Four cats in a small house living with four dogs seems impossible, but everyone got along. Sure there were times when Chloe, the Chinese Village Dog from China would chase a cat and get a mouthful of fur. But for the most part, the dogs respected the cats and the cats loved each other.
In fact, the three male cats would lie together on the bed in our bedroom every night as can be seen in the above photo. Of the three cats, two were siblings. Blacky and Nugget had been trapped as feral kittens at the not-quite-young-enough age of four months. After neutering and vaccinating, they were deemed too uncivilized to become indoor cats, but would prove that initial decision wrong. After several months of being fed twice a day, the kittens seemed to lost some fear of humans. Their feeding station moved into the garage, they were given treats and lots of slow petting, and they moved inside. Ten years later, they perched on laps and loved to be petted.
The third member of the male group was Natty, a cat who followed a college sophomore home one rainy night. He was around six months old and as sweet and friendly as could be. We surmised that he had grown up in a frat house and was then kicked out. He chased balls of paper and rolled over so his tummy could be rubbed. He came into the animal-filled household with no issues. He got along with the dogs and all the other cats.
Recently, when Nugget seemed to groom himself less frequently, and appeared to have lost a bit of weight, we knew a vet visit was needed. But he suddenly became very ill, and we let him go when he was diagnosed with severe kidney disease that had already robbed him of any peace or semblance of well being. He was suffering and miserable.
The timing on Natty’s changed behavior was less obvious than Nugget’s. Was he beginning to hiss at Blacky before Nugget died? Or was it after Blacky lost his brother that Natty began to hiss while lying next to Blacky on my lap in bed? Here are two pictures taken less than a month ago of the two black cats together.
The changed behavior started slowly. Natty began hissing while lying side by side next to Blacky on the bed, and he’d issue a few of those menacing cat cries that stopped when I chided him. But one night, Natty flew at Blacky, attacking him. When Blacky ran out of the room and into the living room, Natty followed, hissing, crying and scaring everyone in the house. I managed to get one of them away — I can’t remember which one — and immediately separated them.
After Natty got a clean bill of health from the vet, we kept the two black cats separated, bought cat pheromones to try to help, and thought about how to reintroduce them. All the cats seemed to stop eating — or eating a lot less than they previously had. Getting the extra litter box, keeping the cats apart, and trying to entice them to eat was stressing out everyone.
Natty still has been hissing when he sees Blacky during the process of switching the cats out to the isolation room, the currently unused second bedroom. Natty hates being in there and the first night tried to claw his way out through a screen window. It’s winter so the window was closed, but that screen will need replacing come spring.
Blacky doesn’t mind being in the room as much, and I go in there as much as possible to lie on the bed with him and give him some attention. But tonight, after over a week of cat separation, there was an incident that caused me to worry that the two cats will never get along.
I went to switch the cats and put Natty into the isolation room, but when I held Natty in my arms and opened the door of the bedroom, he hissed ferociously. So I put Natty in my bedroom and closed the door, got Blacky out of the “cat” bedroom and put Blacky in the bathroom. I then put Natty in the “cat” bedroom. Natty seemed to be scared and hissed over and over as I put him in the bedroom.
I don’t think it’s fair to just keep one cat in the bedroom and let the other have free range in the house, so I have been allowing each cat freedom for half the day and a stay in the “cat” bedroom for the other half. Maybe switching them out is causing them more anxiety, but I was told that they should be exposed to each other’s smell, so it seemed to make sense. I’m not a cat expert.
I am at a loss as to how to proceed. Keeping the cats apart indefinitely isn’t an option. The bedroom we are using for the isolation room is set up for a foster child, for which we are now officially approved. Neither of the cats are really happy and are not eating as much as they should be.
We’ve only had the pheromones plugged in for three days. Will that make a difference if we give it more time? What are we not doing that we should be doing? Has anyone gone through this who can give details?
There are websites which discuss keeping the cats completely separated so they don’t see each other. I have a very small house and that isn’t possible. They also talk about treats and feeding them close to each other. My cats aren’t interested in food — of any kind — right now. There are also four very curious and active dogs who are always around.
Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance! Please feel free to comment below or reach out through this site.