Aggression, Status & Dominance – Part 2

Last Saturday we talked about aggression, status and dominance with cats and what to do about it. Here are some more tips that may be very helpful!

Read part 1 here.

Happy Endings

If your cats can be in the same room for about twenty minutes (before they starts hissing, growling, etc), then you can also try to time their ‘meetings’, so you can separate them again before they get upset. But if you wait until the cats are upset, you’re already creating a bad memory.

You can start with keeping a fair distance between them. And as long as they are not showing fear, decrease the distance and increase time. Do this gradually over the course of days. Try to end sessions positive, such as with a treat or some play time.

Photo by Chickenboots.

Photo by Chickenboots.

Who’s The Real Bully?

If you know who is the real bully and the real victim, their status may have switched. You can help your cats to get the balance back in their ‘hierarchy’ by placing the bully in a room that is not a favorite territory. Not a favorite room like the bedroom, or the bathroom, or a room with his favorite things in it. It’s best to be a room with no scratching posts so the bully can stay on the ground. In meanwhile, put the victim in the rooms that are favored and make sure the victim has access to favorite territory spots such as a cat tree or a big window she likes to look out of, or hey, even on your lap.

It’s even better to play with the victim to build up her confidence. But also play with the bully (separated), to get rid of his build up energy and help him release his aggression.


Another option is to reintroduce your cats to each other is there is some serious fear and problems going on.

You can read about how to (re)introduce cats here.


Cats “like” (like is not the right word) it when they can flee from a situation and not fighting. This can be done by putting down cat trees, cat shelves or anything else that can make your cat flee up the cat tree or up in the room to escape from a nasty situation. tunnels, empty boxes or other places to hide in may make your cat feel safe, and if your cat feels safe, his fear level is low.

Photo by Cats in Gloves.

Photo by Cats in Gloves.

Play, Play, Play!

Playing is very important for your cats. It can change the mood and help them to get rid of built up energy and aggression that they else may release on a cat or someone else. If there is some tension in the room between the cats, go play with them, separated before bringing them in together again.

Also see Play therapy part 1 and part 2.

More Tips

  • Reduce the urge to fight by adding more territorial space so the cats don’t have to share climbing, hiding, and perching areas. Create a house of plenty with more toys, cat trees, litter boxes and feeding stations than the cats can use all at once.
  • Avoid rewarding poor behavior.
  • Once the signs of aggression, anxiety, and/or hyper-vigilance fade, begin to gradually expose the cats to each other in very controlled situations.
  • During each session feed (or at the end of the session) cats tasty foods or engage in play. This helps both cats learn to associate each other with fun, positive rewards.
  • Once cats are tolerating each other and are allowed to roam freely, create at least two feeding stations and two bathroom locations and add the 1+1 rule (one for each cat, plus one). Locate them so cats won’t be trapped or surprised when using either.
  • Don’t use squirt bottles or anything like that. Working with something negative against something negative is bad.

What would you do if your cats fight with each other?

The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider

18 Responses to “Aggression, Status & Dominance – Part 2”

  1. hutchagoodlife

    This is really interesting for me, as someone who has never owned a cat. I was just wondering if you could do a post, or maybe if you have done one already that you can link me to, on reading the body language of a cat you don’t know.

    Very recently, two days ago, my brother spotted a cat stuck on a bit of roof. It was calling out and limping so we knocked on some houses and managed to get its owner. Unfortunately she had a young baby she couldn’t leave so it wasn’t possible for her to help. I climbed a partition wall and talked the cat into coming over to me and eventually I did get it down but cats react so very differently to other animals, and I couldn’t read what it was thinking. It’s ears pricked forwards then back and it kept flattening itself as low as possible. Then it was patting at my hand with it’s injured paw. I just couldn’t quite understand it and I would like to.

    The cat is ok now, it seems it had stepped on a nail that went right through its paw but it is doing much better now.

    Thanks for any advice you can give.

    ~ Amy

    • Cats & Co

      I’ll look into it! I think i have done a post about it before, but i’m not sure! But I’ll do some research and see what I can do.
      good luck with that kitty. And a nail through it’s paw? :(

      • hutchagoodlife

        Yep, apparently a board had lifted on the top of the fence. He’s doing much better now but it looked pretty bad so I was keen to get him down quickly


      • hutchagoodlife

        It was, a vet removed it under mild sedation and he has three stitches so it’s not too serious. It’s just the worry about infection at this point. Luckily I’m able to advise on keeping wounds clean as it is pretty much the same for all animals.


      • Cats & Co

        Good! I’m going to look in what you requested tomorrow! :) hopefully it helps and i can find something useful.

    • Tom Duhamel

      You’ve found the right place. Lidia is really good.

      As she didn’t answer, let me try:
      Understanding cats language is very difficult, and you noticed yourself their language is very difficult to grasp as compared to other animals. It’s easy to understand a dog after a while.

      The biggest problem is that cats show little expression in their face, as compared to dogs. They do communicate in ways that are not obvious to humans. In particular, how they move their tail (and it seems their tail is never still) tells a lot about how they feel. Actually, Lidia had a post about it which she apparently forgotten about:

      A cat flattening to the ground is a cat trying to hide. It does not necessarily mean it feared you, they do that as part of games too, though it was probably the case. Ears going back is a sure sign of a cat who is afraid. It’s like they listen for dangers around them while they keep their eyes on you. Patting your hand with his injured paw is new to me, but I’d interpret it as a request for help.

      If the cat came to you, you did well. But some tricks for the future. Don’t look directly at the cat, to them it’s a superiority symbol. You tell them to keep away. Instead, look in a slightly different direction, but occasionally turn your eyes back on them to show an interest. Blink your eyes slowly and frequently, it means you are relaxed and non aggressive. Let them smell you from a distance, for instance put your finger as away from your body as you can so they can smell them. If you can, show them an object with your smell on it, like a hat or glasses, and let them smell it from the length of your arm. They need to smell you to know who you are, but they want to keep a save distance from you. In any case, do not try to approach the cat, let it come to you.

      • hutchagoodlife

        Wow thank you. This is really fascinating. I did my best to be as non threatening as possible and avoided making eye contact for that reason. I never realised how complex cats are until now.

        It sounds like I instinctively did the right thing with some of it which is good. Hopefully it never happens again but at least now I am learning to understand cats better.


    • Tom Duhamel

      We all did these mistakes. Fact is, punishments don’t really work on cats. I learned the hard way. What ever the cat does wrong, it’s better to try to find the reason for the behavior, and work on that behavior instead.

      Is Oscar neutered? If not, there is your reason for the behavior. Unfortunately, I have no idea why some neutered males still do that, I hope Lidia will be able to help.

      • Tom Duhamel

        Oh I went with my basic ideas, I didn’t know you were already working on that one before. An article will be useful once you figure out, people often get rid of their cats for such behavior :s

      • Cats & Co

        Hihi, it’s fine! Oscar is neutered so far i know. :3
        And yea, tho I don’t think Shell would ever do Oscar away! But the bigger the challenge is to find a solution. :)

      • Tom Duhamel

        I didn’t mean she would get rid of Oscar. I mean the information might be useful to others with similar problems, before they get to the ultimate solution. But I trust you you’ll write something nice when you are ready. Good luck with finding that solution :)

    • Cats & Co

      Oh, we used it in the beginning too! I’ll see what I can find in that new book about spraying! It looks pretty promising.


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