Ask the Expert.. Nov Dec 2012

Dr KG Umesh (MVSc, MSc (UK)) is a Postgraduate in Clinical Medicine. He is working for WALTHAM as Regional Associate for South Asia.

Q: My two male Persians get into ego hassles and start battling each other. How do we make them more cordial
to each other and if they get in an aggressive situation- how do we separate them?
– R Ramesh, Mysore
Dr KG Umesh: Cats are territorial creatures and they do like to go outdoors to establish a territory in relation to neighbouring cats. This is far more important for toms (male cats) than it is for queens (female cats). Tom cats may establish a territory which is 10 times larger than that of queens. The territory of a domestic cat will be centred on his own home-base and he will use smells, sounds, scratches and other marks to define the boundaries. The territory of a cat only remains fixed for as long as the cat dominates the area – if another cat arrives on the scene, there may be a confrontation, boundaries may have to be redrawn, and life goes on. Treatment for aggression between cats living in the same household requires separation when supervision is not possible. Treating intercat aggression takes time (sometimes months), so, patience is a necessity. The aggressor is banished to a less desirable location (for example, spare room) while the victim is allowed free range or access to favourite locations. The aggressor can be fitted with a harness or collar and bells, allowing both victim and pet parent to hear the aggressor at all times. At the first sign of aggression, the aggressor should be startled using the mildest stimulus necessary. The stimulus (for example, calling his name) used to startle the aggressor is meant to interrupt and distract but not to terrify the cat, as fear can increase aggression. Reintroduction is gradual and supervised at all times, with you vigilant during these sessions. It is also important to provide strictly indoor cats with a stimulating environment that includes playing and searching opportunities, hiding places, and high perched resting areas. Neutering and medications to controlling undesired behaviours are other options.