by Barbara George – Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
This article looks at defining conflict between cats in a multi-cat household. We look at the reason for conflict and the types of conflict. Since each situation is different, some or all of these may be noticed, and may vary in intensity. Conflict can also occur between cats and other pets, cats from other homes, or between cats and people.
Instinctively, cats are solitary animals; they do not have a concept of pack or family. Each cat is responsible for his own food and safety; all cats in a multi-cat household have the same intention, to own all the resources in the home. Resources include food, litter trays, favourite beds, people, quiet places to rest, and freedom to roam. Not all the cats can own everything, which is where the conflict arises.
Domestic cats do socialise with other cats, but do not depend on them for survival. Each cat is individual, and will get along with other cats based on their personality and behaviour.
Once conflict has occurred between two cats, intervention is required to resolve the issue. Cats do not have the social skills required to reconcile their differences. Their communication language is designed to keep other cats away, in order to avoid conflict, not to make friends.
There are three basic types of conflict; offensive, defensive, and re-directed. Offensive conflict can be likened to bullying; the aggressor cat intimidates other cats. Defensive conflict is when the defensive cat is the one who moves out of the path of the aggressor. Re-directed conflict is where the defensive cat in turn becomes the aggressor to a less threatening cat.
There are other instances of aggression between which are not conflict-related; aggression arising from play, petting, noise, outside triggers, or pain.
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