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[Seeking Advice] - Fear-Induced Aggression with Female Siblings

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by Sofikins, Aug 4, 2019.


  1. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    I have two 3 year old female British short hair cats, sisters from the same litter and both have been neutered. Little black one called Haku and a white and black one named Kiki. They have always been close, napping together, bathing each other, playing together etc. Just after some advice or reassurance really.

    There was an incident where Haku knocked a box off the shelf just as her sister Kiki came around the corner, Kiki absolutely hates loud noises, so this terrified her. Haku jumped down at the same time, so landed straight infront of Kiki, she then started hissing, growling, yowling and fled. We thought she was in pain so took both cats to the vet, but got the all clear. Poor thing was not happy to go to the vet, looking back this probably exacerbated her fears. :Facepalm

    It's been 32 days (I'm keeping a journal) and Kiki still can't really tolerate her sister. I'm so desperate, they're my world, they've helped me cope with the grief of losing two very close family relatives and I'm terrified, I do not want to re-home my cats.

    This is where we are at:
    1. They are separated at all times. However, both cats are extremely clingy (especially Kiki) and this stresses them out A LOT. They have ripped the carpets, ruined the doors and meow extremely loud at night constantly. We have tried Feliway diffusers but nothing seems to help. Unsure if this is also contributing to Kiki's issues.

    2. Kiki no longer hisses at the scent of Haku on a clean sock or towel.

    3. We feed them 3x a day together, pretty much nose to nose. However, on the odd occasion Kiki will hiss and walk away. We move the bowls further apart next time and build up the comfort again and repeat.

    4. We use a screen and let them see each other on opposite sides, they are not 100% comfortable with this.

    5. Kiki tried to groom Haku once, they groomed each other for a few seconds. I wasn't quick enough to distract Kiki and after a little while she hissed. I keep kicking myself for not rewarding her for the grooming. :Arghh
    Am I doing the right thing? Has anyone experienced this before? It seems Kiki is just uncomfortable seeing Haku and being too close to her. They both seem extremely distressed being shut away, but they can't be together. I'm at a loss and feeling rather hopeless.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. :Cat
     
    #1 Sofikins, Aug 4, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hello @Sofikins and welcome :)

    I am very sorry to hear of the falling out of Haku and Kiki. Cats as a species are naturally suspicious of each other, and falling out with a sibling or a pal is not unusual. But cats who are the breed of your cats (pedigree British Short Hair) are usually laid back and known for being tolerant and quite forgiving with other cats. So I am surprised they are still not getting along a month after the incident. Kiki must have been badly scared.

    It sounds to me as though both cats want to be together, and miss each other when separated, but Kiki doesn't trust Haku now and is fearful Haku will do something unexpected again and frighten her.

    If the cats are still not able to tolerate being together after 32 days then you will need to go through a slow and gradual reintroduction/reintegration process with them. Please, do your utmost to remain calm and upbeat, because as you are very bonded with your cats they will sense your mood if you are upset or anxious, and it will make them anxious too and the reintegration process will be harder.

    You mention you have a screen door. If this is a mesh screen so the cats can see each other, and smell each other's scent, then it's the best method for reintroducing them in a safe mode so they cannot attack each other.

    A screen door allows the cats to see each other and get the measure of each other in their own time. Be guided by them, do not rush them. Please don't lose heart, I think you will get there, in time.

    Once you reach feel it is safe to allow them to meet without the screen, keep them under close supervision at first and any sign of aggression separate them for the rest of the day. Try again next day. The aim is to give them short periods together and separate them immediately if they are not getting along. Don't allow the situation to escalate into fighting, or chasing, as this will cause a big setback
    in the reintegration process.

    Stop feeding them together in future. Give them separate feeding spots out of sight of each other. Kiki will feel more at ease if she does not have to eat her meals near Haku. You could feed one cat on the floor and one on a shelf or table the other side of the room. This can make a big difference when cats are not getting along well.

    Good luck. Looking forward to some good news in a while. :)

    EDITED to add: I recommend running a Pet Remedy plug in diffuser in the house during the reintegration process. It contains the herb valerian which is a mild sedative. We use it at the Shelter often when we have anxious cats.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pet-Remedy-Natural-Stress-Diffuser/dp/B0043QPL4W/ref=sr_1_5?crid=9A3WQUJGNNZL&keywords=pet+remedy+diffuser+for+cats&qid=1564960756&s=gateway&sprefix=pet+remedy+diffuse+,aps,134&sr=8-5
     
    #2 chillminx, Aug 5, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
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  3. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    The only thing I have to add is to get some Bach's Rescue Remedy for pets. A few drops in the food once or twice a day may help reduce their stress enough so they can start to recover.

    I've had good success with Rescue Remedy for a number of issues, and recently a new one, which involved my two cats not getting along in a strange way. I'll try to keep MY story short since this is about your cats, and I know it isn't likely to be quite such an easy fix.

