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Rebuilding cat friendship is a process, but it can be done.

Rebuilding cat friendship is a process, but it can be done! Photo CC-BY Jennifer C.

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have two kitties name Bo and Peaches. I’ve had Bo for around three months. I noticed he seemed extremely needy at times. I started a new job being gone most of the day for a few days in a row. I thought it would be a good idea to get him a friend, so we adopted our female kitten, Peaches. At first they seemed to get along perfectly: Playing, grooming, cuddling, etc. Then, a few weeks ago Bo started hiding and becoming less active. I took him to the vet and found out he has an ear infection and fever. I got both of those sorted out, and now he seems very healthy again. The problem is, he won’t come near Peaches anymore. She tries to play with him and he cries like she’s hurting him. He hides from her, and every time he can’t get away from her he will come sit at my feet until I pick him up. He seems very unhappy. I’m not sure what to do. What went wrong?

Might I add, Peaches doesn’t like us (humans) very much. She’s not lovable, and she doesn’t allow us to pick her up for more than a few seconds before making a terrible meow and jumping out of our hands. She even scratched my face a week ago. She’s definitely more dominant than Bo, but I do want to work on it. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much.

~Mckenzie

Thomas: Well, Mckenzie, it’s not uncommon for cats to freak out a little bit if their friend comes back from the vet. But rebuilding cat friendship is possible.

Bella: First of all, we can guess that what happened is that when Bo came back from the vet, he smelled different, which probably stressed Peaches, and this is most likely why their relationship may have suffered.

Tara: The most important thing to do is to mingle their scents so they start smelling like one another again. There’s an easy way to do this: simply get a washcloth or a sock and rub it over Bo. Then get another washcloth or sock and rub it over Peaches. You’ll want to focus your efforts on the area around their faces, because this is where they have a lot of scent glands.

Thomas: Then, what you’ll do is rub Peaches’ washcloth on Bo, and rub Bo’s washcloth on Peaches. Then they’ll both have the same smell, and the tension should get lower.

Bella: Another thing you can do is get a feline pheromone diffuser and put it in the room where they spend most of their time. We recommend Feliway Multi-Cat, a new product from the makers of Feliway Comfort Zone. (By the way, we don’t get any money if you click this link; we just share links to products we’ve used and that work!)

Tara: It’s worked in our house, that’s for sure!

Thomas: And you can find it at pet stores or online retailers.

Bella: The next thing you’ll want to do is what we call play therapy. Using interactive toys, you’ll want to get Bo all excited and get him into hunting mode. Let him catch the toy on the end of the string and then have fun chasing it. Regular daily play sessions will help to rebuild Bo’s confidence.

Tara: You’ll also want to play with Peaches, but for different reasons. For Peaches, what the playing will do is get all her chasing and hunting energy out on something that can’t be harmed. When Peaches is calmer, she’ll reduce and hopefully stop her stalking and chasing of Bo.

Thomas: Another benefit of playing with Peaches is that you’ll strengthen her bond with you. She may never be a lap cat, but if you get her tired out and play with her every day, she’ll probably start to get closer to you.

Bella: Of course, when she does, don’t force attention on her. Let her get close to you on her own time. You may find that once she settles in and feels like part of the family, she does start being nicer to you as well.

Tara: In conjunction with the play therapy, you’ll want to reward Bo and Peaches when they behave nicely toward each other. If they have a favorite treat, give it to them when you see them being kind to one another. What you’re doing in rewarding them is to positively reinforce the “good” behavior of getting along together.

Thomas: The process of getting Bo and Peaches to get along again will probably take some time, so be patient and keep on playing with them and rewarding the good behavior.

Bella: One more thing: You need to make sure you have plenty of space for Bo and Peaches to occupy. Cat trees, beds, window seats and the like will ensure that each kitty has all the horizontal and vertical space they need to feel like they can stay away from each other until they’re getting along again.

Tara: Having separate litter boxes is also a good thing, and preferably you should have them in two different rooms. This will defeat any potential “resource guarding” by the more dominant cat: After all, Bo needs to have a place where he can pee and poop in peace, right?

Thomas: That’s right. And that’s why Mama has three litter boxes in three different places. I guess I’m kind of a resource guarder, especially with Tara. After all, she’s my love kitty, but she doesn’t know it, which is why she runs away when I chase her.

Tara: Well, if you weren’t so rude about it…

Thomas: I’m sorry, Tara. I’m just so excited to see you and I really want to be your friend!

Tara: Well, Mister Man, you need to slow down a bit. When you were gentlemanly, I let you touch noses with me and even lick my head, but now that you’re chasing me around, well, I’m not having it!

Thomas: I’ll try to be more of a gentleman, Tara. I just can’t help myself sometimes.

Bella: It’s okay, Tara. Thomas is really nice, and he’s a great snuggle buddy!

Tara: I’m sure I’ll get used to him someday. But thank you both for being patient with me.

Thomas: Any time, my love.

Bella: Thomas! I thought I was your love!

Thomas: You’re both my loves.

Bella: Humph.

Thomas: Anyway, Mckenzie, if you scent swap, use the pheromone diffuser and consistently do play therapy with Bo and Peaches, we believe they’ll get along again. Please let us know how things turn out.

Bella: What about you other readers? Have you been able to rebuild cat friendships? How did you do it? Please share your answers in the comments.

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