Are Your Cats Not Getting Along?

The conflict between cats; cats react quickly when they feel threatened or when their area doesn’t feel safe anymore. Some become aggressive, hide from others, and some become sick. The conflict between cats can develop because of threats to their status or rank in the home, from other animals in the house, or from outside cats. Once we can identify the signs, we are well on our way to reducing the conflict in your home.

Signs of Conflict

  • The Assertive Cat (dominant cat)
    • Never backs away from other cats.
    • Stares at other cats.
    • Denies other cats access to food and water source.
    • Rub cheeks, head, chin, and tail on people, doorways, and furniture at their height.
    • When they see their victim:
      • Lowers its head and neck, while elevating their backend.
      • Stalks the other cat.
      • Hair along its back, tail and tail base may stand on end.
      • Growls
      • May spray
  • Threatened Cat (victim)
    • Spends a large amount of time hiding or away from the family.
    • Avoids eye contact with other cats.
    • Yields resources to other cats.
    • When they see the assertive cats.
      • Crouches may then flee.
      • Doesn’t vocalize.
      • May spray of fear.
      • May develop urinary or other disease problem.

Multiple different types of conflict can be happening in your household. Knowing what signs each cat is giving you when they’re interacting, can help us reduce or solve the problem. Although cats engaged in any conflict may spray or eliminate outside the litter box, we find that threatened cats are most likely to develop urinary problems.

Causes of Conflict

  • The most common cause of conflict between indoor-housed cats is competition for resources (conflict over space, food, water, litter boxes, perches, sunny areas, high and safe places, or attention from people).
  • Introducing a new cat in the home.
  • When one cat becomes socially mature (between 2 to 5 years of age). They start to take some control of the social groups and their activities. Even cats that have been together since kittenhood.
  • Nearby outdoor cats.

Both males and females may spray, while neutering reduces the frequency of spraying, it cannot eliminate the behaviour.


  • Multiple resources for each cat (separate food, water, bedding, hiding spot, litter boxes).
  • Neuter and spay all cats in the household.
  • Keep nails trimmed.
  • Provide three-dimensional spaces (kitty condos, cardboard boxes, beds, crates).
  • Provide hiding places for the submissive cat (from dominant cats, dogs, and sometimes, humans).
  • If cats roaming outside are the source of the problem, a variety of strategies and products to make your garden less desirable to them are available.

The cats involved in the conflict may never be “best friends,” but they usually can live together, without showing signs of conflict if we offer the appropriate situation.

If your cats may have a conflict, contact your veterinarian or your local behaviourist for more information.

Written by Monica Blanchard, RVT