    A couple weeks ago there was a very stressful incident in my home and my older cat (15 years old) bit me very badly on my arm (with much screaming involved on her part as well) requiring trips to the emergency room and IV antibiotics, the works. I was lucky I acted quickly enough I didn't need a hospital stay, much to my relief, but I was quite ill for some days and needed a lot of treatment.

    Anyway the stress..of the biting incident (she has a bite reflex and works so hard to control it so I have no doubt she was upset she bit me) the coming and going of me at odd hours to the hospital, me staying home sick some days, the care of my wounds, my own distress and pain...it all added up to a very stressful time (sorry to keep using the same word!) and my younger, 9 year old, cat suddenly started harassing, attacking my senior cat, the one who bit me.

    Mazy cat is not only 15 but has arthritis and IBD, and Queen Eva, while smaller than Mazy cat by 2 pounds was knocking her down, rolling her, blocking her from the litter boxes, blocking her from coming back from the litter boxes..it was getting very bad in only a few short days. Mazy cat starting to skulk around scared in her own home, Queen Eva getting more and more bullying.

    I got out the Rescue Remedy and started dosing all three of us (I take the pet's version too because the human version has alcohol in it) Each morning I gave Queen Eva 2 drops in her breakfast (I've learned by experience that is her effective dose) and 4 drops in Mazy cat's breakfast, before I went to work. In the evening I took some myself, so to be calm and relaxed at home. I did this for four days, and the harassment stopped and we are back to normal.

    I realize your situation may not solve so easily, but I think it would be worth adding the Rescue Remedy to the other excellent advice chilminx has given.
     
    #3 lorilu, Aug 5, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
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  4. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much for your reply, I've been feeling so hopeless.

    Yeah it's quite bizarre, Haku is super chilled out. Even with all the hissing and growling she hasn't retaliated, she just takes it bless her. Kiki has always been terrified of loud noises, if we do the dishes in the sink even just the clink of metal she meows in protest and runs away. She's always been a sensitive one.

    I do try to remain calm and happy around them, praising them for sitting opposite the mesh gate and playing with them. But some days, it's tiring, I've only had 3 hours sleep today as Kiki meowed constantly all night, poor thing hates being away from us, but it's for the best.

    Unfortunately the mesh screen is something we wedge in the door with a doorstop, we usually use it for the windows so the cats can't do a runner (we live on a very busy road). I haven't been able to locate a mesh screen suitable for our door frames! If you have any suggestions that would be fantastic. :)

    We are past the point of yowling and howling now I think, it has been quite a while since she has. Kiki just seems to hiss at Haku occasionally and then walk away, she seems to understand now when she's uncomfortable she can retreat into the bedroom and we will shut the door behind her to let her cool off. Would you say hissing is a set-back?

    I'm not expecting them to be the best of friends, I just want them to be comfortable. :Happy
     
  5. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you for your reply!

    Gosh that sounds like quite an ordeal! I hope you recover fully.

    Wow that sounds amazing, maybe if I incorporate it with the gradual re-introduction it may make Kiki less anxious and just take the edge away. Will have a chat with the vet and see!

    Thank you :D !!
     
  6. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    Feel free to ignore me, but I think you've tried the 'total separation' and you need to move forward. I wouldn't see a hiss as a set back. I'd let them stay together unless there is evident continued hostility. Obviously, supervise and ensure they have somewhere to retreat to, and be ready to distract and divert them if one of them 'starts'. If you separate them at a slight incident like a hiss, you may stay 'stuck', and it is clearly upsetting Kiki being separated. It's probably stressful for all of you!

    A couple of years ago my oldest female took a dislike to the youngest boy. I did separate them for a couple of weeks, but it just wasn't practical longer term and it was stressful for him. Like your two, they were absolutely fine eating right next to each other, but if he was walking across the room she would aggressively chase him and he'd end up under a sofa or bed. I did separate them for a few weeks, but it wasn't practical longer term. So I let them stay in the house together (along with my two other cats, who the youngest got on with) as long as I was there to supervise. For some reason, they were fine unsupervised in their bedroom overnight, they just seemed to call a truce. I think it was because they were both asleep/resting so there was no 'trigger'. After several months she suddenly decided he was okay - who knows why!

    But as I say, feel free to ignore.
     
  7. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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  8. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    @Sofikins - if the cats have reached the stage of hissing now and then, you have already made progress and you can build on that.

    I'm sorry, but the way I read your first post it sounded like things were so bad between the cats you were having to keep them separate all the time. I took this to mean they were fighting or Kiki was bullying, chasing or attacking Haku, though I agree you did not actually spell this out.

    If this is not the case then there is no need to keep them apart with a screen door. All you need do is to make sure each cat has somewhere to retreat to, when they want time apart.

    Hissing a bit is OK, it's a warning to the other cat (or to a human) to keep their distance. If the warning is ignored then it may escalate into growling, or spitting as the next stage and then the cats would need separating to prevent a fight.
     
