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Pets: Baffled by new aggression between pet cats

Q: I have two cats that have lived together for more than two years and have always been friends. Just recently our 2-year-old neutered male has been aggressive toward our 4-year-old female spayed cat. We had our female first, and she has always established that she is the queen. He’s usually her annoying little brother always bugging her to play. We have lived in the same apartment and nothing has changed. He has been going after her for a few weeks now. I will diffuse the situation by talking in a soft voice, playing with them together and petting them together and then they will seem to get along. Then out of nowhere he will swat and hiss. He will chase her and she will come to me for protection. It’s enough to drive us crazy.

Have you heard of this before? Do you think he is trying to establish dominance over her? Do you have any remedies?

A: Decades of keeping animals together has taught me that when two animals are not getting along it is the behavior of the animal getting picked on that you need to address.

Swatting and hissing among cats is more communication among themselves than anything else, and if they do have an argument like this and all goes back to normal then you do not have much to worry about.

If the female cat will eat around the male and sleep and relax around the male then she knows that he is not a threat to her. So if this is the case, just be sure that the claws of the male are trimmed periodically and continue to diffuse the situations as they arise, as you have been doing.

If the female is running for her life and actively looking to avoid the male 24/7, then she knows that he does not have her best interests at heart and you have to do your best to keep them separated.

Years back I had a beautiful Siamese cat named Paulie who out of the blue took a dislike to my Persian cat named Thomas, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Thomas knew that Paulie was out to hurt him and spent most of his time under our bed. We had to end up closing the door to our bedroom, and Thomas had to live there. Every now and then we would lock up Paulie and allow Thomas to come out and socialize with the other cats, but he was always looking out for him. Eventually, he just chose to stay in the bedroom and that was the way it was.

When these situations come up in multiple-cat households, it more often calls for management rather than intervention.


Q: We have had a green-cheeked conure for two years now and he seems to have some issues with toys that we put in his cage. Every time we do it, he freezes up and thrashes about the cage until we take it out. The toys that are in the cage are all chewed up and covered with poop, and we would love to replace them, but we do not want to cause him any stress. Is this natural for a bird?

A: This is not natural behavior at all. In a state of nature there is no animal on Earth that is better at experiencing new things than a bird. Every time a bird takes off and lands it is in a new place with new perches and sights and sounds around it. Mother Nature never asks a bird’s permission nor begs its forgiveness. Birds quickly learn to deal with whatever changes the natural world throws at them and move on with life.

The problem with your bird is that he must not have been exposed to new things enough when he was young so he has no idea what to do in these situations. Of course, if you left the new toy in the cage with the bird and just let it thrash about it would eventually learn on its own that the new toy would not hurt it and thus the problem would go away. But birds are such delicate creatures that it would be cruel to subject it to such a rough therapy.

A much better way is to take the bird out of the room so it cannot see the cage and then just replace one toy with a new one and put it in the exact same spot in the cage. Then put the bird back in the cage in a calm and regular manner. Most likely the bird will just sit there scratching his head about the fact that something is not quite the same but then just shrug it off and go about life as usual. Then one by one you can replace the other toys in this manner with no more of the