Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: Fighting in a Multi-Cat House

465241797Dear Jennifer:
Over the last several years we have rescued 6 cats. There are three female and three male cats which have all been neutered. All get along without any big problems except one male persist in attacking one female. He does not bother the other two females. We have to keep a close watch to keep him from jumping on that one cat. We have tried spraying him with a water bottle which does not bother him at all. We put some coins in a can and rattle it when we see him stalking to attack. That makes him run away, but it does not stop the behavior. Is there anything that will just stop this behavior? He is a very loving cat except for wanting to attack this one cat. Any suggestion would be appreciated.
Peggy E


Dear Peggy,

I can appreciate how frustrating it can be to have one cat picking on another.  First of all you need to get rid of the spray bottle and shaker can.  Punishing him for his aggressive behavior will only escalate his attacks on the other cat.  Instead we need to focus on the environment, mental stimulation and training.

First of all we need to address increasing vertical space.  Cats need a lot of space.  With six cats this can be done by adding cat trees, shelves and tying it in to existing high spaces.  Think of terms of creating little highway lanes with on and off ramps so that cats can always get away from the other cats.  The more space you can create the better.

Second is that sometimes this kind of stalking behavior can be an inappropriate outlet for a bored cat.  Making sure he is receiving adequate mental stimulation through play sessions at least twice a day.  I am a huge fan of wand toys.  It is great way to give your cat a good workout. I love DaBird and Neko Flies.  Finish your play sessions with a meal.  Now he will be ready for a nap.

I would also teach him to come when he is called by classically conditioning his name. We do this by simply pairing his name with his favorite treat or high value food.  You simply say his name and give him a treat. Do this throughout the day for several days.  When he is getting excited about hearing his name you are ready to add the clicker.  Take a couple of steps away and say his name. As he moves forward to get his treat, click, and then give him his treat when he gets to you.  Slowly increase your distance rewarding him every time he comes to you.

Once he is good at coming to you on a consistent basis you can now call him to you to redirect him away from your other cat if he starts chasing her.  Make sure you give him a reward and then play with him instead. I would also click and treat any and all appropriate behavior he offers when the other cat is in his presence.

During this time I would make sure to separate the cats anytime you are not around.  I would not allow him to torment her when you can’t stop it.  If after several weeks you are not seeing improvement in his behavior you might have to do a total reintroduction.  This is accomplished by treating your male as if you just brought him into your home. Click here to read how to reintroduce a cat.

Thank you for the question!

Jennifer Mauger, CPDT-KSA

Jennifer is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and owner of both L’Chaim Canine and L’Chaim Feline.  Her interest in working with cats began after going into homes where, although she was working with the dog, Jennifer saw that the cat was also in need of behavior modification and mental enrichment.  She wanted to be able to advocate for the cats from the point of view of a professional.  For more training tips and tricks,  follow her on Facebook by clicking here.

Do you have a training question for Jennifer? Ask her by clicking here.

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