Q: My name is Pat Davis, and I read you column and know you offer good suggestions to help with pet problems. I have owned 2 cats, sisters, for the past 6 years. Recently I went on vacation and left them
at my daughter’s house for 5 days. She had them in her finished recreation room in her basement. I brought all their dishes, food and toys, even a blanket so they would have familiar things. I know there was a problem with the one cat (Shirley) because she wasn’t used to hearing someone walking overhead and she kept hiding. When I picked them up and brought them home on Sunday, everything seemed fine and normal until Tuesday morning and then I don’t know what happened. I was in my kitchen when I heard what sounded like them fighting and the larger cat (Laverne) was chasing Shirley down the hall into my bedroom and had her cornered against the wall. Shirley was so scared that she actually wet the floor. I separated them and nothing has been normal since. This all happened in the middle of September. Laverne stalks Shirley when she is on the floor and will attack her. Obviously, Shirley is now terrified of her and will hiss and growl every time Laverne gets close. There are times when she will sleep on the sofa within a few feet of each other, but as soon as Shirley moves off the sofa, Laverne will go after her and physically attack her. I can not leave them alone together at night or when I go I keep Laverne in my bedroom, food and litter box included. There are times when I am right in the room and Laverne with go right after Shirley. I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do except get rid of Laverne.
This is breaking my heart because I love them both, but I don’t know what else to do. I hope you will respond quickly and can offer a suggestion to resolve this problem because this can’t keep up much longer.
A: This is not the first time I have heard a story similar to yours. When two cats have lived harmoniously together, and after a sudden change, like a vacation or a veterinary stay due to illness, suddenly there is an aggression issue between the cats. The first thing to do is separate the cats and cool every one down, as you have done. In some cats, gradually reintroducing them will work. In more severe cases, there ends up being an attacker/victim situation, where one cat is feeding into the other and the reverse ends up also being true. These cases are very hard to resolve. Separation is still the first step, but many of them need to be evaluated to see if reintroduction is going to be allowable by both cats. The victim is anxious and therefore is less accepting of the attacker, whereas the attacker is fueling the anxiety of the victim. Often both cats need to be addressed in these cases. If they ultimately cannot be safe together then they need to be permanently separated either in your home or by sending one cat to a new home. But before you reach that point, have your veterinarian or a behaviorist evaluate your options.