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

Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

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Is a vegetarian diet good for cats?

I’m a vegetarian (OK, I do eat seafood) for many reasons, health being one. And I want my cats to be healthy, so is a vegetarian diet good for cats? Turns out I’m not helping them by making them eat what may be healthy for me, but isn’t for them. In fact, a vegetarian diet for cats can be detrimental. Cats like meat, probably because their bodies are designed to digest meat and have nutrional needs requiring it. In fact, not only are cats carnivores they are obligate (biologically essential for survival) carnivores.

Sources of protein in a vegetarian diet

Legumes and beans often provide adequate protein in a typical vegetarian diet for humans. That’s because beans and legumes are high in fiber, folate, iron (when eaten with a source of vitamin C), and complex carbohydrates, plus they’re low in fat.

legumes in vegetarian diet

lentils are a legume
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

A legume

is a type of food that comes from a specific type of plant that is also called a legume. Legumes come from the family Leguminosae, and a trait all legumes share is that they grow in a type of pod. Lentils, soy, peanuts, split peas and clover are all legumes. Legumes are high in protein and not very fatty, so they are generally considered healthy.

is a vegetarian diet good for cats

can of beans
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

and beans

are a seed you can eat. You might love garbanzo beans but detest large, green lima beans. When you order rice and beans at a Mexican restaurant, you get a plate full of deliciously spiced, slightly mashed pinto or black beans. You might plant beans in your garden, vine-like climbing plants that grow pods with beans inside. Coffee and chocolate are both foods that start out as beans.


Phytates and lectins (lectins are sticky proteins) are naturally found in legumes. For cats, this is a problem because cats lack phytase, the necessary enzyme to process phytates. Phytates are also known to bind to minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and therefore depletes them from your cat’s body. This occurs during a meal containing phytates, not subsequent meals that do not contain legumes. But if your cat is fed a steady diet that does use legumes for protein, you should expect health risks.

A large proportion of the total protein in most cheap processed cat food is from plants, not animals. These ingredients artificially boost the total percentage of protein in cat food by manufactures.

cat food labels

cat food labels
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2016


Although manufacturers are required to list ingredients in order of precooked weight, you must read the labels carefully, and learn: how to interpret cat food labels.


Another major problem caused by using plant proteins as the protein source for cat food is that taurine, an amino acid, is missing in plants. Taurine must be consumed by cats, since their bodies can not produce it, and taurine deficiency causes cardiovascular disease and blindness.

Some cat owners believe they can feed their pet a vegetarian or vegan diet, and add a taurine supplement. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of eating nothing but iceberg lettuce and taking a synthetic multivitamin. That vitamin can’t possibly make up for all the nutrients missing from an iceberg lettuce-only diet.

Dr. Becker, DVM

Taurine is the amino acid found in animal muscle meat, especially in heart and liver.

The biological value (BV) of a protein is an important measurement, since it measures the bioavailability of its amino acid content. Proteins from animal muscle meats typically have high BVs, because it’s easier for cats to digest, absorb and use properly. Whereas proteins from snouts, beaks, feet and tails have 0 biological value (BV) because they are basically indigestible.

cat eats animal protein

Toby eats animal protein
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

So my fellow vegetarians, respect that cats are by nature meat eaters, and are designed to hunt and consume animal meat and organs. Corn, soy, rice, beans and legumes benefit the profit of cat food manufacturers, to the detriment of your cat.

Love your cat and feed your cat what is referred to as a “species appropriate” diet.
That means animal protein.
Let’s keep our cats healthy!

Can I teach my cat to be held?

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can I teach my cat to be held?

can my cat learn to be held photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Shelter kitten likes to be held
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Ever gone to a shelter and picked up a cat, and the cat instantly relaxes? Some do, but not all cats will – some just don’t like it. They don’t like being picked up, and certainly don’t want to be held.

What if your cat doesn’t like being held?

Have you said to yourself (and your cat) Can I teach my cat to be held? 

My cat use to hate being held. I’d scoop her up, and she’d immediately start squirming. Sometimes she’d unintenitionally scratch me as she jumped out of my arms. Her name is Marnie, and she’s a rescue. She was three when she joined our family. I don’t know how she was treated by her previous family, but she definitely was neglected: she was skittish and emaciated. And if I were to venture a guess, she may never have been held as a sign of affection. It’s likely she’s been grabbed, swatted at, but held with love? Probably not. I wondered: can I teach my cat to be held? So I thought about how to let Marnie feel comfortable being picked up and held.

can my cat learn to be held?

