Behavior Question: 1 of 4 cats Odd "man" Out

  • Hi, We have 4 cats. 2 are siblings (boy & girl), 11 months old, adopted/rescued at the age of about 10 weeks old. The other 2 are 5 years old (boy & girl), unrelated, also both rescues. Here's the breakdown:

    Cleo, 11 month girl sibling

    Notten, 11 month boy sibling

    Whiskey, 5 year boy & Alpha 

    Journey, 5 year girl

    Journey never warmed up to the kittens.  I guess you could say she's more of a loaner type since we first got her.  Whiskey was always the alpha even when we just had the two. Journey spends most of her time upstairs. As the kittens got older and bolder, now it's a daily occurrence that one or the other chases her upstairs when they see her coming down. There are moments of touching noses, smelling eachother, resting upstairs near eachother, and the next moment, all hell breaks loose and they're swating at eachother and Journey's being chased back upstairs. Journey is always the one hissing and growling at the kittens when they approach her. Sometimes she holds her ground on the stairs, sometimes it will be a shared smell, then a swat and chase back upstairs. There have been times when Whiskey (alpha) will chase her back upstairs too. When I feel like she needs a reprieve, I'll put the kittens in a room for 20-30 minutes to give Journey time to roam the house, eat, etc. 

    Now that it's been several months since we've had the kittens, Journey rarely comes down stairs, is always looking over her shoulder, and will sequester as soon as the kittens come in an upstairs room. I've been feeding her upstairs only in the morning. The liter boxes are downstairs. I have multi-cat Feliaway in the house.

    There are moments that I think the kittens want to rush up on her for play time, she runs, and they chase her. Then there are other moments of clear aggression when she's on the cabinet just looking down, and Notten will stretch up and smack her all the while that she's growling at him.

    Is there anything I should be doing differently?

    Can you help me understand the dynamics?

    Thank you so much, Christa

  • Thanks for your question Christa, and I'm sorry to hear about the struggle you've been having here. I guess it is first important to point out that this would not be unexpected. With a household of 4 cats, it is almost inevitable there is going to be some conflict, especially given these backgrounds (2 who were rescued at an older age).


    The majority of cats are actually lone rangers who enjoy their own company. Some cats crave companionship, but more often than not they want their own territory. Asking a cat with this predisposition (like it sounds Journey has) to accept 2 younger cats, is unlikely to end well.

    She is keeping herself away upstairs, which is the sensbile choice for her, to avoid conflict. We should be encouraging this, by ensuring there are separate territories for all cats and they do not have to share any resources (like scratch posts, litter trays or water bowls).


    Allowing her to roam the home at times could be creating more conflict, as the kittens catch her smell and feel she is encroaching on their territory. Ideally, they'd each have their own space to roam. This may mean e.g. using a catio or allowing outdoor access, if practical.


    Things like a Feliway plug in and calming supplements (like Zylkene) can help, but ultimately it sounds likely that Journey is not a cat who wants to share her home. She may not have been socialised well with other cats when younger, and this will just be how she is 'wired'.


    Our job here is to support each cat and provide them with the space and resources they need, but I'd not be expecting them to get along or interact.


    An alternative apporach would be to contact a behaviourist, who can come to the home and assess them all in person, perhaps providing some tips on what else can be done here.

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