what to do if your cats fight

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If your cats are not getting along

Then what? Here are some suggestions: what to do if your cats fight.

Toby is over twelve years old. He lost his younger sister (not blood siblings) February 2015. He missed her, so we knew we needed another cat – for him and us. Marnie was three when we brought her home: an adult, but still young enough to be quite playful, and keep Toby active. Which for the most part, works. But not at first.

what to do if your cats fight

Toby & Marnie stare down
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

Dr. Jill Sackman, head of behavior medicine service at BluePearl Veterinary Partners suggests understanding cat relationships in the wild. Usually, family groups are close, but once a cat goes on their own, they are likely to be solitary. Solitary cats are also territorial, so if another cat ventures into their turf, chances are, a stand off will occur.
Domestic cats likewise view their home as their territory. So needless to say, if an unknown (or new) cat appears on their turf, they will protect that turf. This also can apply to being possessive of food bowls, toys, or a person.

When we first brought Marnie home, our newly adopted three year old cat, she and Toby had intense staring contests.

cats stare down

Toby & Marnie having intense stare down
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

Some hissing, plenty of growling. And this was after nearly a week introducing their scent, seeing each other, and eventually meeting; it was a very gradual process. Even so, Marnie was trying to assert herself and claim some territory while Toby defended his turf.
Signs that your cats aren’t getting along range from the obvious to more subtle

  • hissing, scratching
  • growling
  • stare downs between the cats
  • nudging a more submissive cat away from their food/water bowl
  • the more submissive cat leaves when the dominate cat arrives

We saw all of the above between Toby and Marnie, except not the scratching part. We did notice that if Marnie was sitting with us and Toby appeared, Marnie would leave. We wanted to remedy that, we wanted to have two purring cats, both of them hanging out with us.

what to do?

If your cats really get into an actual fight, of course our reaction is to STOP it! Maybe by yelling, clapping or even using a water gun or all of those.  But according to Dr. Sackman, “This could just make things worse.”

Instead, she suggests the following

  • Take a deep calming breath and insert an object like a large piece of cardboard between the cats. This creates a gentle but impenetrable barrier between the them.
  • If the cats are locked together, pick one up by the scruff, which will force him to release the other cat.
  • Keep the cats separated for a while to let them cool down.

Dr. Sackman explains “Every time your cats fight, the relationship gets worse.” In addition, she says “The longer the fights have been going on, the harder it is to correct the relationship.”

How to help your cats get along

Trying to fix a bad relationship between cats takes time, space, and tons of patience. These suggestions are also great when introducing a new cat in your house.

  • Put the cats in separate areas with their own food and water dishes, litter pan, and climbing spaces.
  • Make sure to spend plenty of quality time with each cat in their particular areas.

First, let the cats share scents. We got two socks, took one and rubbed Toby with it, especially around his head. Then left Toby’s sock scent with Marnie in her area. We did the same with rubbing Marnie with the other sock and left the sock with Toby. Another suggestion is to feed the cats at the same time on the opposite sides of a door, which enables them to associate the other’s scent with something pleasant, like dinner. This is good to do with treats, too.

Continue the scent swap by mixing their used litter together, Dr. Sackman says.

Finally, swap the cats: put each cat into the other cat’s area. That way, each cat has an opportunity to completely adjust to the other cat’s scent.

Now, your cats should be ready for a proper introduction. Start by placing the cats on opposite sides of a screen or baby gate. This way, they now smell and see each other, while maintaining a barrier.

When you can see that they are not freaking out, it’s probably time to remove the barrier.

Now that you and your cats are in the same room, give each cat lots of love and attention, while the other cat watches. This is intended to give another positive association: being with each other, the cats get good stuff, like affection, praise, play, treats.

How to maintain a good relationship between your cats

shelter cats getting along

cats at ARF(animal rescue shelter) hanging out
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

Continue to provide each cat with her own food and water dishes, play space, and litter pan. This will most likely be permenant. It is with our cats. Cats need places to climb, but they also need their very own secure den, these are spots where a cat can feel safe and comfortable enough to lounge and sleep.

it’s possible that your cats may never like each other, but at least you can help them tolerate each other. If you’re persistent and lucky, your cats may eventually play. Like Toby and Marnie.

cats getting along

Toby & Marnie playing
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

cat grooming Love Your Cat videos

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cat grooming Love Your Cat chapter 1

Love Your Cat videos are a series of five chapters, each chapter covers various topics about cats. Just released on my kitty care youtube channel, is cat grooming Love Your Cat chapter 1, which has great tips and information from Gerry, a professional cat groomer.

