It is in the first weeks of its existence that a cat will forge its personality. Socialization is the learning that he will do – or not – with his mother and the other kittens in the litter. It will be decisive, all the rest of his life.
Active, placid, independent, if certain character traits are also, in part, determined by race, cats are not naturally fearful.
So why is your cat so afraid of other cats that it makes his life – and maybe yours – difficult?
The Cat And Fear
Let’s start by debunking a preconceived idea: a cat is not born fearful. There are no breeds of cats that are fearful and others that are more courageous. Because fear is not a character trait, it is a natural reaction which responds to a feeling – real or supposed – of danger or insecurity.
Cats are not usually fearful of each other. And when faced with a cat that is afraid of other cats, there are two possibilities:
- He has always been afraid of it;
- His fear is unusual.
Your Cat Has Always Been Afraid Of Other Cats
In this case, it is very likely that the explanation lies in his youth, when his socialization.
The observation of the behavior of the mother is the first source of inspiration for the kitten. Indeed, during the first 10 to 12 weeks of its life, the kitten will learn how to behave by observing its mother, its brothers and sisters, both in the relationships that develop between them and in those with the humans around them.
If the mother is confident, that she likes caresses, the little one will understand that there is no reason to be suspicious. On the contrary, if the mother is fearful, refuses the contact, he will also integrate this behavior.
The Importance Of Socialization
It’s the same with other cats. The fact of living the first weeks of his life in the company of his brothers and sisters – or other animals -, of learning to play, food, cohabitation with them, under the watchful eye of the mother, will be decisive when he finds himself, later, in contact with other cats.
Thus, kittens that have been separated from their mother too early or raised alone with her – separation from the litter – will have more difficulty accepting the presence of other cats and may develop behavioral problems including fear and anxiety are part of it.
The cat is a very sensitive animal that has a very good memory. Unfortunate experiences, traumas, mark him permanently and can modify his behavior.
Besides, the cat is also an animal lonely and excessively territorial. Even properly socialized, he will not necessarily appreciate the company of other cats, all the more so in what he considers to be his personal territory.
Your Cat Shows An Unusual Fear Of Other Cats
If your cat has never shown fear towards other cats, it is because of a specific event even if you don’t know which one, because you didn’t witness it.
In the case of cats that live together, a game that goes wrong, a smell, a conflict – often territorial – between them that has not been settled, or a newcomer, can be the cause of this new fear.
In addition, if your cat has free access to the outside, it can also have unfortunate experiences there without you knowing it, especially when it comes to sharing territories with other cats in the neighborhood.
How To Solve The Problem?
Most of the rivalries that arise between cats arise over territorial issues. Confrontation is normal and can be resolved, most often, without the need to deal with it. But sometimes, the conflict is reproduced and ends up settling, to the point that the cohabitation between the cats becomes difficult.
Untimely attacks, scratches, urinary marking can settle permanently and we must find a way to solve the problem.
Arm yourself with patience and of kindness, as this may take some time. And remember the basics of cat training:
- Never shout;
- Never punish;
- Never coerce.
In A Time Of Crisis
The cat does not like conflict or confrontation. When he is subject to fear, his first reaction is to flee whenever possible and secondly to attack when cornered.
If your cat wants to flee and is prevented from doing so, by you or by a closed door that cuts off its retreat, it can become aggressive and unfortunately, direct its aggression against you. Here are 3 tips for managing the crisis:
Tip 1: A Conflict That Is Not Resolved Will Have A Good Chance Of Reoccurring
Let them sort things out between themselves. Do not shout, do not intervene, do not throw water at them to try to separate them, you will only make the situation worse and you risk being injured. Open the doors so that the attacked cat can escape to a “safe place” and, as difficult as it is for you, let them.
Tip 2: At The End Of The Conflict, Leave The Opponents Alone
They need calm so that the pressure goes down. If your cat has fled and remains hidden, do not solicit it and above all never force it to confront its attacker, it could attack you – phenomenon of redirected aggression – to relieve its frustration.
Tip 3: If The Situation Tends To Recur, For A While, Isolate The Belligerents
If cats must cohabit, separate territories, bowls, litter boxes and give them time. Provide your fearful cat with a place where he feels safe, in which he can take shelter, with a fall- back position at a height if possible, but do not lock him in. He could equate this with a punishment or coercion. When they are ready to live together again, they will make new attempts to share themselves.
When The Crisis Is Over
If you have followed these tips, more often than not, the conflict will have found its solution and the cohabitation can resume. But in the particular case where your cat has always been afraid of other cats and cohabitation is compulsory, you will need socialize him to accustom him to the presence of another cat.
Tip #1: Patience And Kindness Are Key To Effective Socialization
Give him time, never force him into confrontation and adopt his rhythm rather than forcing him to adapt to yours. The game and the rewards will be great helpers.
Tip 2: Provide Him With An Environment In Which He Will Feel Safe
Initially, avoid direct contact with each other and organize a personal territory for your cat, for example a room where the other cat should not go. Install its resources there (bowl, litter, observation post, scratching post, bedding, etc.). In parallel, in the house, multiply the possibilities of hiding places and isolation areas (closet, under the bed, cat tree, etc.), so that he can retreat there if he feels the need, when he leaves the house. ” his territory “.
Tip N° 3: Gradually Organize Meeting Times
- Step 1 : Use your cat’s particularly developed sense of smell to gradually accustom it to the smells of the newcomer. Leave objects impregnated with the smell of the other cat at his disposal. Give it time. Do the same with the other cat, giving it objects impregnated with your cat’s scent.
- 2nd step : Half open the door of his sanctuary and let the cats decide when the meeting will take place, first in your presence but without intervening. Be patient, don’t force your cat out and if you feel the situation getting tense, distract them with a toy, food, or voice to interrupt them. Repeat the experiment later.
- Step 3 : once the second step is completed, your cat leaves its protected place more and more often, let them manage future encounters. Cats will growl, hiss, but that’s normal behavior. Always keep doors open to allow escape. They will gradually (re)organize their respective territories.
Trick : Aromatherapy and pheromones in diffuser can help you, ask your veterinarian for advice and if nothing helps, consider consulting a feline behaviorist.
When cats are able to mix without conflict, without aggression, your mission is accomplished. They will not necessarily be the best friends in the world, but arriving at a peaceful cohabitation will already be a great victory!