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3 year old brothers suddenly fighting - help!

(24 Posts)
BritabroadinAsia Wed 12-Oct-16 16:00:25

My two boys are 3 years old, neutered and exclusively indoor cats (we live in a high rise, with plenty of indoor space but no outside access).

They've always been fine together until now, and we are seeing what is either territorial aggression or maybe fear related aggression type behaviours - it's horrible!

Have vet appointment booked to rule out any physical cause of distress and am reading up on what to do but wondered if anyone has had experience of this, any strategies that worked, and what the eventual outcome was?

I've just read a really depressing article on the Animal Humane Society website which suggests that permanent separation may be the only answer, so any advice will be much appreciated.

cozietoesie Wed 12-Oct-16 16:11:45

Has anything at all changed in the family routine or environment, recently?

BritabroadinAsia Wed 12-Oct-16 16:50:20

Yes - my elder daughter is studying away so they might be missing her, and i've been travelling away from home more too. DD1 is particularly close to the 'victim' cat. Do you think this might have triggered the aggressive behaviour in the other brother, though?

cozietoesie Wed 12-Oct-16 17:11:46

I don't know. Cat society is pretty mysterious - and can be uncompromising. (If you have someone weak, or weaker, you don't necessarily look out for them. You might well have at them to ensure they stay down. sad) They're great lovers of routine and calm though so it's possible that the household changes have upset the balance in some way.

I think you're right to vet them first though, just to ensure that there isn't something physical contributing to the ill-feeling. (In either cat.)

BritabroadinAsia Thu 13-Oct-16 11:21:25

Thanks, cozietoesie - I do think your theory is correct. At least they are now calming down when separated (after what felt like hours of yowling by whichever cat wasn't in the same area as me!) and the 'victim' is comfortable enough to be sleeping on our bed as opposed to the highest perch he can find. It's just so horrible to see them entirely unable to be together without aggression, after years of brotherly affection... sad

cozietoesie Thu 13-Oct-16 11:52:37

Interesting. Sleeping comfortably on your bed is one heck of a 'statement' to make from a cat who is supposed to be the 'victim'. wink I wonder if you've slightly misread the balance of power?

In any case, it looks as if it's down to the temperaments of the two of them now. Perhaps they'll take a tumble to their behaviour and calm down? (I'm a tad wary after the ongoing Cold War between my old Seniorboy and The Lodger - which was getting worse rather than easing off - but I'm sure that cats can make the necessary accommodations if their personalities are right.)

Good Luck. smile

ayeokthen Thu 13-Oct-16 11:54:56

I don't have advice, my two late boys (brothers) always got on. I've just adopted a brother and sister who are 18 months and he's picking on her a bit. Previous owner said they didn't used to, so I'm watching with interest to see if I can pick up any advice on how to help them. I'd be gutted having to separate them.

cozietoesie Thu 13-Oct-16 12:24:06

Have they separate places to go if they want to be alone? (A high place is ideal.) And do they have lots of activity?

(I'm assuming they're both neutered.)

Nelleflowerpot Thu 13-Oct-16 13:53:33

My mothers rescue cat was one of 2 brothers who were sent for rehomeing. They had major fall out and couldn't live together. Cats protection separated them and rehomed both cats into separate homes (one to my mum) and both thriving as single cats. My mothers is swaggering around and seems very smug with his single cat status and a poor dog to bully. I have no advice but I do know it is a common problem. Are they spraying also?

reallyanotherone Thu 13-Oct-16 14:03:29

IME 2-3 is the prime age where they become independent.

I had two cats- same happened. Got on fine until they hit about 3 then the territorial behaviour began. Still slept together, washed each other etc, and had reasonable territory (outdoor cats), but my house was small and they couldn't get their own space.

The pissing everywhere was awful. If both cats were in the same room they'd start spraying up the walls, the TV, everywhere. They shorted the electrics 3 times.

We tried everything. In the end we split them, and once we did that it was obvious how unhappy they'd been. They both had long, very happy lives as only cats, and all the unpleasant territorial behaviour stopped.

BritabroadinAsia Fri 14-Oct-16 01:35:35

Thanks for all the messages.

They are in two separate areas of the apartment, each with high spaces and are fine on their own and with us but still again this morning very aggressive together. I have swapped their 'territory' over so they don't become too attached to a particular space.

I think the more passive brother is feeling relaxed only when he knows the door between the two of them is shut - the minute he thinks his brother is around he becomes incredibly defensive.

Unfortunately the one who is not allowed in the bedroom areas at night is miaowing loudly in protest causing disrupted sleep for us (and possibly, heaven forbid, my upstairs and downstairs neighbours, although no-one has complained yet).

They are both neutered, which is why this came a shock - no spraying, thankfully, just hissing, yowling and attacking.

Looking at the responses here I'm now feeling pretty worried that this isn't going to get better, but will continue to keep them apart for the moment. Fingers crossed!

MsMims Fri 14-Oct-16 01:55:20

I would pop a feliway in each area, and keep them separate while there's so much friction. Not siblings but one of our older cats got a bit harassed by the younger ones, zylkene given to the bullied cat gave her so much confidence and the more she stood up for herself the more the others backed off. It isn't a drug, you can buy it without a prescription.

Is your less dominant one standing up for himself at all, or just running off scared? Can you pop the dominant one in a pen/ cage so once they've had some time apart, thet get used to sharing the same space without being able to scrap?

