In a perfect world, your dogs, cats, and other pets would all live happily ever after, playing and cuddling with one another.
In reality, pets don’t always get along. Fighting pets cause more than just chaos and stress in the family; they can potentially be threats to one another’s safety.
That’s why it’s critical to get out in front of the issue and work to help your pets learn to interact in a safe and consistent manner. They don’t have to be best friends, but they do need to tolerate each other.
According to Dr. Valli Parthasarathy of Synergy Behavior Solutions, pets can fight for all sorts of reasons. “Some common reasons are fear, over-arousal, territoriality, resource guarding, and pain. Animals may also redirect their aggression on a nearby animal when they are scared or frustrated about something that they can’t get to.” Dr. Parthasarathy also noted that fighting between pets is a quite common frustration among pet owners.
There are two primary contexts in which pets usually fight.
- Either the first introduction isn’t going too smoothly, or
- Pets that used to get along now have a sour relationship.
Introduction problems generally relate to socializing weaknesses in dogs and cats (and owners who rush the introduction rather than giving their pets space).
Cats are especially sensitive to this. Synergy recommends providing cats with as many food dishes, litter boxes, and toys as possible to ensure they have plenty of room.
Relationships gone wrong can have many explanations, but a common one is the redirection of aggression. A cat or dog gets excited or frustrated with something he sees and can’t get to, then redirects that frustration onto the nearest animal. Cats are more likely to act this way than dogs, though dogs are more likely to defend toys, food bowls, and beds.
It’s also worth noting that sudden changes in behavior can be linked to health problems. If a dog or cat becomes suddenly irritable or aggressive, a trip to the vet is a good next step.
If you do catch your animals fighting, distract and separate them.
Don’t reach into the fight, as you may get injured. Instead, squirt fighting cats or dogs with a water bottle or throw a blanket on top of them. Throwing a glassful of water can also work in a pinch.
Once they’re separated, give them time to cool down before reintroducing them and use that time to determine the cause of the fight so it can be prevented in the future