Cat Wars: Day 7

It all started last Saturday. I came home in the evening, had some dinner and messed around on the computer. Anne was out of town.

I should have noticed something strange when Signal (the younger cat) was acting oddly towards Pixel (the older cat). He was hissing at him whenever they got close. I figured it was just stress from being alone while we were away for the holidays and again the weekend after for CES. I went to bed and forgot about it.

The next morning I woke to a commotion. I heard Pixel yowling like he does when there’s a cat outside the house. He’s an indoor cat, but he still believes he has to defend “his” turf outside. He does this by yowling, hissing and screaming while pounding on the window in an attempt to scare the other cats away. They usually just stare back at him in bemusement until they get bored and walk away.

This morning it sounded different, like it was inside the house and there was noise that seemed like cats were chasing each other around. They do this all the time, usually in a playful manner. The sounds I heard did not sound playful.

I knew there was something wrong when I entered the kitchen and saw the blood. There were spots of it all over the dining room and on the living room floor. There was an even an area in the kitchen where it seemed to be splattered.

I opened the door to the garage and I immediately saw the problem. The door from the garage to the outside was open. And look who was strolling in casually – Pixel.

We used to let Pixel outside for short bits on a collar and leash. He hated it. He would just skulk around and hiss and yell at us. Then when we brought him back in, he would cry for weeks for us to let him out again. It was no fun. If we let him off the collar, he would jump the fence and try to escape.

Once we accidentally left the door open, but realized it before we went to bed. Pixel was missing. We went outside and called for him, but he didn’t respond. We walked around the block, but couldn’t find him. We went to bed worrying about what would happen to him.

At about 3 am we got our answer with a loud thud at our bedroom window, followed immediately by a meow. It was Pixel, apparently done with his outside excursion. To get our attention he was jumping 3 feet to our window and pounding on it. It worked. We woke up, opened the door and he ran right over, anxious to get back inside.

This time, with the door open all night, Pixel had his wish to wander in and out at his will. Of course, it was an untypically cold night (down in the 20s), so I did I great job heating the backyard all night!

Closing the door, I went to look for Signal. He was in his typical “safe place”, underneath our bed. All cats accounted for, I went to figure out what had happened.

I expected to find a half-eaten bird or squirrel lying somewhere in the house, bleeding profusely, but there was none. The bloody spots all led back to Pixel, licking a bloody paw in the living room. Cats are always sensitive about his feet and this was no exception. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near it. He seemed to have stopped bleeding through, so he seemed OK.

I went about cleaning up all the spots of blood. Clearly he walked all over the place. It was dried, but didn’t seem that old. In the garage, I found a regurgitated clump of grass.

I got a look at Signal and he seemed alright, no blood or anything that looked like a wound. His tail seemed a little wet for some reason. Physically he was OK. Psychologically, he was not.

He wouldn’t come out of the bedroom. When I managed to finally coax him out, Pixel appeared and suddenly the yowling, screaming, and hissing began. Pixel chased him down the hall and out through the cat door into the garage. Occasionally he would try to come out, but then he would encounter Pixel again and they would go at it.

Except for maybe the first week that we brought home Signal, they’ve never acted this way. Pixel, when he gets outside, seems to go a bit primal, screaming and hissing. A few times he’s gotten so crazy that he’s attacked Anne or me. The result of this is that Anne is terrified by him when he gets angry. She’ll lock herself in a room until he’s calmed down.

I think Signal spent most of Sunday night in the garage. When I woke up and checked on him on Monday, I noticed the garage door was open again. What the…?? Was I that incompetent at closing a door? Had the cats figured out how to open it? Nah, I think it was the weather. That door has a hard time closing when it’s hot and tends to pop open when it’s cold. I think it was so cold these nights that it shrunk enough to come right open. The next night was supposed to be cold again, so I rolled a recycling bin right up against it.

I hoped that would be the end of it, but that was 4 days ago, and there’s still no peace in catdom. Signal has moved from the garage into his “safe place” under our bed and claimed it has his own sovereign state. Pixel rules the rest of the house, but does not recognize our bedroom as a state and therefore strolls in whenever he likes. Much hissing, back arching, growling and tail fluffing ensues, often in the middle of the night.

Signal must be brave enough to wander out for food, water and the litterbox. He doesn’t seem to be starving and I haven’t spotted any messes – well, almost.

During one encounter, I found the wall behind where Signal was standing to be wet. Was he trying to spray in the living room, attempting to reclaim his territory? Or did Pixel literally scare the piss out of him? He did this only inches from an electrical outlet. Yeah, it would be just great if the cat burned down the house. I’d end up as a headline in the Odd News section of the paper.

