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I Use a Baby Gate to Stop My Cats From Fighting at Night

Dusty, a 20-year-old newcomer to our kitty-filled home, has it in for Sassy. Yet peace reigns.

 |  Dec 19th 2012  |   9 Contributions


Barb lives in Cape Coral, Florida, with her cats: two 13-year-old Turkish Van boys; Sassy, who is also 13; and Dusty, 20, aka Miss Crabby Pants. She has run the Back Fence Cat Club since 1996.

A friend had a cat who was going to have kittens, but I assured her I wouldn't be taking one. Unfortunately, said friend's cat was attacked by a dog and had her kittens early. The first one, a tiny all-black kitty, was fine, but the rest were born dead. Then the mom died, leaving this tiny scrap of a kitten alone on her very first day of life. Of course, my friend pleaded with me to take the baby, otherwise she would surly die. A black cat, born on Friday the 13th? Sure, why not?

So I proceeded to take care of this three-ounce little bit of fluff. She grew into the funniest, sweetest cat I have ever seen. We named her Sassy and she is devoted to me, the only mom she has ever known. She always sat in my lap while I watched TV. She slept on me at night, using me as her pillow; she followed me from room to room, always keeping me in her sight.

Sassy and Dusty were never going to get along. Illustration by Nigel Sussman

For 13 years, things went along wonderfully, but then my brother died and I inherited Dusty, his 20-year-old crabby Himalayan. When I brought Dusty home, Sassy tried her best to make friends, but Dusty was scared and insisted on hiding under my bed.

For a while, Sassy slept on top of the bed and Dusty slept under it. But of course you know this wouldn't last. Soon Dusty was in the bed, and then she wanted me all to herself. She would hiss and bat at Sassy every time Sassy came near me. She would attack Sassy at meal times, eat all of Sassy's food, then go back and eat her own.

I ended up having to feed Sassy in a different room. Dusty would attack Sassy when she was in midpoop, and chase her away, whacking and bopping her until she barfed, with Sassy ending up finishing the job on the floor. So I put a litter box in every room, just so Sassy had a better chance of using the box in safety. 

We divided up the house to make Sassy feel safe. Illustration by Nigel Sussman

The final straw came when Dusty refused to let Sassy even enter the bedroom at night. Poor Sassy: the only mother she had ever known being taken over by another cat. Sassy lost weight, she was crabby, she cried a lot, and I felt so guilty for letting this go on for so long.

I tried closing the bedroom door, but Dusty would throw herself against it and yowl and cry all night, so I bought a baby gate. At night I filled Sassy's dish with her favorite food, carried it into my bedroom, and put it in her new feeding station. Then I'd put up the baby gate and we would go to bed.

It didn't take Sassy long to realize she was safe with the baby gate up. She could eat in peace and use the litter box without fear. Dusty will lay with her nose pressed against the bars, but seems to be happy to at least be able to see me. I put a bed right next to the door and that is where Dusty sleeps at night.  

The baby gate turned out to be a great idea for keeping the cats apart. Illustration by Nigel Sussman

We have been doing this for about three months now. As soon as Sassy sees me get her food dish, she is right there, and together we march off to the bedroom. We are doing our best to give Dusty plenty of lap time and attention during the day, but her bad behavior isn't being allowed anymore.

Dusty has a box she likes to sleep in -- we call it her condo, and when she is bad I tell her to go get in her box, and she does. She is a smart kitty girl and I think she was just trying to see how far she could go. She spent her whole life as an only cat and I don't think she likes to share very much. 

The hissing and fighting have calmed down. Sassy is still very frightened of Dusty, but she knows she will be safe at night. Dusty, on the other hand, knows her hissing is not welcomed and only does it when she thinks I am not looking, stopping the minute I come into the room.

I am sure Dusty and Sassy will never be buddies, but they also know they have a safe loving home with someone looking out for them. This has been such a hard journey, but I can see daylight ahead. Who ever thought a baby gate would solve my ongoing problem of an aggressive kitty?

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