7

Background:

I have had a cat since he was a kitten about 8 years ago, about 4 years ago I adopted another male cat of similar age hoping they would play together and be friends when I started my job. They mainly ignored each other but do sleep near each other and seem to in general just exist in the same space. About 3 years ago I moved from a 2000 ft2 (186 m2) house into a 800 ft2 (74 m2) apartment and then 2 years ago I moved into a 800 ft2 (74 m2) condo. Through all of this my two cats seem to have been fine with me and each other. About a year and a half ago my girlfriend moved into my condo with her much smaller younger female (2 years). Things went OK, mostly the small female stays up on a network of shelves we built for the cats, but she can come down to eat, drink and use the litter.

We have been using Feliway since the small female moved in.

Change:

About a month ago things have gotten significantly worse, with my cat's attacking the small female when she tries to go to the litter on her own. We recently went on a trip and when we came back, there was a large number of fur piles from one of the males and the female and one of the shelves where the female hangs out had both urine and poop on it (it seems like she wasn't able go down to the litter).

Questions:

Does anyone have any ideas about what might have changed? Why it got worse all of a sudden? Does anyone have any ideas on trying to make it better?

3

Lots of things can cause a shakeup in the social hierarchy of a group of house cats and lead to new or worsening fighting. Some examples are, a change in health status of one of the cats, moving to a new home (or even new/rearranged furniture), a change in living conditions (like number or type of litter boxes, humans getting busier so attention is more of a scarce resource), or stress. Possibly even having the routine of the house changed by your trip could trigger the cats to try to renegotiate the terms of their cohabitation. A free roaming, stray or feral cat moving into the area can also cause a disturbance if your cats can see it through a window or glass door.

The bickering may settle down on it's own in a few days, or may be the new normal for your cats.

The main thing to maintain peace between cats is to have all the cats fixed (de-sexed), and to reduce resource competition as much as possible, by having plenty of water bowls, toys, scratching posts, litter boxes, high resting places, sunny resting places, etc. If you have a ground-level unit and outdoor cats nearby, using deterrents to keep them away from the windows can help reduce the stress to your house cats.

3 cats in 800 sq ft is going to remain something of a challenge, since there's only so many places to put cat gear, but ensuring that the female can always get to important resources (litter box, water, scratching surface) without being cornered will help to at least alleviate the symptoms of the problem.

If fighting persists, you can also try getting the cats checked by your vet to rule out health issues (I would at least take the female, since eliminating in the resting place is really not normal, and may be a sign of illness) and adding more shelves to provide her freer above-ground movement and escape routes.

Also make sure that all the cats are getting plenty of active, interactive play time. Tired cat is a happy cat.

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