A few days later, right in front me, Pixel deliberately sprayed the same spot on the wall. I yelled at him and cleaned it up. This was not going well.

Now when we come home Pixel, comes out for some attention while Signal hangs out in the bedroom and meows for us to come visit him in the bedroom. He loves when we go to bed, but then Pixel tries to visit as well. We end up literally in the middle of a catfight. I tried throwing Signal into the garage to make sure he was able to eat, but he just cried behind the door, unwilling to go through the cat door in the kitchen and risk another encounter with Pixel.

We still have no idea what happened to make them so angry at each other or how Pixel started bleeding. Pixel seems to be more over it than Signal, but whenever they get close, Signal starts growling. This apparently forces Pixel to defend his honor and begin screaming. Usually there’s a quick retreat by Pixel, since he can go anywhere else in the house.

My hope is that this will last no longer than one more week. Otherwise, we may have to make a difficult decision. Anyone want smart white cat with a bad temper or a playful (but dumb) gray cat?


  1. Oh man, I know what you’re going through. We moved back in October. Before putting the cats in the car, we tried giving them Benadryl. Our vet told us it would be a sedative that would calm them during the drive. Instead, we gave it to both of them and then the male flipped out and attacked the female. We separated them and eventually calm ensued again. We got them down to the new place and settled in for a little while.

    About a month later, the movers arrived with our furniture. We went to lock the cats in a bathroom while the movers did their thing. Once again, the male attacked the female. The two separated and it seemed like they might be okay. The next day, we started putting the place back together. The female was checking out a table when the male came up behind her. She got scared, hissed at him and off they went again.

    That was back in early November. We’ve since had the two separated in different rooms. We spoke with an animal behaviorist who has been helping us out. We started by rubbing socks on each cat and then swapping, getting the two used to the scent of each other. After that went on for a little while, we started having them eat together on either side of a slightly cracked open door. As long as they didn’t hiss at one another, we were clear to proceed to the next steps. We tried to get the two to play with one another through the door. Basically doing things that they liked when they saw each other so they would associate seeing the other cat with good things. Eventually, we started bringing the female out into the rest of the place with the male for short visits. Whenever things got tense, we’d pick up the girl and put her back in the room.

    That seems to be working pretty well, but it requires an exceeding amount of patience. If you really love your cats, that’s my only recommendation…patience.

  2. Please don’t give up one of your cats without trying everything possible first. What if you had two children that ceased to get along — would you get rid of one?

    Here’s some relatively easy things to try first:

    1. If they don’t have separate litterboxes, give them each a litterbox. When there’s territorial problems, having to share a litterbox only makes things worse.

    2. Try getting a Feliway plugin. You can get them at most any pet store, but they’re pretty expensive (you can get them cheaper via mail-order). Depending on the size of your house and where the cats mostly hang out, you may need more than one (the package tells what sq footage per plugin is recommended). Feliway mimicks cats’ ‘it’s OK, this is mine’ scent — that’s the scent they leave on you and the house when they rub their face against a surface. For some cats, this will calm them down enough they can relearn how to behave with the other cat.

    3. See your vet about mood drugs. Essentially, it’s like giving your cat Prozac (in fact I think Prozac may be one of the available drugs). It’s cheap — about 10-15 bucks for a month’s dosage. The cat won’t need to take it forever — like the Feliway it calms then down enough that they can relearn proper behavior. Note that it may take several weeks for the mood drug to kick in (although the cat may be kinda sluggish right off the bat, he should get past that within a few days). If your cat likes treats but not pills, pill pockets work miracles (ask your vet) .

    What Ryan recommends is the “proper” way of working out issues, but you have to be extremely vigilant — if you don’t stick to the program, you won’t get results. It would probably be easier to do in combination with the Feliway or mood drug.

    I had similar situation arise between my two cats (minus the blood) after one returned from having teeth pulled at the vet’s. The one who had her teeth pulled decided that she hated her sister and to this day (almost a year later) growls and hisses when her sister’s in close proximity. I have high-strung purebred cats (I wanted cats that would be really active instead of sleeping all the time — what was I thinking) so neither the Feliway nor the mood drugs have been enough to do the trick. Due to having purebreds (and being a crazy cat lady), I’ve been on breeder mailing lists for several years so have read lots of advice and discussions on problem cat behavior — Feliway and mood drugs seem to work more often than not (although breeders will recommend the process Ryan described in all cases).

  3. Pingback: Glen Campbell » In cold blood?

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