Gerry shows you how to clip your cat’s nails, and what the ” quick” is.

love your cat video cat grooming

Gerry with Perky
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Gerry has suggestions on how to groom a short haired cat.

cat grooming short hair cats

Gerry grooms Toby, a short hair cat
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016

Gerry demonstrates how to handle your cat while grooming her/him.

cat grooming Love Your Cat

Gerry drying Perky after his bath
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016

Gerry loves her cat Perky, and loves taking care of him, which includes cat grooming.

cat grooming chapter 1

Gerry and Perky
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016

Watch cat grooming Love Your Cat chapter 1, so you too can keep your cat healthy, beautiful and happy!

gift wrapping and cats

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 cats love gift wrapping

The holidays are fun for all! Which means, of course, cats love it too. Maybe they get toys for Christmas, or treats on Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Gifts are a big part of how we celebrate most holidays this time of year – gifts that have to be wrapped. So when you take out the rolls of wrapping paper and ribbons, keep an eye on your cat. If you notice your cat too interested in the ribbon – get it away from your cat! Ribbon, string or anything like that for that matter, could be very dangerous for your cat if they ingest it. So wrap your gifts, play with your cat, but keep them safe and make sure ribbon that they play with doesn’t get chewed on and swallowed.

Christmas eve or Christmas Day, whenever you and your family unwrap your gifts, that is also when you must watch your cat playing and possibly chewing and eating discarded ribbons.

Happy holidays to all two and four footed creatures!

cat film festival New York City 2017

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Cat Film Festival at The School of Visual Arts 2017

Rejoice New York City cat lovers! Lucky for us, the first annual Cat Film Festival happens December 9, 2017 at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. But not to worry if you can’t attend the festival, here’s a peek into sharing our love for cats at the NY CFF. The festival is organized into two programs, screening documentaries, fiction, and fun quirky films.

WHERE: The School for Visual Arts Theatre – 333 West 23rd Street (Between 8th & 9th Avenues)
WHEN: Saturday, December 9th 2017 at 3:00 PM & 4:30 PM

  • 3:00 PM “Nobody Owns a Cat” (70 minutes)
  • 4:30 PM “Little Works of Art” (68 minutes)

    The two programs screen completely different films – each program a medley of films celebrating the cats we love so much, in varied environments and situations.  To have the full Cat Film Festival experience you’ll want to see both programs – which are appropriate for everyone in the family.

PROGRAM #1 “NOBODY OWNS A CAT”  (70 minutes)

Pure Fluff (5:00) Sean Skelton’s documentary sketch of a professional cat groomer, who shows how it’s done.
Winter Break
(5:00) Rick Hamilton
Enjoy this funny story of a preschool teacher who has only her cat for company during winter break.

Jetty Cats, Sheila O'Rourke

Jetty Cats,  Sheila O’Rourke

Jetty Cats (56:00) Sheila O’Rourke
A sweeping overview of cats throughout human history, while exploring the contemporary debate about Trap-Neuter-Return as the best management for community cats by looking at a long-surviving feral cat colony on a seaside jetty in Southern California. Here is a 3 minute 38 second trailer for Jetty Cats

Cat Film Festival Amulet by Jeff Malmberg

Amuleto by Jeff Malmberg


Amleto (2:00)
Jeff Malmberg’s visual “poem” to the morning ritual of a Tuscan cat.






Rescue (2:00) Lava Sheets

Cat Film Festival Rescue, Lava Sheets

Rescue,  Lava Sheets


Ms. Sheets self-portrait of the isolation and depression of being disabled, imagining the consoling thoughts of her devoted kitty, Apple Brown Betty.




Akamatsu the Cat (10:00) Ian Christopher Goodman

Akamatsu the Cat, Ian Christopher Goodman

Akamatsu the Cat by Ian Christopher Goodman
photo by Ian Christopher Goodm

Documentary about life with a disabled kitty cat,
Akamatsu, who was hit by a car and paralyzed
but went on to live another 4 vibrant years with the use of a wheelchair.





