Laura Cassiday is a certified cat behavior consultant (CCBC) and owner of Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training. Laura is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She is also a Fear Free certified animal trainer. Laura recently published her first book, The Complete Guide to Adopting a Cat (affiliate link*.) She works with cat guardians remotely from all over the world, as well as in-person in her local area of Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, visit Pawsitive Vibes Cat Behavior and Training.
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Personality change after spay
I have one question that now just popped in my head. Is it normal for a just spayed female cat to act a little different after she’s healed? We got her spayed a while ago, but before she was, she meowed all the time and was very affectionate. She is still somewhat like this now but she meows a lot less and isn’t as affectionate to pettings (although I’d be lying if I said she wasn’t as affectionate still. Kind of though). I don’t know if this has to do with her not going through heat anymore or something else. Just curious! – Kristin
Thanks so much Kristin for getting your kitty spayed! I actually hear a ton of myths about spaying and neutering cats – that their personality will change or that they’ll become fat and lazy, to name a few. The good news is neither are true. What you’re probably seeing is a minor change in behavior from stress or pain. In some clinics (although we are getting much better overall) there is still a disregard for or lack of proper pain management for cats after surgery. It’s common for cats to be sent home from a spay or neuter with no pain medication at all. I think this tends to be because cats are very stoic and don’t tend to show pain, so it’s assumed that they’re “just fine.”
Cats are unique in that they are both predators and prey animals. The prey animal in them knows that they’ll be eaten if they show signs of weakness, so they evolved to be able to hide any pain or illness very well. Instead, what you’ll see sometimes is like what you’ve described: just a minor behavior change or feeling “off” in some way. Hopefully by now she’s feeling good and back to her normal self!
Going through heat can also make cats seem more affectionate, so if she’s been through a couple of cycles, you may not see that needy and ultra-affectionate behavior from her anymore. Rest assured, she still loves you, and you’ve made her much more comfortable!
Change in household dynamics
I had six cats. Lost two last year within two months and had another very sick cat I thought would go first and he made it till February of this year. Ever since Tubby and Cashew passed, the others pick on each other. Each one went through their own grief. Hope charges after Jake and Garfield. Then Jake won’t leave Garfield alone, mostly when it’s dark. Garfield is 14 and doesn’t care for it. He was Cashew’s friend. He mostly tolerates the others. I have tried separating them, time outs, playing with them. I do not know what to do anymore. Any suggestions? – Sue
Sorry for the loss of all your kitties. It’s always tough to go through a period of loss like you, and your other cats, have experienced. It’s fairly common to see a change in the dynamics of the household after one or several cats pass away. Cats do tend to naturally develop a hierarchy within a group, and this hierarchy can be upset with the loss or addition of a cat. If you are experiencing territorial aggression between your cats, which due to the timing of the fighting beginning is likely what is happening, the best thing you can do is environmental management. What does this mean?
When you are experiencing conflict between cats, the most common reason is competition over resources. A resource is anything important to your cat, such as food, water, scratching posts, beds, litter boxes, toys, etc. Providing multiple, separate resources to your cats in a way that spreads them out throughout the home can reduce tension and fighting. Many cat owners tend to “clump” their cats’ things together. They’ll have a “cat room” that contains all or most of the litter boxes, and sometimes even the food and water. This encourages all the cats to cluster together, be on top of each other, and ultimately get into arguments.
Think about promoting avoidance. Make it easy for the cats to ignore each other and spend time in different areas in the home. Cats will often have smaller, separate territories inside the house they’ll claim as their own. For example, one cat always sleeps on the couch in the afternoon. The other cats learn not to occupy that spot at that time. To reduce any possible fighting, multiple other resting areas should be provided in the room, as well as in the other main rooms of the house. If all the cats want a comfortable place to rest at the same time, they should have multiple, equally desirable options.
Remember that you are also a resource to your cats. You may see conflict and tension particularly when you are around, as they all want to be near you at the same time and there’s only one of you! Individual attention and playtime is also a good idea to make sure everyone is getting what they need.
If fighting persists or gets worse, a full reintroduction may be necessary, where the cats are separated and slowly reintroduced to each other as if they had never met before. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Good luck!