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Dr. Rosie DVM

Conflict Between Cats:

  • Provide multiple resources (food, water, litter boxes, etc.) to prevent competition.
  • Allow cats to establish their own territories and provide hiding spots or high places for escape.

Cats react when their feelings of safety are threatened, including signs of conflict, causes, and treatment options. By understanding these signs, causes, and treatment options, you can help reduce conflict and create a more harmonious environment for your cats.

Signs of Conflict Between Cats:

  • The Assertive Cat:
  • Never backs away from other cats
  • Stares at other cats
  • Denies other cats access to resources
  • Rubs cheeks, head, chin, and tail on people, doorways, and furniture at cat height
  • When it sees the victim: lowers its head and neck while elevating its hindquarters and stalks the other cat, hair along its back, on its tail and tail base may stand on end, growls, may spray

  • The Threatened Cat:
  • Spends large amounts of time hiding or away from the family
  • Avoids eye contact with other cats
  • Yields resources to other cats
  • Crouches, may then flee
  • Does not vocalize
  • May develop cystitis or other disease problems

Types of Conflict:

  • Offensive Conflict: The more confident cat moves closer to other cats to control the interaction.
  • Defensive Conflict: A cat tries to increase the distance between itself and a perceived threat.
  • Re-directed Conflict: The threatened cat may become threatening to a less threatening cat.

Causes of Conflict:

  • Competition for resources such as space, food, water, litter boxes, perches, sunny areas, safe places, or attention from people.
  • Conflict often occurs when a new cat is introduced into the household or when cats reach social maturity (between 2 and 5 years old).
  • Silent conflicts can arise when cats that have known each other since kittenhood become unevenly matched in social status.


  • Provide a separate set of resources for each cat in locations where they can use them without being seen by other cats.
  • Neuter all cats and keep nails trimmed short.
  • Separate cats when direct supervision is not possible.
  • Add three-dimensional spaces such as kitty condos or cardboard boxes to provide more space for cats.
  • Consider behavior-modifying medications in severe cases, but these should complement environmental enrichment, not replace it.

Resolving Conflict with Other Animals:

  • Cats perceive dogs as predators, so provide ways for the cat to escape and teach children and guests to interact gently.
  • Conflict with outside cats can occur when a new cat enters the area around the house, use strategies and products to make your garden less desirable to them.