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A visit to the vet clinic sometimes turns into a cat fight at home, even between otherwise friendly cats. The reason? The cat who left home returns wearing unusual smells and sometimes even a foreign object like a cast or big collar.

Dr. Hazel C. Carney explains that the returning cat is now seen as a “new cat” in the noses and eyes of the other household cats and may be perceived as a threat to their security.

Sometimes owners actually make the problem worse. In addition to the different smells and images, often the returning cat is thrust upon the scene by its owner who sets the carrier in the middle of a room and possibly even announces the return with a chorus of “Poor Fluff had to go to the vet, so we need to show him how much we missed him.”

Cats never naturally announce their arrival at their home colony; instead, proper feline etiquette is for cats to hang around the periphery of the group and slowly ease back in. This holds true even if cats go out to hunt and return several times a day. An owner’s big welcome home announcement creates anxiety in the returning cat—now on alert and ready to defend himself – all a recipe for a cat fight.

You can avoid the potential fight easily, however, if you follow these simple steps.

  1.  Upon arrival at home, leave the returning cat inside its carrier in the car or garage for a few minutes. Go inside. Greet the cats who remained at home, feed them a small treat in a room away from where you will bring Fluff into the house. While they are enjoying the snack, quickly rub each with one clean dry towel.
  2. Next, put this towel into a remote room where you plan to release the returnee. Very quietly exit the house and re-enter the house with the returnee, ideally by a different door, and take the carrier to the remote room. Let out the returning cat, rubbing him with the towel briefly. Hide the carrier and drop off the scented towel somewhere closer to where most of the cats are resting. When Fluff “shows up” sometime later, the other cats will likely act as if Fluff had been stuck in a closet or was just taking a long nap. Even cats that are not good buddies are the less likely fight if you use this technique.

For more information on the feline health and behavior services Dr. Carney offers, please click HERE.

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