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Why Do Cats Fight After Vet Visits? How to Stop Cat Bashing

by | Sep 13, 2023 | Cat Behavior & Care, Sponsored & Reviews | 0 comments

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off, and Kitty no longer fears the carrier and handles the car ride with almost no signs of fear, anxiety or stress. Kitty purrs and cheek-bonks the veterinary technicians, and barely notices the doctor’s exam through all the petting and tasty treats. But as soon as you get home, Kitty’s former feline friends snub him, or worse. Why do cats fight after vet visits? What’s up with all the cat bashing?

cats fighting after vet visit

Creating a fear free experience for cats doesn’t stop after the veterinary visit. Fear, stress and anxiety often develop when a cat leaves home, and then returns. That’s upsetting and hurtful to pet parents and the returning cat, as well as the whole clowder. You can reduce the chance of cat bashing, though, with these tips.

cats fighting after vet visitWhy Cat Bashing and Cat Fights After Vet Visits Happen

Friendly cats identify each other by sharing a common communal scent. By sleeping together and grooming each other, their individual scent-ID intermingles. That familiar smell acts like a club membership that says, “I belong to the family, I’m safe.”

A long absence, or even brief handling by strangers, changes the scent identification. That can lead to cat friends acting out with aggression. All those technicians and doctor pets leave foreign smells on the fur, and medications also may change the aroma. So when the absent Kitty returns, the other cat-friends don’t recognize him and react to the weird smells as though a strange cat has trespassed into the home turf. So they do their best to chase the interloper away.

cats fighting after vet visit

Meanwhile, the returning Kitty reacts defensively to the cat bashing. And as long as the former friends remain aggressive, they can’t get close enough to share family scent and return to normal friendly status. The stress, anxiety and fear build and become worse, the longer they’re allowed to continue. Cats being treated for illness that travel back and forth to the vet may repeat this cycle repeatedly. Here’s how to address after vet visit cat bashing.

Stop After Vet Visit Cat Fights Bashing

One easy way to reduce the chance of cat bashing is to take all your cats to the clinic at the same time. That way, they all smell the same when they return home.

If you can’t take all the cats at once, give the returning Kitty some alone time upon returning home. A half day shut in the guest bedroom gives him time to lick-lick-lick away the weird hospital smell, and lets you pet-pet-pet him to reestablish your familiar smell. A time out also lets him calm down from the excitement of the carrier/car/clinic combo, so he’s less defensive.

cats fighting after vet visit

You can re-share the “family scent” more quickly, using a dry clean hand towel. Rub it over the other cats, especially Kitty’s best-friend companion, and pay particular attention to the cheeks. That picks up the friendly-cat pheromones, which can then be rubbed over the returning Kitty to help reestablish communal family scent.

cats fighting after vet visitIt also may help to apply a pleasant, strong-smelling scent to all the cats in the home. That makes them smell the same and helps distract them from being aggressive or defensive. Perhaps use a bit of chicken broth or water from the tuna can. Rub it on your hands and then pet each cat’s neck. That also means they can’t reach the spot to groom it off, and need the help of other buddy-kitties to mutually groom—and refresh the communal safe scent they recognize. Find more tips in my book MY CAT HATES THE VET.

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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!

 

 

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