BritabroadinAsia Fri 14-Oct-16 10:36:57

Thanks MsMims - those are great ideas! Keeping them apart for the moment is the only way forward right now.

Don't know if Zylkene is available here, but I am back to UK at the end of next week and presumably could get it at Pets at Home etc?.Will ask the vet when we see him on Monday too.

Less dominant cat is hissing and lashing out when his brother comes near him, and is very defensive. We don' have a cage, but I'm sure I can track one down from someone who has done puppy training (although dog smells might open a whole new can of worms!), and will be a way of reintroducing them to shared space without the possibility of an attack.

Anyway, thank you all for your input - it's much appreciated.

cozietoesie Fri 14-Oct-16 11:41:50

It may be that they've always coexisted but didn't really like each other deep down - and that the changes in the household have brought this to the surface. It might be fixable e.g. with some patience, Feliway and Zylkene but it might be that having fallen out, they're not going to get back on terms. It's really down to them, I'm afraid. Humans can be quite similar - once they conceive of a dislike for someone, just their presence irritates them sometimes. (Let alone their actions.)

BritabroadinAsia Mon 17-Oct-16 05:01:01

Saw the vet this morning and he is happy that they are both healthy and well. They had some vaccinations which meant they were both slightly on the back foot - and in his opinion a good time to keep them together.

We are currently trying to be in the same room as them both (DD2 on half term from school and I'm working on the laptop at the dining table so we can facilitate that). The vet's view was very much that separation is unsustainable and stressful in itself, which I have to say I can see - whichever cat isn't where we are feels aggrieved! He thinks that this is a fairly natural 'phase' of one asserting dominance in response to household changes, and that drawing blood notwithstanding, they should actually be allowed to sort it out themselves.

We are going to try Feliway too, and making a loud noise in response to the hissing but keeping them in the same room. Two minor confrontations so far, but they are both relatively calm and relaxed at the moment with us in here, so we shall see!

cozietoesie Mon 17-Oct-16 08:52:02

Well that doesn't sound too bad at all, really - and good news that they're both healthy and well. They have a long history of getting on - so if they can just fall back into that with a bit of time and understanding?

Fingers crossed anyway. smile

MaddyHatter Mon 17-Oct-16 11:38:13

my two who are 1 and 2 are going through this right now, as the 1yo has reached adulthood, there has been some arguing that i have just put down to them re-establishing the dominance and territory as he's started trying to assert himself, and the 2yo who is bigger and heavier is having NONE of it.

one of the things i was told was that if they're fighting with fluffed tails, they mean it, if tails are calm, its just either play fighting or dominance issues.

The couple of times they've been fluffed, i've intervened and distracted with play.

You could do some work in confidence building and distraction with getting them both to play near each other, get the victim to play in the middle of the room so he's owning his space.

Watch the aggressor, if he looks like he's focusing on the victim, distract with play.

Make sure there are beds and blankets around that they can claim as their own, having lots of ownable territory can help!

cozietoesie Mon 17-Oct-16 11:49:28

Good ideas, Maddy. smile

ayeokthen Mon 17-Oct-16 11:56:43

The tails thing is interesting, it should have occurred to me but weirdly didn't. Our two went at each other this morning, the boy tried to get into the girl's hidey hole and it went down like a lead balloon! But their tails were normal, so I'm quite encouraged by that. They have loads of wee hidey holes and beds all over the house, most high up as suggested on here (thanks).

BritabroadinAsia Wed 26-Oct-16 13:57:20

Update - sadly, there has been no improvement. We have tried the great ideas above, thank you to all for the suggestions. Both have plenty of their own territory, high places and hidey-holes, and we have tried to create calm relaxed scenarios in which to try to keep them in the same room, but so far to no avail.

I'm currently back in UK visiting DD1 and am going to get hold of some zylkene, as it's not available where we live. The Feliway doesn't seem to be helping at all, and the aggression is ramping up now. The vet said his line in the sand would be drawing blood, which has happened on an occasion we tried to to 'reintroduce' them. I read an old thread on here from a few years back where a poster had a similar issue, and she said that zylkene helped a bit, so it must be worth a try.

It's heartbreaking, as they are both lovely with us and used to be so close and affectionate with each other. DH is going contact our vet again for more advice tomorrow (evening now back home). Fingers crossed.

cozietoesie Wed 26-Oct-16 14:32:57

In my experience, Cats who have someone they have come to deeply dislike can sometimes become irritated by their presence even when they're not doing anything offensive - much as humans can. Fingers crossed that the Zylkene will help but - if not - do you have a home for one of them to go to?

BritabroadinAsia Wed 26-Oct-16 17:02:16

Not as yet, no. Really don't want to have to re-home one, and then can't imagine choosing which one goes... Was hoping a family member here in UK might say they would take one (have been discussing the problem) but as yet no-one has offered to help out if it comes to that - I suppose I thought that then we would still see whichever cat had to go. I know we might need to engage with this more seriously soon...

Oh my word - am now feeling really sad having typed that. sad

cozietoesie Wed 26-Oct-16 17:32:46

No need to feel sad yet. Maybe the Zylkene will work?

BritabroadinAsia Wed 26-Oct-16 23:37:36

Thanks for the support, cozietoesie - you're right, we will try the Zylkene. And maybe the vet will have some more ideas too.

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