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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 48696
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Two weeks ago one of my cats disappeared. She is 10 months

Customer Question

Two weeks ago one of my cats disappeared. She is 10 months old and lived with her sister and me. Two days ago, I received information that she had been found and she was returned to me yesterday. Unfortunately her sister had been adjusting to being the only cat, although she had been quite clingy. Now she isn't accepting her sister, appears not to recognise her and is being aggressive. She is hissing, growling and hiding away. I know she is feeling insecure and can understand why she is behaving like this, but I don't know how to help them both and get their relationship back to where it was.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.

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Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with your cats. It does seem silly, doesn't it? But it's not unusual. Aggression can arise when a cat has been out of the home and then returns (e.g. from a groomer or veterinary hospital stay). This may be due to pheromonal alterations (pheromones are chemicals that transmit information between members of the same species), anxiety or discomfort of the returning cat, or the response of one or more cats that remained in the home to some alteration in how the cat looks, acts, or smells upon its return. There may also be territorial and status issues that need to be re-established, even if the departure has been relatively short. Many of these problems are mild and will resolve themselves over time, particularly if there is enough space, perches, and hiding places for the cats to avoid interactions while they again "recognize" each other and re-establish a compatible relationship. This may take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks for some cats, while on rare occasions the problem may be sufficiently intense to require a formal reintroduction program of desensitization and counterconditioning in much the same way as a new cat is introduced into the household.

You can't force the issue. You can't make a cat like another cat. Formal reconditioning involves playing with, feeding, and rewarding Polly with treats at the same time Sybil is present. This is best done while she's leashed for Sybil's (and your) protection and it involves more than person. It's time consuming, can take weeks and months, and isn't always effective. The most expedient manner in which to address such aggression within a household is often by temporarily restricting your cats to certain sections of your home. They're reintroduced when it appears that Polly's level of arousal has decreased. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.