Is there such a thing as cat relationship chemistry?

When people get along and fall in love they say it’s all about chemistry. We don’t know exactly what it is which is why we say it’s chemistry. It’s a mixture of things which are all brought together. Can cats have the same sort chemistry as us in their relationships with other cats? I think they can. Relationships between cats is not only about territory and dominance. Personality is a factor but it’s hard to define.

Cat relationship chemistry exists I believe
Cat relationship chemistry exists I believe. Illustration by PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There’s lots of people searching for answers to a common problem, which is that their cats don’t get along. They bring a new cat into the home and the other cat just doesn’t like the newcomer. No matter what they do it doesn’t work. They can’t put a finger on it because both cats are well-behaved and well socialised. They’re both sweet cats towards their owner but towards each other there is friction. It is frustrating and rehoming looks possible for one of them, which is definitely a last resort.

I’ve been reading Jackson Galaxy’s book, Total Cat Mojo, and he seems to agree with me. He thinks that sometimes cats can look at each other and just never get on and there’s no reason for it other than chemistry. Although he doesn’t refer to ‘chemistry’.

It applies to people in the same way. Two people can be both decent. There’s nothing wrong with either of them but they dislike each other. Their characters are incompatible. Cats do have their own characters. Some people think they don’t but the more you know domestic cats the more you realise each one is different. If cats have characters you could see why the idea that chemistry between them works for cats as well as people.

Jackson Galaxy says that he has worked with many multi-cat homes where they did everything he could to make the cats get along but he failed. This is a problem for him because cat owners go to him to solve problems and expect one of the world’s most popular cat behaviourists to be able to solve problems such as cats not getting along at home.

But there’s no accounting for chemistry. You can’t solve that problem and at the end of the day he says that you may have to think the unthinkable and rehome one of them. This is because it’s not about people and what they want to happen in the home, it’s about the cats. You have to respect them. It’s probably wrong to say that you should never rehome one of your cats. This is different to abandoning a cat to a cat rescue because it is what the owner wanted for themselves. It’s about doing what’s right for the cat and admitting defeat.

Another cat behaviourists, Dr Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense, says that a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to making sure that when they get a new cat that the newcomer fits in with the existing cat. That’s why there are too many people asking questions on the Internet about how to fix this problem.

Cats fighting with other cats in multi-cat households
Screenshot from PDSA report.

There’s lots of things you can do to try and make sure that cats get along and you can be very patient. Often this will work but I guess at best they’ll just get along. They won’t be friendly. You may have to ensure they never really meet in the home by separating them but that’s not very good. That’s not what you want. I believe cat chemistry is a factor.

I also believe that cat rescue centers should allow people to ‘suck and see’. They should allow people to take a cat to their home for a trial week to see whether they get along with the resident cat and if not they can bring them back. Does that happen in some cat shelters?

This is a guest post by Macey Weaver living in the USA.

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