Can my cat learn to be held?
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

cat learning to be held

Marnie learning to be being held
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

So I started very gradually.

  • I’d simply pick her up and release her – immediately. It was important to let Marnie get use to being picked up.

I wanted her to associate being picked up as non threatening. After a few weeks, she seemed to be less nervous when I picked her up. She was ready for the next step.


  • I’d keep her in my arms for a few seconds, then let her go – before she became squirmy

This was to help her gain trust while being in my grasp; we did that for a few weeks. Then, once Marnie was ready to be held a little longer, we added more time.

  • I held her, releasing her as soon as she got fidgety.

This was to let Marnie feel in control of how long she wanted to be held.

Finally, she let me hold her and purrs.

  • Marnie was relaxed enough to enjoy being held – most of the time!


cat learns to be held - and likes it

Marnie learned to be held – and likes it
photo by s. dunaif©2017




After nearly 18 months, Marnie knows she is loved.




Why does my cat bite me?

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Cat guardians know that a purring cat usually indicates a content cat – love that sound – especially when you’re enjoying quality time petting your cat. But when I’m petting my cat –

why does my cat bite me?

petting a cat

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

The first thing to rule out is pain or sensitivity when your cat is touched in a particular place on his/her body.  A visit to your cat’s vet will determine that there is no skin condition, injury or internal disease making your cat understandably react not to pleasure but pain when being petted.

petting a cat body language

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

OK, so you’re cat is healthy – yay!  But still, why is my cat biting me?  We’re having a relaxing bonding moment, he’s purring, I’m petting him behind his ear, which he always likes – then suddenly chomp. We call them love bites, which takes us by surprise, but usually doesn’t really hurt; our cats aren’t trying to hurt us, and they know how to not break the skin. These love bites are just a way for them to communicate that they’ve had enough, it’s their way of saying “thanks, but stop NOW – it’s starting to annoy me.” Experts on cat behavior refer to these love bites as `petting induced aggression‘.
And that means your cat has been telling you that it’s time for you to stop. But you haven’t been paying attention.

petting a cat flattened ears

petting a cat – flattened ears photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

This is how your cat has been telling you:
here are body language indicators for aggressive behavior in cats

  • Stops purring
  • Tail lashing
  • Tail thumping
  • Skin twitching
  • Shifting body position
  • Meowing
  • Growling
  • Ears in airplane mode or even flattened against the head
why does my cat bite me?

cat looking at my hand photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016


  • Cat looking towards your hand
  • Dilated pupils






So if you haven’t been listening to you cat, it’s love bite time!

why does my cat bite me?

status induced aggression photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016


Another cat behaviorist term is `status induced aggression‘. This can happen when your cat needs to regain control of your petting session, meaning they are the ones who decide how long they want to be petted, not us.

This, we should all know by now, is typical cat behavior.
Cats rule!

my cat likes junk food

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Am I feeding my cat junk food?

Most vets recommend not giving your cat only dry food. It is dessicated, plus most, if not all, dry cat foods have some type of starch in it, which is necessary as a binder. So wet food is better. But there are so many choices. And if your cat is like mine, well, my cat likes junk food.

Toby wonders about cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

What is cat junk food

If wet cat food is better than dry food, what makes it junk food? Some canned cat food is cheap, and the cheaper it is, the less protein it has and the more carb based it is (and other undesirable ingredients) things that are unnatural in a cat’s diet. The proportion of protein and carbs (and other fillers like ash) shifts with the more expense cat food. Ideally, your cat’s can of wet food contains high quality protein, possibly a select variety of vegetables, in small quantities, and perhaps some minimal supplements and not much else. Read labels!
and to learn about cat food labels,  read this: how to interpret cat food labels

less healthy wet cat food

less healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif©2017




My cat likes junk food

So do my cats. They happen to like Fancy Feast, which is bad, but not terrible as far as cat junk food goes. But like any junk food, it’s OK sometimes, but not as a steady diet. So I bought some expensive cans of high quality protein wet cat food, in a variety of brands.
They didn’t eat it. Any if it.

I ended up tossing the rejected food just about every time.

Then I finally figured it out – my guys needed a gradual transition.

Healthy and not so healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

I started by serving dnner that was mostly Fancy Feast with a little bit of the good quality cat food mixed in. Each week, I’d change the proportions, increasing the good stuff and decreasing the junk food, very slowly.

Now they’ll dine on just the high quality wet cat food. Most of the time.

cat likes junk food

Toby sometimes eats the good stuff photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

Then I resort back to mixing the good with the junk.

My cats still like cat junk food, but now they also dine on better quality fare.