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Ask the Doctor November 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor - Housemates suddenly feuding

Letter to Tufts Veterinarians

Q We’ve had our cats from kittens, for 11 years, male and female. The male, Tommy, has always bullied the female, Lillian, a bit — pushing her away from food, chasing her on occasion, etc. But it’s never been excessive and we’ve made sure she has a safe place to go and access to plenty of food.

However, all of a sudden, Lillian is going bonkers at the sight of Tommy. And I mean suddenly — one minute she seemed okay, and then wham! Hissing, yowling, chasing. We have had to shut her away because she is behaving in such a wild manner.

Tommy, on the other hand, acts normal. Lillian behaves normally with us, but goes insane if she sees him. It’s been two days now. Thanks for your advice.
Eileen Mulroney

A Dear Eileen: It sounds as though something negative happened between Tommy and Lillian, and this negative encounter has now caused Lillian to become fearfully aggressive toward Tommy. Lillian and Tommy may have gotten into a fight in your absence and you are now seeing the repercussion from that fight.

Separating them for now is the right way to go in order to allow Lillian some cool down time. When you do allow them to see each other, pair the encounters with something positive such as food treats or some canned cat food meals. If Lillian’s distrust doesn’t dissipate over a few weeks, you may need to seek the help of a professional cat behaviorist.

A behaviorist will guide you through a more systematic approach to desensitizing Lillian to Tommy’s presence so that your two cats can live in peace once again.
Nicole Cottam, MS, ACAAB
Behavior Service Coordinator
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine

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