Today, we share some tips to get cats of various ages to get along.
Timid cats tend to run, and once they run from the other cats, it becomes open season, and they become a target for the other cats to chase.
Age compounds the fear of a timid cat. It also can lead a once-not timid cat to become fearful, and seek out safe hiding spots like the closet or a cupboard.
This is one of the hardest behavior issues to combat in a multi-cat household – how do I get my felines, of varying ages, to get along? And it’s one that Paws for Reflection wrestles with on a daily basis.
Mom’s cat, Clyde is what you call a real Fraidy-cat or Scaredy-cat. From the day he walked into her house, he has demonstrated very timid behaviors; first of humans, then, of other cats. He has never been Top Cat, since I moved back into the old farmhouse to help her with her declining health due to Alzheimer’s disease. Once she moved to Residential Care 7 years ago this Thanksgiving, I never expected Clyde to keep hanging on.
Tips to get cats of various ages to get along
While he looks great for his 19 or so years, his fear has gotten worse. As we’ve looked for research about cats ganging up on senior and/or timid cats, we really haven’t found a whole lot of details about this. What we’ve found is more generic.
- A cat’s vision and hearing deteriorate with age, and perhaps, Clyde is even more fearful of not seeing or hearing the aggressors, and getting ambushed with no escape route, causing him to hide more. (For more about how well cats can hear, check out Paws’ post, Cats hear better than humans, but do they like our music?
- Many cats are more arthritic with age, and jumping to a safe spot quickly can become more of a challenge. While Clyde does not demonstrate any symptoms of arthritis, he may be afraid he can’t run to safety quick enough.In the jockeying for their place in the cat hierarchy, it could be younger, healthier cats, particularly males, can sense the cats’ aging, and single him out to chase out of their territory.
Heartbreaking to see cats fighting
It’s heartbreaking to see a handsome kitty almost living in the closet with the towels. Paws thought back to Smokey Blue, who in her last year or so of her life, started living in the kitchen cupboard. We didn’t want that to happen with Clyde.
- Initially, we tried rounding up the other cats and scolding them if we saw them chasing him. As we cannot be present 100 percent of the time, that didn’t work
- Vertical space helps cats remain more confident, having more ability to see what’s around them. Clyde used to find china cabinet in the living room as a favorite spot, but that jump became a little too high for him.
- Then, we tried the Feliway diffusors. While initially, they may have had some positive effect, they didn’t reduce his level of fear or change the behavior of the aggressors. Stress relief spray has some very positive effects when taking him to the veterinarian. So does putting an item of my clothing in the cat carrier with him, and then covering the carrier with a blanket, so it’s dark like a cave.
Cats vying to be top cat
Interestingly, not all of the 4 other cats are instigators. It’s 2 of them, my Lenny, who is about 4, and Little Yellow, now 8, who is asthmatic. They also are starting to gang up on my Siamese Linus who is about 10, but breaking up the cat fights is currently working. In his case, Paws surmises they are trying to dislodge Linus as Top Cat.
We’ve found that once a cat runs, it opens the door for him to be open game for the chase. Cats are hunters by nature, and they are hard-wired to chase if there’s something to chase, including your other cat, they will chase. Once they learn the scaredy-cat will run, they can become relentless, ambushing them at the litter box and food bowl.
Living in a big house, the next option was to segregate the cats. While installing a screen door between the office and bathroom could have been an option, Paws turned over the upstairs to Clyde. He now lives upstairs, the equivalent of having a 4-room ranch to himself. Complete with 3 litter boxes, food, water, and his human to sleep with every night, he seems relatively happy in his safe haven.
Senior cats may become targets
My Siamese and my girl, Pink Collar, go up and down stairs and can live on both levels because with the exception of a few hissy spats, there is no intense fighting.
Paws has tried bringing him downstairs, but when I do, Clyde remains frozen on the back of the couch, and Lenny or Little Yellow see him, it’s not a pretty sight. They go into attack mode.
As Paws did some research for this post, we found the HISS Test of cat behavior, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.
Health can affect the way cats react to each other. Cats that are ill or older can become targets of younger healthier ones.
Cats live by instinct, and they seek hierarchy in the household. When they fall into their pecking order, they get along well. When something comes along to rock to boat, they vie to keep or elevate their status. Once kittens reach the ages of 2 to 4, they start asserting themselves to elevate their status in the household. That’s what happening with Lenny.
Stress can cause many behavior issues, and the more cats, the more stress, with the cats vying to stake out their territory. The more territory they can claim for themselves, there’s likely to be less fighting.
Creating vertical space, trying stress reducing diffusors or spays, having 1 more litter box than cats, creating places so cats can’t get ambushed, all will help alleviate the issues, but as Paws has found sometimes, it just isn’t enough.
While sometimes re-homing a cat may be an option, it is not even a remote consideration. While Clyde may not have been my first choice for my cat, I owe it to him and my Mom to keep him healthy and happy for all of his cat years ahead.
What have you done to make your multi-cat household more cat friendly, and reduce the jockeying for Top Cat position? Do you have some tips you could share about keeping a senior cat from becoming a victim in a multi-cat household? Please weigh in and share your suggestions.