How to get one cat to stop chasing and attacking another cat and leave them alone?

Fertix43

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Hello. I'm desperately hoping someone here has some advice for me. Back in January of this year I adopted two cats, who were claimed to be a bonded pair, previously in another home with one other cat and a dog. One is Lola, a tortoiseshell, who when I adopted her was about 2, and the other was Ridley, an orange 1.5 year old, who was found outside by his previous owner. When their previous owners moved, they only took one cat and the dog, and left Lola and Ridley behind, and their neighbor brought them to the shelter. When I first brought them in, there were no real problems. Ridley was extremely timid at all times, but Lola was very friendly with people. Over time Lola was spending more and more time under the couch, and I had just thought she liked it down there. But eventually I started seeing signs that worried me as Ridley gained more confidence. There was one or two cat fights, and occasionally Ridley would spook Lola away from the litter boxes. Ridley is an extremely high energy cat, and very playful, and Lola is extremely laid back, and a bit nervous, so I thought it might just be Ridley being overly eager to play with Lola.

All that changed when I went away for a weekend, having a friend feed and check on the cats while I was gone, and when I came back, discover Lola had peed both on and under the couch. I assume because she was frightened and Ridley wouldn't let her go to the litterbox, keeping her trapped under the couch. Now, for the past several months, I have had them separated by two stacked baby gates into two halves of my apartment, and I rotate them every few days. I work from home, so I try to spend a good amount of time with both of them, but obviously this isn't an ideal situation. I've also been feeding them their wet food dinner on either side of the gate, and even occasionally without the gate, as long as I keep a close eye on them. I've got three feliway diffusers, up from the one I originally had, two in one room, one in the other. Ridley has never growled at Lola, but she's definitely growled at him when he gets near sometimes. Sometimes I even think I'm making progress, when Lola gets somewhat close to the gate when Ridley is on the other side, and occasionally I've even seen them get right up close to each other, though Ridley will half the time slowly stick a paw through the gate at Lola. But a couple times now, if Ridley sneaks through the gate when I open it and I can't catch him, he immediately makes a beeline for Lola most of the time, which results in a frantic chase, a very loud meowing, fur flying fight, and frequently knocked over furniture. I am devastated every time this happens, as it feels like either no progress has been made, or any progress has just been set back by months.

The whole situation is stressing me out greatly, individually they're both wonderful cats and I love them very much and they're very fond of me, but I just don't know what to do. Am I doing everything I can be doing right now? Is this a lost cause? If it really is just a matter of time, how do I know when Ridley is "ready" to be exposed to Lola again? I'm terrified of letting them interact this point, I don't want to keep scaring Lola and doubt that would be productive, but I don't know when or how to try to let them intermingle. Is there any sort of training or deterrent or product or anything I can do to deter Ridley from chasing and attacking Lola? As I'm writing this, I'm still distressed from a fight that occurred a few minutes ago when Ridley snuck through when I was going through the gate. Lola only hid for a few minutes after the fight, but it was extremely loud and they knocked over a chair, and I could hear my downstairs neighbor banging around about the noise. I'm just... so upset and stressed about it. I've been reading as many threads and articles here as I can find (including the introducing cats and fixing a failed introduction articles) but I just don't know what to do.
 

Jcatbird

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This is not a lost cause. Hang in there. It may take some time but let’s do this step by step. First, these cats were left behind. Do you know why? Could there possibly have been a health issue not mentioned? Could there be one now? Stress can often cause a urinary tract infection. If one cat has any issue, the other can sense it and react. They both got left behind which is a trauma and that can be a big factor too. You say it got worse while you were gone? Maybe that is a clue to the root cause. Feeling frightened at being left again. I would definitely want a vet check on both. Take them at the same time so both bring home the scent of the vet office. That can be offensive for cats to smell and if only one has it, the other can react , plus slightly possible they might just feel protective of each other. Slightly. If urine sample is okay and both are healthy then I would say another path can be taken. If Lola did not have a UTI before, she may have one now. Anymore litter box misses?
Trauma affects cats. This may take some trial and error but I have gotten many cats through similar experiences here. The gates are great. Giving Lola a safe place of her own is important. Maybe you need to back track a little. Perhaps stop the room swapping for a little while until a vet check? You can still do scent swapping by switching blankets or by brushing one and then the other and back to the first. Let’s see if this is health, trauma or a behavior issue. By the way, are they spayed and neutered? If not, that tops the list with a vet check. That would explain a lot! With cats it can be three steps forward and two back for awhile so please don’t let it get you down. There are lots of people here with loads of experience and more will come. I am so grateful to you for saving them! Give them time. A lot has happened in a short time. Cats don’t love change. They need adjustment time.
 
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Fertix43

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Thank you all so much for your suggestions and reassurance, I very much appreciate them. I forgot to mention some of the details on what the layout is like. I've had two litterboxes out, and could potentially add a third, but it'd be difficult (it's a two bedroom apartment), and when ridley felt like causing trouble, he'd just wait until he heard Lola scratching at a litterbox and just rush over to it, so I'm not sure a third one would help with that. As for cat trees, I've got three of them, one in the living room, one in my bedroom, and one in my office.