    #8 chillminx, Aug 5, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
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  9. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you for your reply. I tried them together last night and it went somewhat okay, they slept near each other for most of the evening and even shared the windowsill together! There was an incident towards the end of the night where Haku jumped off the bed without knowing Kiki was in her little hut, guess Kiki felt cornered hissed and let out a little growl, we ushered them away from each other and all seemed okay.

    Yeah I think you're right, it's super stressful for them both as they're such affectionate cats and always want to be with us. When you allowed your two together, how did you deal with the aggressive chasing? My two are fine when relaxing or sleeping together and are happy to look at each other from across the room, sometimes they can pass each other and all okay. But sometimes Haku will just walk past Kiki, not close, and she will let out a little hiss.
     
  10. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Ah thank you for your reply, it's good to be told there's some progress! Been so worried about them both.

    I apologise, should have specified a bit more! Kiki isn't attacking or chasing Haku, she just seems uncomfortable bless her, she will let out a hiss and walk away, very rarely she will hiss and raise her paw (this was once in the beginning of the incident). However, she has not actually attacked Haku.

    Is there any way I can help make Kiki more comfortable? She seems very cautious, she's happy to be near Haku when they are relaxing / sleeping, but on the odd occasion, when Haku strolls past her she hisses. I'm wondering whether I should give the rescue remedy a go, just to take the edge off for her?

    Last night we had a lovely evening, I was so happy. They both laid down on the windowsill together and most of the evening they slept near each other. There was one incident where Haku jumped off the bed without realising Kiki was in her hut, guess she felt cornered as she let out a little hiss and then a growl, so we ushered them away. Fed them breakfast together this morning and they were okay again.
     
  11. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    Most definitely. Not all cats respond to it, but it is certainly worth a try. I have had great results.
     
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  12. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    Oh well done - it sounds as if they are doing pretty well! It seems to be similar to what my two were like - when resting, they were more or less at peace with each other.

    I tried to anticipate the chasing, and block and divert the chaser. But of course sometimes they were in a different room so the first I heard of it was the thundering hooves. I'd find him under a bed and her looking pleased with herself. At that point I would move her away from the scene of the crime, and after a minute or two he would come out. So what you're doing really - usher them away from each other and distract. What you're aiming to do is calm things down and lower the stress levels.
     
  13. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Well today has not been a good day! I came home from work and let them both out, all seemed fine they strolled past each other, no worries. Roll on 10 minutes later, we are sat on the bed together all 3 of us, Kiki hisses a little and I have my kitty wand toy on hand for distraction, a few seconds later they both settle down, eyes shut and have a little kip. Haku wakes up and Kiki is not happy, she hisses and swipes Haku. I separate them.

    My other half went to go in the other room about an hour later when he came home and Haku shot in there, crafty little bugger, Kiki hissed and swiped her twice.

    Fed them both together, without a screen and they were fine, both walked away and that was that. So I've got Kiki in here with me, popped the screen up and letting Haku roam around. Not sure if this drama is because I've been moving the other room around to clean (Kiki's safe room).

    Always one step forward and two steps back it seems! :(
     
  14. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    Is that they way you've always done it? Really I believe every cat should have his or her own meal spot, without having to contend with any other cat near by. Just less stress all around that way.
     
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  15. Sofikins

    Sofikins PetForums Newbie

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    Yeah, they've always eaten side by side and even shared bowls. Once they eventually get back on track I will separate their eating areas, just trying to get them to bond with positive things :(
     
  16. lorilu

    lorilu PetForums VIP

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    I don't think forcing them to eat side by side is the way to do it. Eating is a bit of a territorial thing with cats, not really something they might bond over. I really think you'd do better to set them up meal spots on opposite side of the room, or one elevated one not (but not one right over the other!), something like that.

    Even if they seem fine, eating side by side, I suspect there is some stress involved. It's just, up until now, since that's the way you fed them, they haven't had any choice in the matter, so they've adapted.
     
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  17. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I completely agree with @lorilu.

    I did try and explain earlier @Sofikins that it really would be best to stop feeding them near each other. Food is a major resource for cats, and for cats who are not getting along well it can be a contentious issue. Would you want to eat your meals right along side someone you were not getting on with?

    They need space from each other, (even though hopefully you don't need to have them separated by the mesh screen).
     
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  18. Ottery

    Ottery Cat Lady

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    I think you will continue to get a few incidents, some more days than others, you just have to be prepared and go with it as long as it isn't obviously escalating and no one is getting hurt or being unduly stressed.

    I've always fed my cats together. I'm led by what they want - if they are ever unhappy about eating next to someone or in a particular location they let me know. Meal times were one of the few times the female and young male sat happily together during the hostilities.
     
  19. Connor199291

    Connor199291 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi,

    Just wondering if you have any updates on how your cats are getting on yet?
     
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