What can I do to make my cats get along?

Although there are a lot of households where cats get along famously there are others where there is a stressful war going on. The stress affects humans and cats alike. Anxiety levels rise. When it is like this cat ‘ownership’ is a failure if we are honest. Quite a lot of people still believe that they can place any cat with any cat forgetting that domestic cats are like humans when it comes to getting along. There is feline chemistry.

Cats getting along in multicat home
Cats getting along in multicat home. Photo in public domain and words by PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Something needs to be done when it fails. I am going to rely on Jackson Galaxy to answer this one. He’s a great cat behaviourist with a ton of experience of this specific problem. I’ll summarise and ask you to buy his book Total Cat Mojo for the full answer. I am going to provide my interpretation of his methods. This means I am colouring it a bit with my thoughts. Jackson writes in his own unique style. It takes a while to get used to it. He’s has his own feline language.

He has a three point plan and I like it as it is innovative.

Step One

He calls this ‘site swapping’. The objective is to get the cats who are hostile to each other (I’ll presume that there are two) to get used to each other’s scent (their body odour that they leave on things). So you separate them and place one cat in one confined area and the other cat in another confined area. Then on alternate days you ‘site swap’ by giving each cat time in the other cat’s territory without them seeing each other. The objects in each room or area take on a ‘shared scent’. The scent merges. My interpretation is that it allows the cats to become familiar with each other through their sense of smell (a very important sense for recognition) without being in each other’s physical presence where they would be hostile to each other. I am not sure how long you do this for. I’d try it a few times.

Step Two

This step is about ensuring that each cat perceives that being in the presence of the other is a pleasant experience. Jackson achieves this through the ‘other side of the door feeding ritual technique’. Each cat is feed on opposite sides of a door. They smell the food and the other cat, their enemy. Jackson says that ‘peace is forged through positive associations’. It is a pleasant experience for each cat and they are close to each other.

Step Three

He calls this ‘eat, play, love’. It takes place after the first two steps have been completed. There are two people in a room. The cats are allowed to be in the room together. Jackson indicates there is food in the room. The humans play with the cats. I have found that when cats play they forget anxieties and hostilities which allows them to interact safely. And they get used to each other. I used this technique to socialise my cat to me. He was scared of me as a feral kitten. After a lot of play be learned I was safe to be around. If two cats who were hostile towards each other play in the same area they should learn that they are not a threat to each other and get along. Cats tend to instinctively play with a cat tease as it is in their DNA to attack and capture prey which is a fast moving object (the feather on the stick). This instinct overrides the hostilities.

I stress that this is my interpretation. Please share your experiences in a comment for others to learn from. Comments are welcome and they won’t be trolled or criticised, I promise.

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Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important
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