Why did my cat hiss at her littermate after his recent stay at the veterinarian’s office?

CatChannel behavior expert, Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains that unfamiliar scents can lead to tension between cats.

Q: I have two 3-year-old cats from the same litter – a boy named Jango and a girl named Sapphire. Jango recently got sick and had to stay at the veterinarian’s office for 4 days. When he came back, Sapphire started hissing and batting at him. Our vet told us that Sapphire doesn’t remember Jango, and he is a stranger to her. Is this true?

A: Sapphire’s reaction to Jango after his prolonged visit to the vet is not uncommon. Cats have a very acute sense of smell and define much of their world through scent. Jango came home smelling like the vet’s office instead of the familiar Jango scent that Sapphire was used to.

Separate the two cats from each other for a few days. Take a towel and gently pet Sapphire with it, then gently rub Jango with Sapphire’s towel, transferring Sapphire’s smell onto Jango. Repeat this twice a day. Encourage positive feelings between the cats by giving them treats or their regular food at the same time on both sides of the closed door several times during the day. Slipping a double ended toy under the door and encouraging the cats to play with it simultaneously will also help alleviate the tension between the two of them.

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