Portrait of a Cat Fighter (4:00) Graceann Dorse

Portrait of a Catfighter from Graceann Dorse on Vimeo.
Ms. Dorse’s mockumentary spoof gives a funny peek at what a New Jersey “cat fighting ring” run by mahjong-playing old ladies might look like. (who run their own non-profit cat rescue in Los Angeles) examined the community cats living in the iconic Buenos Aires Recoleta cemetery, and what became of the cats removed by well-meaning American rescuers.

Gus the Cat (5:00) Lisa Donato

Gus the Cat, Lisa Donato

Gus the Cat, Lisa Donato

Ms. Donato’s quirky film about Gus, who seems to think he is a cat and can hide his identity from others, although the people around him can see right through his mask.

Mittens from Kittens (4:00) Kim Best
This documentary showing how one woman’s nusiance cat fur is another woman’s inspriation to spin and knit it into useful items.

Scaredy, the Cat (8:00) Markie Hancock’s heartwarming documentary about a very shy cat who avoids everyone where she was adopted – at the tennis courts in NYC’s Riverside park- except for a few choice people whom she eagerly greets.

Little Works of Art (13:00) Also by Kim Best.
Ms. Best looks at  Harold “Cat Man” Sims’ and his self-styled American Museum of the House Cat in Sylva, NC, which houses over 10,000 cat-related objects and honors cats as “little works of art.”  In addition, it supports Sims’ own no-kill, open space cat shelter and adoption efforts.

NY Cat Film Festival™ was founded by Tracie Hotchner, a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate.

Tracie Hotchner, the NY Cat Film Festival Founder & Director

Tracie Hotchner, the NY Cat Film Festival Founder & Director


NY CFF is “an exploration through film of the fascinating felines who share our lives, creating a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains.”







Tickets for the NY CFF are $15 for each program
The NY CFF will give back to the animal welfare groups that keep cats protected and healthy. In New York in particular, the NY CFF will be giving back to a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, the NYC Feral Cat Initiative.
NY Dog Film Festival happening the next day, December 10, at the same SVA Theatre, with showings of two films at 2:45 and 4:45 pm.

thanksgiving foods you can share with your cat

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sharing Thanksgivings dinner with my cat

I am thankful for many things, including my cats. So, while I partake in our family Thanksgiving feast, I’d love to share it with my cats.  But what is safe for them?

Foods that are definitely NOT safe for our cats are

  • Processed foods
  • disjes that have onions, garlic, chives or leeks
  • bread and bread products
  • butter
  • dishes with raisins and grapes
  • sugary foods, like yams with marshmallows
  • all desserts

So what’s left?Thanksgiving food for cats

  • roasted turkey: I rinse the meat to make sure there is nothing but plain turkey meat. Remove any bones. It provides high quality protein.
  • apples: provide fiber,  vitamin C. and antioxidants. However,  be very  CAREFUL that your cat never eats the core or apple seeds. The seeds contain cyanide, which is very BAD for your cat.
  • cooked carrots: high in fiber and vitamins. Raw carrots are hard for cats to digest.
  • Broccoli: contains healthy fiber, rich in beneficial nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and vitamin C; has anti-inflammatory properties; supports eye and heart health
  • sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene and antioxidants, and high in vitamins A and C. Sweet potatoes with purple flesh have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk from heavy metals and oxygen radicals.
  • green beans are a source of vitamins A, C and K. They also provide calcium, copper, fiber, folic acid, iron, niacin, manganese, potassium, riboflavin and thiamin, as well as beta carotene.
  • spinach: anti-inflammatory properties and supports heart health.
  • pumpkin : a great source of fiber, vitamin A and antioxidants. Can help both diarrhea and constipation. Make sure to feed your pet either fresh pumpkin or 100 percent canned pumpkin — not pumpkin pie filling.

We suggest a small amount of safe human food mixed with your cat’s regular food; just make sure that it doesn’t contain sugar, spices, salt or butter. Finally, avoid offering food from your plate at the table, because even cats can become “beggars”.

happy Thanksgiving to all! 😺