Best Cat Buddies Acting Like Strangers

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, offers advice in case of cat who was lost and found, and at-home cat who won't accept her.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: November 13, 2009, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: I have two cats, Stella and Quincy, who were best buddies. They would cuddle and lick each other a lot. Stella went missing for 11 days, and when I got her back, Quincy started acting like he didn’t even know her. He keeps hissing at her.

Is it possible that he’s forgotten who she is after 11 days?  She was stuck 50 feet up in a Ponderosa pine tree for five days, and the person that rescued her from the tree kept her for another six days while trying to locate the rightful owner …me. Stella did lose a lot a weight and the vet shaved her neck and chest because it was matted with tree sap. Do you think Quincy doesn’t recognize her now?  She doesn’t look different.

A: Quincy doesn’t recognize Stella because in addition to looking different with her new stylish haircut, she doesn’t smell like her old self. She not only smells like tree sap, but she also smells like the vet clinic. Stella may seem familiar to Quincy, but her smell and new look are confusing and strange.

The type of aggression that Quincy is displaying toward Stella most commonly occurs when a cat in a multicat home comes back after an appointment with the veterinarian, smelling like the vet clinic. The stay-at-home companion kitty doesn’t recognize his buddy. She may be visually recognizable, but she smells funny. Smell is a very important way that cats define and relate to their world.

There are a couple of ways you can help Quincy recognize his buddy again. If the aggression is mild, gently massage and pet Quincy with a soft towel. Then take the towel and pet Stella with the same towel, transferring Quincy’s scent on her. Stella will then smell familiar to Quincy.

I recommend this same course of action whenever a cat comes home from the vet. Before letting the two cats be together, massage the stay-at-home cat with a towel and then pet the cat who went to the vet with the other cat’s scent laden towel.

If Quincy is displaying severe aggression toward Stella, then consider reintroducing the cats to each other, starting with pheromone exchanges twice a day. The goal is to encourage good feelings between the cats by having them share activities they enjoy, while they are separated from each other. Pheromone exchanges, feeding them on both sides of the closed door and encouraging them to play with each other under the door are samples of activities that will help Quincy relate to Stella as his buddy again.

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Reader Comments

sherri    mammoth lakes, CA

3/22/2015 5:22:05 PM

My mail cat went to vet and got his teeth removed when we brought him home my other cat is still hissing at him so this makes sense I tried rubbing him down but didn't stop it so if I rub her to maybe it will stop I hope so they are best friends have grown up together thanks for this I will give it a try.

Annamarie T    Swarthmre, PA

11/23/2012 7:00:41 AM

My problem has been that my 6 yr old Britt (female) for no reason likes to pick on my 4 yr old Addison (female). I have 6 cats. Myles and Eden are the brothers of Britt, and then I have 1 yr old Sage and Seth. Somehow Britt likes to chase Addison at times or ruff her up but I stop it when I'm home. I let Britt know I don't like it and then chase her out of the room. She seems to know when I get displeased with her. She'll come around later for my love and I never reject her love. Britt has always been a Mama's girl and when the triplets were 3 years old I brought home adult cats Asher (12 months old) and Addison (16 months old). Asher was the friendly one and Addison always the timid one who never bonded with the triplets. She was always afraid of them. Then Asher passed away due to diabetes and no insulin of any type seemed to help him. Addison was close to Asher. Then when Addison was left without her best friend, the triplets picked on her. They went back to all being top cats. I had to get two new kittens for Addison to bring her happiness back. She would only stay in a corner and sleep all day and just get up to eat or go to the litter box. It broke my heart so I added to the family and Addison is very happy and plays with the new brothers in the house and has more freedom. Except when Britt for no reason likes to pick on her. Yet sometimes they sleep in the same room. Maybe I'm the reason for Britt's behavior because she may want Mommy just for herself. I give them equal love and sometimes Britt gets more because she craves so much from me. Thank you.

CatChannelEditor    Irvine, CA

6/13/2012 9:39:25 AM

Our cat behaviorist, Marilyn Krieger, has written about this topic a few times. Here is one example: LINK You can find more articles on this subject by entering your concern keywords in the search box at the top of the page. Good luck

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

6/12/2012 4:45:45 PM

My biggest problem is that several months ago we adopted a stray hanging around the neighborhood. He is very aggressive and is an outdoor cat. Our 7 year old declawed inside cat and him hate one another. They hiss at each other through the screens. Bob the outdoor cat has been neutered and my inside cat is spayed. Does anybody ha e any suggestions on what I can do to allow them to get along better?

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