When my two kitties couldn’t get along, I tried every trick in the book with no success. The solution? I let them work out their differences on their own.

For many people, cats are like potato chips; they can’t have just one. I am one of those people. It all started with Garfield, a friendly but cautious Tonkinese who appeared on my back porch one day. I started feeding him, and he began hanging around the house and sleeping in the garage. Soon, he was part of the family. Garfield is a very easygoing cat – his favorite thing to do is sit out on the driveway and play lookout. Though he mostly remains an outdoor cat, he often comes inside to nap on the sofa, especially during the cold winter months.

Two years later, I happened to find a scrawny black and white male eating out of a trash bin. He immediately came up to me and flopped down at my feet. He was still really a kitten. Part of me worried that he might belong to someone, but he wasn’t neutered and looked like he had been on his own for a while. In any case, he was far too young to be fending for himself outdoors, especially near a busy road beside the high school. I couldn’t bring myself to leave without the little guy, so I scooped him up and drove him home.

After the vet confirmed he didn’t have a microchip, I had him vaccinated and neutered, eventually naming him Checkers. He was a bundle of energy and affection, and was particularly fond of playing hide and seek. When he wasn’t doing that, he could usually be found rubbing against my shoes. I kept him isolated in one room for the first few days, but I knew I would eventually have to introduce him to Garfield.

The introduction did not go well. Checkers apparently thought Garfield was a big chew toy, and tried to pounce on him. Garfield responded by hissing and running away, which only made Checkers chase him even more.

Over the next few weeks, I tried every trick in the book. I let the two cats smell each other under a door. I fed them together. I even tried using a squirt bottle on Checkers when he attempted to launch an attack, but nothing deterred him. He insisted on terrorizing Garfield and ruling the house with an iron paw. The two of them had peeing contests in the litter boxes. Checkers even climbed on top of the dining table in order to ambush his housemate from above. Poor Garfield just wanted to be left alone. He didn’t know how to deal with a hyperactive cat who was several years younger than him.

After awhile, I gave up trying to make the two of them become friends and started keeping them separated, bringing Garfield indoors whenever I let Checkers out, and having them sleep in separate rooms. After about a year of playing this game of musical cats, things weren’t getting any better.

Then one day, Checkers somehow got out of the house while I was gone. I came home to find both him and Garfield on the driveway. Checkers was happily rolling on his back. Garfield was sitting just a few feet away, obviously wary, but calm. I couldn’t believe they weren’t trying to kill each other!

After that, I began putting them together more often, and the game of musical cats became more of a time share. Checkers still tried to irritate Garfi eld, but Garfield came up with some clever ways to keep his housemate from bugging him. He figured out that if sat in a chair that matched his fur, Checkers wouldn’t even notice he was there. A little camouflage goes a long way!

To this day, Garfield and Checkers still have their quarrels, but they tolerate each other most of the time. The experience made me realize that you can’t force cats to become friends; they have to go about it in their own way and at their own pace. Sometimes it’s better to just step back and let them work it out on their own.

Getting Along

Introducing cats to one another is often challenging. The existing cat may feel his territory is being invaded, while the newcomer is trying to adapt to a strange environment. Either way, both cats are feeling stressed. There may be a few days of hissing, growling and bottle-brush tails before the cats become friends or settle into an uneasy truce. In other cases, they may never learn to get along, and unwanted behaviors may arise, such as inappropriate urination. In worst case scenarios, the cats may fight tooth and nail.

As Brandon notes in his story, “you can’t force cats to become friends”. With Garfield and Checkers, letting them sort out their differences at their own pace finally worked. They may not be friends, but they’re able to live together.

However, if one or both cats are displaying outright aggression, it’s not a good idea to leave them to settle it between themselves. Cat fights can quickly escalate and cause serious injury.

All cats are different, but the bottom line is that you need to monitor both kitties when introducing a newcomer. Some hiding, chasing, swearing or swatting is probably inevitable, but if the disagreements get more violent, take steps to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand. Flower essences and natural pheromones can help. Ask your vet for advice, or consult an animal behaviorist. If the fights continue to matter what, you may have to
consider re-homing one of the cats.