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I really need some help and advice. I have two cats and a dog. This morning, my dog was with me in the kitchen and one of my cats ran up to him and started attacking him. It just turned into an all out brawl between my three animals, since my other cat decided to join. It took a lot to finally separate them and both my dog and I came out with some nasty scratches. We’re both fine, I’m going to take him to the vet.

I honestly don’t know what triggered the cat to attack. But I have them all separated in different rooms. The cat that attacked is my sister's cat, the other cat is mine. My sister's cat is fine with me now, but my cat is terrified of me. Every time she looks at me, it’s in complete fear, her tail fluffs up and she gets into a defense pose. She and I are extremely close, and she’s never reacted towards me this way. In her two years of life, she’s never been scared of me.

I decided treats would be a good way to get her not to be afraid. As I fed them to her, she was totally fine. I was able to pet her and she showed no signs of fear. But when the treats were done, she became afraid of me again. Her tail fluffed up, her pupils dilated, and she once again got into a defensive pose. I decided to leave her alone in a different room to give her space.

I really don’t want our relationship to be ruined, I would be devastated. Can anyone give some advice on how to approach this? This happened 40 minutes ago and I want to fix this and start mending this problem as soon as possible. For now, I’m leaving her alone for a few hours, and check up on her and see how she is after a while. Sorry if some things don’t make sense, I’m still shook up because it was a bad fight.

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    my gf's a vet nurse and we discussed similar situations before: when animals get startled by anything, they don't really know what started the situation but they assume that everyone present in the scene has some responsibility. You can have two cats next to each other and then a noise scares them, they look at each other and both assume the other one is responsible. As C.Koka's answer says: give space and time, don't force it, things will get back to normal – Thomas Oct 11 at 11:45
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    @Thomas It's interesting, no other answer mentions this explanation, I think it is valuable, if you want you could expand a little by composing solution to the problem with your own words, post it as an answer and I will vote on this. – lila Oct 11 at 12:43
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    @lila, ok, let me write it in a more elaborate answer – Thomas Oct 11 at 12:45
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    You have too many animals in the house - too many is always bound to give rise to friction. When you are working, you won't know what happened between them, and that could have changed their behavior - unknown to you till now. Having a "bipolar disorder" in the cat will be my last resort - unlikely hopefully. – Peter Teoh Oct 11 at 16:00
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This is a very common question on this SE and it makes perfect sense.

The cat for some reason is traumatised by your action. You might have stepped on his tail, or she might just be upset because you defended the dog. It doesn't necessarily mean you did something bad, it is just impossible to relay the reasons behind our actions to the cats.

The good thing you need to know is that animals don't hold grudges. Even the most abused animals might start trusting their owner back, so I am very confident that your relation with your cat will be as good as it was before. Keep in mind that just like you are still shaken up, so is the cat. It might just be a few hours before she cools down, so there is a good chance you won't need to do anything.

The most important thing is not to rush the process. Just like patching up your relation with a human, you need to give the animal some space.

Starting with the treats was the best approach. Don't overindulge your cat with treats though because they will be detrimental to her health.

You might want to refrain yourself from touching the cat. Ask for your cat's consent before you touch her by extending your finger to her nose. If she smells your finger, it means she allows you to touch her. Never pick her up until you fully regain her trust. Cats do not generally like being picked up.

Do the lazy cat blinks. The meaning of lazy blinks is disputed whether it is a smile, kiss or just a statement of non-aggression, but whatever it is, it instils trust in the cat.

Try to offer some toys from time to time. Keep your distance if your cat still distrusts you.

I hope this helps.

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    I guess the real question is how to patch things up between the dog and the cat. I would suggest you ask it as a different question. I never had a cat and dog live together so I am not qualified to answer it. – C.Koca Oct 10 at 12:57
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    Yes, I'm going to keep them away from each other for now. the cats don't like my dog, they will swat at him from time to time, but never this. Thank you for all the help! – Fleurdejune Oct 10 at 13:02
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    I went in since she was crying, to make sure she was okay. I brought some extra food to see if she was still hungry and she rolled around and rubbed against me. She's still very skittish, so I'm giving her all the space she wants. Definitely not touching her unless she wants it. But she seems a lot better now. I'm taking all your advice and using it with her. I really appreciate it! – Fleurdejune Oct 10 at 13:06
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    There was a recent study about people slow blinking to communicate with cats. It agrees with your statement that it instills trust. Check it out if you're interested: people-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/people.com/pets/… – Kat Oct 10 at 23:11
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    "animals don't hold grudges.", Unless, of course, your pets include crows :') – Gizmo Oct 12 at 6:51
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My girlfriend is a veterinary nurse and this is a situation she has seen and we've discussed it on several occasions.

All animals are always on the lookout for danger. Even the most domesticated pets that led a house bound life since birth will have that natural behavior.

When an event startles them, like dropping a plate on the ground in the kitchen, they suddenly get on high alert and decide what to do. Pack animals will look at what the others will do to incorporate that in their decision making.

Since they may not be able to identify the source of the potential danger, everyone present is a suspect.

The example is two cats sitting next to each other and something falls near them: the next thing they know is that they're scared and there is another cat that doesn't look peaceful right next to them. They can associate that cat with the source of of danger.

