Dear PetLvr Mailbag ..
I have two cats. The boy is tall and strong, and the other (female) is a runt. She’s 4 years old but looks like a kitten, she is so tiny. Anyway, my question is if I should separate them when they fight, or just let them work it our on their own. I’ve had the girl all her life and the boys I just got a little under a year ago from a shelter. He’s very bossy. As time passes, the female is getting more timid and jumpy. Should I intervene?
–Stuck in the Middle with Cats
Yes, you should intervene, but not by separating them. You’re probably fussing over the female because she is shy and getting picked on. Treating cats equally actually exacerbates fighting. Feed and give attention to the dominant cat first.
If you upset the apple cart by taking care of the female first or giving her preferential treatment, the dominant cat in the household will feel he needs to reinforce his status by beating her up. Both cats will be more secure if you reinforce their pecking order by treating the male as the dominant cat that he is, and paying attention to the female only after he’s satisfied. She will probably even become less timid.
The second thing you should do is make sure she has many ways to get away from him. If you’re on a budget, a few simple additions to the home like non-toxic large potted plants, an extra litterbox, and a few milk crates or cardboard boxes, are fine.
If you have money to spare, get a couple of fancy cat trees. And, you should have one more litterbox than the number of cats in the home if at any time the cats are fighting– so, two cats, three litterboxes. That prevents accidents due to fights over litterbox access or ambushing the other cat by waiting for her to come out to use the box. You can remove the other two once the cats are getting along better.
If you have a pet related question that you would like Jelena Woehr to answer here in our “PetLvr Mailbag” series … send your question to jelena (at) PetLvr (dot) com