myself but something about it is really working for her. If you're not convinced about the power of music for animals, search for the man who plays classical piano pieces to elephants to see how well they respond.

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