Sometimes cat fights are triggered by totally unrelated events that startle them and they 'defend' from the other cat.

This means a cat can become scared of you for exactly the same reason.

In these situations, a lot of patience is required. Since communication is non verbal, they'll take any attempt from you at getting closer to them as a higher threat, reinforcing the problem. The best is to give them space and time; usually they don't hold these fears very long with humans, but for some reason it can be a lot longer with other cats.

In the animal world, bringing food to others is something very important. So you can let the cat be safe wherever he wants to be and just bring food for him within a distance and the problem will resolve itself.

As a funny anecdote: last year I was watching a TV show with my cat and suddenly there was a large noise outside (something from a construction site). My cat immediately got alert and then looked at me to see my reaction? if she could speak, I swear she would have asked 'is it ok or should we panic?' :) I was calm and she remained calm.

They react a lot on what the others are doing; a bunch of cats going crazy at the same time isn't going to be a calm experience

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    And you see, it was totally worth expanding - after reading your comment I already knew that people will love it being expanded into a full answer. I just saw, you know, the passion in your eyes ^.^ – lila Oct 12 at 20:32
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    So cats play "among us" when they can't identify the danger :) – C.Koca Oct 12 at 22:55
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One possible explanation of the attack is that something scared your cat and, since you note that the cats “don’t like the dog”, your cat probably assumed the dog was to blame and attacked him in “self-defense”. Not fully trusting you afterward is likely because you undoubtedly have a bit of the dog’s scent on you.

The best thing you can do to help her calm down is to give her a place where she feels safe and, if you can, be in her space but don’t approach her. When she is reacting normally to you again, do slowly reintroduce the dog so she can relearn that it isn’t a threat.

If you don’t already, I’d suggest making sure as many rooms as possible in your home have a comfortable elevated place where the cats can feel safe from the dog without needing to hide or defend themselves. Even if they don’t use them much, your cats will feel more secure in the shared territory just knowing they can escape the dog if they need to. If the cats sometimes fight too, I’d suggest two perches in each room.

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Give your cat time and space. Remember that humans are about ten or more times the weight of an eight pound cat! That's got to be a bit scary.

Some ideas:

  • Slow blinks while extending your head a bit, leading with your nose. It's "I like and trust you" in Cat.
  • Don't stare, that can be aggressive. If watching them and they look at you, do the slow blink.
  • Move slowly.
  • Ask permission to touch them, as others have suggested. Offer a finger or a hand; if they rub then you can pet them.
  • Sitting or laying down may help; less intimidating if the human isn't towering over them or in a position to chase them.

And:

  • Once things have calmed down, when my tomcat starts trying to play-fight or eat my hand or head I know it's time to drag a cat toy for him!

Good luck, and congratulations on having positive intent and asking questions!

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I got my cat one year ago, at first arrival she attacked me multiple times. While I was chasing her around the house, hoping to pet or just to hold her and she would understand that I care about her. She ended up defecating everywhere from fear instead.

A year later she feels so comfortable with me that she can jump on my chest while I am asleep.

I personally was looking at my cat through emotional eyes, like it is some sort of human that understands and will react accordingly. It is but an animal with limited brain capacity.

Thanks.

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    Hi welcome to Pets, this answer makes a good point, could you please include some additional, short information detailing what specifically have you done to make her comfortable and what looking through emotional eyes meant in practice, based on a few examples? Thanks. – lila Oct 10 at 20:39
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    Sounds like you've made huge progress in the relationship with your cat, congratulations! It seems to me that one source of confusion was that cats have different emotional responses. For example they may bond by holding each other down and grooming / licking each others fur, which is something I haven't seen humans do. – Technophile Oct 12 at 3:36
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Firstly don't worry. You needn't rush to correct this. If you try to take immediate action to 'make things okay', the cat will detect your unusual behaviour and be even more worried by it. Just behave absolutely normally but without forcing any attention on the cat and let them get over it in their own time. If, after a couple of weeks there is still a problem then come back and ask again.

Note that you did the right thing in breaking things up - things could have been much worse. Having experience with rehabilitating animals, I would have deliberately dropped a pan on the floor to make a loud noise (or banged two pots together). This way the animals would have associated the fear with an inanimate object and not with you. Fear of sudden loud noises is one that is inbuilt into humans and animals. It's a great way of breaking up a fight.

I agree with the answer by @Thomas and I'll take it a step further.

Animal's logic works without words. I don't know if you've had a similar experience to the following. I once dropped my TV remote control and an instant later their was a loud clap of thunder. The animal part of my brain told me that dropping the remote caused the thunder. It was only because I'm human and could reason about it that stopped me from believing this. Even so I was nervous for a while about dropping the remote! Ridiculous? Yes, but animals can't do the logic. When something bad happens to an animal, they associate it with whatever they are paying attention to at that instant. In this case, that happened to be you. It could equally have been the other cat or the dog or a pan falling on the floor during the commotion.

You will probably find that your cat isn't at all scared of your dog and they could go back to normal. The real trouble maker is of course the other cat. If you and your sister live in the same house then you can't keep them separate. I personally would get a water pistol and spray the cat any time it shows even slight aggression towards the dog.

Good luck and, as I say, if things aren't back to normal after a couple of weeks feel free to come back and ask again.

Please let us know how you get on.

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