August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Aggression toward another cat when being chased can be normal survival behavior or it can be a symptom of an underlying problem. However, always take aggressive episodes seriously. When chased by another cat, aggression may occur, leading to serious fights and possibly to serious injuries to either cat - the aggressor or the victim. Being chased may result in stress signs such as not eating, not using the litter box appropriately, hiding or over-grooming.

The sheer presence of another cat, when not properly addressed, can evolve into serious aggression. Assess and tackle any changes in the cats' behavior when in the presence of, or when approached by another cat. However, do not allow them to chase each other. To address aggression, work with a professional who can look at the context in which it happens. Never use punishment as a training technique. It will not work and will only hurt your relationship with your cats.

Pay attention to your cat's body language before the chase. Aggressive behavior can occur when a cat is in the presence of another cat. It can occur in any breed, size, age, or gender. Play or predatory behavior has to be considered and ruled out as a reason for the chase. However, even if it starts as play, it can easily lead to aggression if the chasee is uncomfortable. Being chased by another cat can lead to serious anxiety and stress due to fear.

A fearful cat may exhibit dilated pupils, ears turning back, or a twitching tail. In this situation, your cat may growl, hiss or swat at the other cats. Your cat may appear nervous, frightened and startle easily. They may try to run and hide. A more offensive assertive cat may stare at the other cat, have their ears back, constricted pupils, and their tail may be up or down with fur standing on end.

Always separate fighting cats to prevent injury. Use a toy to distract your cat and engage in play with you and the toy, instead of chasing the other cat. Safely confine each cat to their own separate areas and don't allow the aggressor to approach or chase the fearful cat. Watch any interactions closely and only allow your cat to approach another slowly if they do not exhibit the signs of stress or aggression listed above. If you must separate two cats to prevent serious fighting, take time to re-introduce them. Some cat-to-cat introductions go very smoothly. Others may take weeks or months before your cats learn to co-exist with each other. The best thing to do is to go as slowly as necessary-don't rush the introduction if you are working towards a positive long-term relationship. Being patient will pay off!

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.