This is not a lost cause. Hang in there. It may take some time but let’s do this step by step. First, these cats were left behind. Do you know why? Could there possibly have been a health issue not mentioned? Could there be one now? Stress can often cause a urinary tract infection. If one cat has any issue, the other can sense it and react. They both got left behind which is a trauma and that can be a big factor too. You say it got worse while you were gone? Maybe that is a clue to the root cause. Feeling frightened at being left again. I would definitely want a vet check on both. Take them at the same time so both bring home the scent of the vet office. That can be offensive for cats to smell and if only one has it, the other can react , plus slightly possible they might just feel protective of each other. Slightly. If urine sample is okay and both are healthy then I would say another path can be taken. If Lola did not have a UTI before, she may have one now. Anymore litter box misses?
Trauma affects cats. This may take some trial and error but I have gotten many cats through similar experiences here. The gates are great. Giving Lola a safe place of her own is important. Maybe you need to back track a little. Perhaps stop the room swapping for a little while until a vet check? You can still do scent swapping by switching blankets or by brushing one and then the other and back to the first. Let’s see if this is health, trauma or a behavior issue. By the way, are they spayed and neutered? If not, that tops the list with a vet check. That would explain a lot! With cats it can be three steps forward and two back for awhile so please don’t let it get you down. There are lots of people here with loads of experience and more will come. I am so grateful to you for saving them! Give them time. A lot has happened in a short time. Cats don’t love change. They need adjustment time.
I have brought ridley to the vet since adopting them, a couple months ago (the little orange dum dum had ripped open one of his toys and started eating the stuffing, which irritated his butt on its way out). He had no UTIs i believe, though Lola had been recovering from one at the shelter when I first got her. She hasn't had any other litter box misses besides that one weekend, and I had used the rest of the special litter I was told to use when I adopted them. I got some color changing litter to check for any urinary issues for Ridley, but I'll try using it again to see if anything shows up for either of them. Poor Lola hissed on sight today after the fight yesterday, which is new and feels like a step backwards, so I've had the door closed completely so she doesn't feel so distressed today.

As for why they were left behind, I don't know, though it upsets me that their previous owners didn't even bring them into the shelter and just left them behind. I think it was likely a dog and three cats was too much for them to care for, but they should have just brought them in, if that was the case. From what I'd learned of their previous life from their neighbor (who conveniently also worked at the shelter I adopted them from), Ridley was extremely timid at their previous home, hiding in an Easter basket in the basement for months. When I brought him home, he spent most of his time under the sink, so I put a cat bed down there for him to curl up in and help him feel safer. He also used to hide immediately whenever people came to visit, but I've been so proud of his progress getting braver, he likes visitors now and rarely hides these days. Unfortunately his bottomless energy and play drive, coupled with this new confidence, scares the crap out of Lola. Nowadays Lola seems more skittish, though it's hard to tell, she was always a little skittish. Trauma seems entirely possible, but I'm not sure how to factor that in to what I've been doing. Even getting Lola more comfortable means little if ridley just makes her afraid of him all over again. OH, and they are both spayed/neutered, yes.
 
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Fertix43

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Oh, right, as for when things got worse when I was away. It's possible me being away upset one or both of them? I do work from home, so I'm only occasionally away from them. My immediate suspicion was that me not being there to shoo ridley away when he was getting overly antagonistic to Lola just allowed him to focus all his energy on her all weekend, with no buffer or break for her to escape. I really feel terrible about every time they've had a big fight, and it feels like ridley's focus on chasing and attacking Lola has only gotten worse, most of the time. It's hard not to feel like this was somehow all my fault.
 

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One thing that might possibly help is if you put Lola's favorite litterbox inside a big storage container and set a cat flap into the container that's controlled by her microchip.
 

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Not your fault! Not at all! I am really thinking some trauma. Not necessarily physical but if they were just left, no wonder they have had problems. Poor kitties. I think there may be a lot of background we can’t know. Perhaps Ridley feared the dog or just that they were abandoned and that happened to cats that were already nervous? IDK but I think that giving Lola a break may help. I would work towards a gradual re introduction. No rush. Let them see each other through the gates but no hurry. Maybe Ridley will miss her? Spending time alone with each one might help reassure. Extra litter boxes or boxes of different heights or types is a great idea mentioned above. If there is no UTI then there are ways to re start the cat relationship. Just know that this is not your fault in any way. You saved them. Gosh. Just imagine being in their position. Scared in their first home, abandoned, put in a shelter with who knows how may others and then being saved but needing time to adjust. Ridley has a safe life for the first time and he may be feeling that he must protect it. Have you tried cat music? There is a lot on YouTube. Some include cat heart beats (sounds like mom cat to them) and cat purring. That is also a comfort mechanism. Try it on them both. Also, can you tire Ridley out with play time? That could help. For some introductions I have used catnip. Given to both while I supervise, it relaxes some but excites others. Watching two nervous cats roll around on the floor together is awesome! If you try that, be ready to keep Ridley from getting to rambunctious. That may be something to try through the baby gates first. ;)I have other tricks I have used but slow and steady. First make sure no UTI or other health issue for either. They are treated for fleas and other parasites as well? One flea can drive my Muffin cat to swipe at others.
 
