When my two kitties couldn’t stop fighting, I tried everything to solve the problem. The solution? I let them work out their differences on their own.
For many people, cats are like potato chips; they can’t have just one. I am one of those people. It all started with Garfield, a friendly but cautious Tonkinese who appeared on my back porch one day. I started feeding him, and he began hanging around the house and sleeping in the garage. Soon, he was part of the family. Garfield is a very easygoing cat – his favorite thing to do is sit out on the driveway and play lookout. Though he mostly remains an outdoor cat, he often comes inside to nap on the sofa, especially during the cold winter months.
Two years later, I happened to find a scrawny black and white male eating out of a trash bin. He immediately came up to me and flopped down at my feet. He was still really a kitten. Part of me worried that he might belong to someone, but he wasn’t neutered and looked like he had been on his own for a while. In any case, he was far too young to be fending for himself outdoors, especially near a busy road beside the high school. I couldn’t bring myself to leave without the little guy, so I scooped him up and drove him home.
After the vet confirmed he didn’t have a microchip, I had him vaccinated and neutered, eventually naming him Checkers. He was a bundle of energy and affection, and was particularly fond of playing hide and seek. When he wasn’t doing that, he could usually be found rubbing against my shoes. I kept him isolated in one room for the first few days, but I knew I would eventually have to introduce him to Garfield.
The introduction did not go well. Checkers apparently thought Garfield was a big chew toy, and tried to pounce on him. Garfield responded by hissing and running away, which only made Checkers chase him even more.
Over the next few weeks, I tried every trick in the book. I let the two cats smell each other under a door. I fed them together. I even tried using a squirt bottle on Checkers when he attempted to launch an attack, but nothing deterred him. He insisted on terrorizing Garfi eld and ruling the house with an iron paw. The two of them had peeing contests in the litter boxes. Checkers even climbed on top of the dining table in order to ambush his housemate from above. Poor Garfi eld just wanted to be left alone. He didn’t know how to deal with a hyperactive cat who was several years younger than him.
After awhile, I gave up trying to make the two of them become friends and started keeping them separated, bringing Garfield indoors whenever I let Checkers out, and having them sleep in separate rooms. After about a year of playing this game of musical cats, things weren’t getting any better.
Then one day, Checkers somehow got out of the house while I was gone. I came home to find both him and Garfield on the driveway. Checkers was happily rolling on his back. Garfield was sitting just a few feet away, obviously wary, but calm. I couldn’t believe they weren’t trying to kill each other!
After that, I began putting them together more often, and the game of musical cats became more of a time share. Checkers still tried to irritate Garfield, but Garfield came up with some clever ways to keep his housemate from bugging him. He figured out that if sat in a chair that matched his fur, Checkers wouldn’t even notice he was there. A little camouflage goes a long way! To this day, Garfield and Checkers still have their quarrels, but they tolerate each other most of the time. The experience made me realize that you can’t force cats to become friends; they have to go about it in their own way and at their own pace. Sometimes it’s better to just step back and let them work it out on their own.