We have 4 cats (all desexed):
- Hunter, male, 10 years, adopted 2005
- Ginger, female, 11 years, adopted 2008
- Juliet, female, 8 years, adopted 2007
- Romeo, male, 2 years, adopted 2014
We recently added Romeo to the household (a few months ago, we had another cat, Kendall, who passed in March), and since then Hunter has become increasingly aggressive with the other cats right before meal time.
Before we adopted Romeo, I had only heard Hunter hiss once or twice in his life (and that was when he was startled). I had never heard him growl. Now, both things are a regular occurrence at mealtime.
At first we thought perhaps Romeo was instigating fights or something (he loves to wrestle), but after closer observation we noticed that Romeo would just be sitting in Hunter's sight line and Hunter would charge him, hissing and growling. Additionally, Hunter's behavior is no longer focused solely on Romeo but he also hisses and growls at Ginger and Juliet (who he's never had problems with before).
He seems to start getting cranky 20-30 minutes before meal time, and does not settle down until I've pulled out the cans of wet food (he doesn't seem to be hissy while I'm fixing meals, just stares at me VERY INTENTLY). He's fine while they eat, and often purrs (contentment or anxiety it's hard to tell).
The only way we've been able to calm Hunter down is to feed him earlier, but we don't want to gradually move meals earlier and earlier and end up with breakfast at 3 am! We've tried separating him from the other cats during the pre-meal period, but he hisses at playful paws (Romeo is made of them) and shadows under the door.
When it's not meal time, he's calm and will groom everyone and cuddle like normal. When Romeo or Juliet try to wrestle with him he'll run off, but not hiss/growl.
For meals, we feed wet food twice a day. We give it to all four cats on a single platter that's washed after every meal (Ginger is prone to acne, but we're too lazy to wash 4 plates). We give them dry food before bed in a puzzle toy.
Hunter has been to the vet since this behavior started. He has a chronic sinus infection (he's had it since he was a kitten) and otherwise he's slightly overweight, but healthy.
How can we keep Hunter calm/non-aggressive in the 20-30 minutes before mealtime?
Update We've been feeding Hunter separately for about 2 months. He's now aggressive with all of the cats. He's never had a problem with Ginger (they've lived together peacefully for 5 years) and the other day he looked at her, and she flinched away from him, anticipating an attack.
Feeding Romeo additional food separately seemed to help for about a week, but then it stopped making a difference. Romeo is super thin and Hunter is chubby. Hunter does not need additional food.
If we put Hunter into another room and close the door during meal time, he won't eat, he just cries at the door. We've just been feeding him on the other side of the kitchen from the other cats, and keeping everyone else away from him if they wander over.