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Fertix43

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I appreciate the reassurance, thank you! Even separated, they definitely seem to be doing leagues better individually than when I first got them, especially Ridley. (Though he's also become almost TOO confident in the process, haha.) Lola still seems unhappy with Ridley, but before the latest fight, they were doing surprisingly well while the gate was there, and even occasionally when I would feed them their wet food, I'd leave the gate open. Ridley is extremely difficult to tire out, that little orange man has energy for days, haha. But I don't see playing with either of them more as being a bad idea anyway. I'll have to give that catnip idea a try, probably through the gate, possibly if Lola starts feeling safe enough to get close to the gate again when ridley is around. I haven't tried cat music! I'll have to look into that a little, perhaps. Ridley enjoys sitting and watching me play video games, sometimes, so that night be worth checking out.
I also like that idea of a microchip activated box for Lola's litterbox, does anyone have any suggestions for things to look up for that? I'm not sure what something like that would be called, or the parts for it. Thank you again for all the support!
 

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I've been looking for the diy version's tutorial ever since I posted that for you and I guess I'm not using the right keywords. I did find a product which of course is expensive but it does show what I'm thinking of. I'll keep looking 🙂

This is the idea, with venting holes;

Shop for MeowSpace Cat Feeding Stations and Replacement Parts

Ah hah, found what I was looking for. Hopefully I'm posting this correctly;

 
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Jcatbird

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I think implementing the ideas of the box and a combination of the other things may help a lot. Little orange man! Lol I love that. I have a big orange man and two orange girls. The man is very demonstrative He MUST be first in line for everything! The girls are far less like that. My orange man has two brothers and he still finds a way to butt in. Lol
 

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Oranges are always balls of energy :) lAny enrichment you can get him to focus on that's not her is GREAT. Birds outside or on the TV....

Does he have kicker toys? I recommend the flopping fish one as it "fights" back. It's been very helpful at redirecting play energy here.

Make him work for his food too! There's tons of DIY projects for this for both wet and dry. Basically you want him to be so busy doing all the things that he's not hyper focused on her. That plus your play time with him may not tire him out completely but hopefully make him calm enough to be around the other cat and start building positive interactions again.

Then some play time with her to build her confidence.

PS. If catnip doesn't quite cut it, we've had great success with silvervine. Actually both younger cats REALLY like to chew the sticks for enrichment.
 
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Fertix43

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Oranges are always balls of energy :) lAny enrichment you can get him to focus on that's not her is GREAT. Birds outside or on the TV....

Does he have kicker toys? I recommend the flopping fish one as it "fights" back. It's been very helpful at redirecting play energy here.

Make him work for his food too! There's tons of DIY projects for this for both wet and dry. Basically you want him to be so busy doing all the things that he's not hyper focused on her. That plus your play time with him may not tire him out completely but hopefully make him calm enough to be around the other cat and start building positive interactions again.

Then some play time with her to build her confidence.

PS. If catnip doesn't quite cut it, we've had great success with silvervine. Actually both younger cats REALLY like to chew the sticks for enrichment.
Oh, I hadn't thought of silvervine! That might be worth looking into. Both of my cats love kicker toys, but unfortunately only Lola is allowed to play with them these days, because Ridley has monstrous strength apparently, and zero concept of restraint, because he very quickly tears them open, and then tries to eat the stuffing. :p Actually, if anyone has suggestions for extremely durable kicker toys, that would be fantastic, haha. Both of them get their dry food in a little puzzle tray, though for wet food I just give it to them in bowls.
Speaking of birds, for a while I had a bird feeder outside the window that I loved a lot, as did my cats... Until my apartment complex decided they didn't want birdfeeders on decks. Does anyone have any suggestions on alternative ways to draw birds to the deck? I'd consider putting birds on the tv if I weren't wary of them scratching or knocking the tv over when I'm not there to supervise them, haha. Ridley does enjoy watching me play games sometimes, though.
Also, small update on Lola and Ridley; Lola is still more cagey about getting close to the gate than she was before, but she's still willing to get right up close when it's time for dinner, though it feels like she's a little quicker to run away again if anything spooks her. I don't get the impression that Ridley dislikes Lola? He doesn't flatten his ears or puff his tail, and I don't think I've ever heard him hiss at Lola, though he does try to get through the gate sometimes, though unsurprisingly that's more common when I'm on the other side of it. Sometimes he'll be very vocal, and I'm not one hundred percent sure what he's trying to tell me, though I think at least a chunk of that time he's just bored and wants to play. As for Lola, she HAS hissed at Ridley, which isn't terribly surprising if she wants to be left alone and Ridley doesn't seem to understand that. I keep forgetting to add some pictures of them, I'll try to remember to do so next time I post an update.
 

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F Fertix43 I would recommend any Kong toys made for dogs. They will be more durable.

I also use a different coloured oven mitt.

Progress will likely be slow, but it sounds like they are moving forward.
 
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