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If you have a multi-cat household, you may have witnessed aggression (sometimes mild, sometimes wild) between the cats, even if they get along most of the time. Is there anything you can do about it? Dr. Jill Sackman, DVM, DACVS, PhD, of BluePearl in Michigan, believes there is.

In the Summer 2017 issue of BluePearl’s Companion, Dr. Sackman writes,

“By nature cats prefer not to fight! Domestic cats are solitary hunters. Social behaviors have evolved in cats to avoid conflict; this strategy is very different from humans and dogs. Once cats are aroused, they have very poor skills for resolving conflict, unlike dogs.

“Passive avoidance is a cat’s first response to an uncomfortable situation; just leave the room. Setting a household up for peaceful feline living includes enriching the environment with an abundance of toys, resting places, litter boxes, food and water bowls distributed throughout the house; there is no need for anyone to fight over anything.
[Emphasis added for this blog.]

“When dealing with feline behavioral health, always ask, ‘Am I meeting the needs of this animal based upon his/her behavioral evolution and natural needs?’ The answer is often ‘no.’ Many home environments are often sterile and non-stimulating for cats. Treatment of aggression in cats frequently includes environmental enrichment, providing opportunities for cats to exercise their predatory behavior with acceptable toys, etc.

Environment Enrichment
“To ensure healthy behavior and treatment for many forms of aggression in cats, it is important to first look at the home environment. Start by making the cat’s indoor space more like a natural space. Suggestions include visual stimulation with fish tanks, bird feeders outside windows, even robotic prey-like toys (www.Hexbugs.com). Add perches and cat trees; introduce novel toys (wand toys are particularly interesting); and satisfy the predatory needs of cats. Hunting instincts can be satisfied by putting dry food in puzzle feeder balls or tubes instead of dishes.”

Note: Your veterinarian is the best source of information on dealing with aggression in cats. An examination and testing may be necessary to discover underlying physical problems that may be at the root of feline aggression. To avoid injury to yourself or others in the household, talk to your pet’s veterinarian, or ask for a referral to an animal behavior specialist.* (*Not available in all areas.)

Coming up next week: More from Dr. Jill Sackman about cats and aggression. Watch your inbox!

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