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We've made a few attempts to get our cat to co-exist with my brother's cat, which is home for the summer. Both are neutered, ours is male, his is female. They're both rescued off the street and approximately the same age (male is ~9 months old, female ~11 months old).

However, after some attempts and recent behavior, where he reacted with extreme aggression and panic at a cat he saw a couple of buildings away, we're starting to think that his behavior is specific to cats. Around people, he practically never becomes this agitated. He might hide if we bring the cage out and he likes to play rough, but he never seems to feel panic around people, getting comfortable with them relatively quickly.

When he sees my brother's cat however he panics. There's hissing and after a while attempts at aggression. My brother's cat is very calm, she never hisses at him or paws with her claws at him. In fact, last time they met through an opening in the door, enough for paws but no more, she lied down close enough for him to almost be able to claw at her, but when he did she didn't panic, just avoided the clawing. Besides being in a room that he normally can use, she's done nothing to provoke him (and he's friendly with my brother who is in the same room anyway). In the past she barely paid him any mind. They still play under the door though and he isn't aggresive when they do.

Other instances, such as hissing when he sees cats across the street, far away, make us think he might have been chased or attacked as a kitten by older cats, probably ones he felt he could trust and thus built a deep fear and distrust for other cats.

We feel my brother's cat is probably ideal for him to get over this, in time, but I'm not confident this isn't just some sort of male dominance behavior.

Is it normal for cats to be universally aggressive and apprehensive around other cats, even when they are far away and/or non-threatening?

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Cats are not like dogs, who will generally want to hang out together after a short intro (especially when they are as young as these cats are). They are more territorial and wary of stranger cats. If they are together from a very young age they can bond very well and quickly, but after that it takes a lot more introduction time.

My advice is to go slowly with limited access to each other. They will eventually get used to the other cat being around, but will probably never be buds. My cats (15 y.o. and 7 y.o.) coexist, but you'l never see them snuggling together. There was a lot of hissing and some mild fighting in the beginning, but they got used to each other after a few weeks.

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Information we've read recently and the male cat's behavior overall seems to confirm that this is probably the case. Dan S's and my own initial suspicion are still possible in my opinion, but this seems to be the general case and I want to close this question, so I'm picking this as the answer. –  IvyLynx 14 hours ago
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This is not "normal" behavior especially for a young cat (which should be more "plastic" than an old cat) but it not unheard of either.

It isn't necessarily him trying to express dominance either. My gut feeling is that he is irrationally afraid of other cats. You know the other cats aren't threatening but he doesn't. Your cat could be traumatized by some incident, or just be very skittish about other cats (maybe he has a depression / anxiety issue that causes him to be that way).

My "kitten", who is actually at least 16 years old, seems to feel threatened by cats she isn't used to. This could be a result of the third cat we got who regularly tried to intimidate her and my "baby" into leaving. My "baby" (who is very skittish with people but not other cats) eventually figured out that the third cat was a "paper tiger", but my "kitten" was so irrationally afraid she never did. A fourth cat we got was greeted with much fear by my "kitten" (who interprets her play over seriously). Gradually I am teaching the fourth cat not to play with my "kitten" and likewise I'm getting my "kitten" to feel less threatened by her... it is a slow process though.

I don't know what is going on with your male cat, I am only making guesses. Maybe your vet can give anti-anxiety medicines that could help him. Maybe it just requires time and supervised visits (reward the female cat for her good demeanor, and try to soothe the male cat).

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While I do consider this a really good answer, I picked jalynn's because it is more likely to be true in the general case and likely to be true here as well. After a few more attempts to get him used to my brother's cat, he's grown unafraid of her and the situtation has switch - he's now intimidating her. So it is possibly not peculiar behavior (although that is obviously not discounted). –  IvyLynx 14 hours ago
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