Stop My Cat From Being a Bully
Is there a bully cat in your household?
Why is he like that anyway?
What’s gotten into him? He was never like this before.
A little bullying is common in the cat world. If it’s very limited and your pets remain friends, don’t worry about it.
But if it happens too often or gets too severe, you want to put an end to it.
Types of Bullying in a Multi-Pet Household
Pets are going to interact with one another in a variety of ways.
Sometimes they will get along; other times, maybe not so much.
There are six basic bullying scenarios we see:
- One adult indoor cat versus another adult cat
- One adult indoor cat versus a new kitten
- A new kitten versus an adult cat
- A cat versus a dog or puppy or other pet
- More than one cat versus one indoor cat
- Someone else’s cat versus your household’s cat
One Indoor Adult Cat Attacking Another Adult Cat
Pets have different personalities. Some are passive, some are more aggressive.
A passive cat will sometimes attract the attention of a more aggressive one. Sometimes the issue is over territory, other times it could be about almost anything.
If you provide enough resources — food, litter boxes, etc — household cats will generally work things out. They will divide their territory up in order to prevent encounters.
One Indoor Adult Cat Bullying a New Kitten
When you introduce a kitten into a cat’s home, it’s a huge change.
Why does my older cat bully my kitten?
It’s very common for the older cat to lash out at the new kitten. He sees the kitten as an intruder. He doesn’t see the kitten as a cute baby cat.
A kitten also hasn’t learned basic cat social skills yets. She doesn’t know yet that the older cat doesn’t want to be jumped on.
You will need to slowly and properly introduce your kitten into your home. You will need to supervise them constantly whenever they are together until the new relationship is established.
A New Kitten Bullying an Adult Cat
Sometimes it happens the other way around. It’s the kitten that starts bullying the older, established cat.
Don’t confuse kitten play with bullying. Kittens want to play whenever they are awake. Your older cat only wants to play once in a while.
Hissing, growling, aggressive stares and obvious resource blocking are signs of bullying, not playing.
Once you know that she isn’t playing, you should step in, because that kitten will grow bigger and bigger and that behavior will result in bigger problems in the future too.
A Cat Bullying a Dog or Puppy
Cats and dogs can get along. Sometimes they will become friends. Sometimes they will just learn to put up with one another.
When they don’t get along perfectly, or when one dominates the other, it can create a stressful situation for both of them.
An energetic cat can see a dog as a threat and a nuisance and will act out aggressively as a defensive move.
If this is the case at your house, do your dog a favor and keep your cat’s nails trimmed as much as you can.
Generally, if the ages of your pets are similar, you will have better luck.
An older dog usually gets along better with an older cat. A senior cat may find a puppy to be very annoying, while a kitten may be a better match for a young dog.
Make sure that each of them has time to themselves and has their own territory where they can be alone.
Multiple Cats Bullying a Single Indoor Cat
Whenever you combine a bunch of cats into a single household, interesting things are going to happen.
You have to take the time to properly introduce each one and observe the new dynamic. Each one needs lots of attention from you so they know they are loved.
Each one also needs to know that they have their own litter box and sleeping spot and food dish and water supply. They need to feel safe and secure.
Multiple-cat households can work, but unless they are siblings, it can be months or longer before everyone settles in and lives in harmony without stress.
Someone Else’s Cat Bullying Your Cat
Sometimes the cat that is bullying your cat isn’t yours. It lives next door or somewhere else in your neighborhood.
There may be territorial marking, stare-downs, hissing, chasing, or even fighting. For outdoor pets, interactions and disputes are fairly common occurences.
There isn’t much you can do to keep a cat out of your yard. Your only recourse is to keep your feline indoors.
If your cat still wants to go outside, maybe your cat isn’t that concerned with the bullying, he doesn’t like it but is willing to put up with it in order to enjoy the outside.
Signs of Bullying To Watch For
Felines are solitary creatures by nature.
But humans decided that they were nice to have around, so we brought them into our homes and tried to domesticate them.
They can live with people and other pets. Sometimes they get along well, sometimes there are issues.
What are the symptoms of bullying? Is there a problem in your house? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Here Are Some Signs of Bullying in Cats
- One cat is stalking, chasing, hitting, or pouncing on another
- Your cats growl and hiss at one another
- They actually fight, and it’s not play fighting
- They never sleep near each other or groom one another
- They insist on sleeping or being in rooms far apart from each other
- One stares at the other one too much
- One “guards” the litter box, food dish, stairs, doorways or access paths
- Someone is using different rooms as a bathroom instead of making it to the litter box
- When a cat walks through your house, he hurries through certain rooms in case the other cat is there
- Your cat seems nervous, scared. stressed or unusually jumpy
These symptoms can be tricky to identify.
It’s your job to pay attention to their habits and their body language so you will know when you have a problem.
Sometimes one cat just has a lot of energy and loves to play and has a high internal hunt drive, he isn’t being mean,
Are My Cats Fighting or Just Playing?
Of course, it’s common for cats to play rough, especially when they’re young. But as they get older, that type of playing starts to subside.
How do you tell the difference between playing and actual fighting?
You tell the difference by looking at their body language and posture.
Ears that are forward are friendly; ears that are flattened back indicates hostility or aggression.
Dilated pupils and whiskers flat back also show seriousness, not friendliness.
Pawing and hitting can be play, as long as the claws are not out. When a feline is leaning back and swinging, it sometimes indicates that the other one has his claws out.
When a cat feels threatened or afraid, its tail puffs up and/or its hair stands out. It does not do that when they are mock-fighting.
Play fighting is generally pretty quiet. Real fighting includes some yelping and growling.
Playing often involves one cat being the aggressor, then the other one takes her turn at being the aggressor. They take turns.
And when it’s over, one doesn’t run away. They seem to get over it right away.
If they are actually fighting, you should stop it and prevent it from continuing. You don’t want your cats to accept this behavior as normal and have it persist. It’s unhealthy for all the pets in the house.
Why Does My Cat Bully My Other Cat?
When you have a multi-pet household, your pets are going to make up some type of social structure. This social structure can be complex and not understood by humans.
Cats are not pack animals. They usually prefer living by themselves, or as the only cat in a house.
Although they prefer a solitary existence, they will learn to live as a group. Blood relations tend to get along the best.
When felines live together, they may mostly ignore each other, enjoy having the other one around, mutually dislike each other, or develop some type of bully and victim situation.
If you can identify the cause of the aggression, you can start to correct it. Typical causes include these:
- You’ve brought home another feline or pet. You have totally upset the hierarchy of the house.
- Your cat is seeing a cat outside and is upset. He is redirecting his anger at your other kitty.
- He thinks you’re not spending enough time with him.
- She is jealous of another cat or something else — like a new baby.
- Your cat has had an upsetting visit to the veterinarian.
- He has an undiagnosed medical condition. He is in pain or feels scared and confused.
- She is defensive of her territory or turf. It could be just a bedroom or a favorite sleeping area.
- He perceives another cat to be submissive or weak and he wishes to assert his dominance.
- She feels her role in the hierarchy of order is to protect the house from any intruder, from outside or otherwise.
- He is young and has a high interest in stalking and hunting. And the other cat is the only prey in town.
- She has a lot of energy and she’s bored.
- He is very nervous and jumpy and is lashing at whoever is slower or more timid
It’s hard to stop bullying behavior if you can’t determine what is causing it.
When you notice it happening regularly, you need to interrupt this behavior. If it continues, it could become a real problem for your household.
Tips for Stopping Bullying Behavior in Cats
Once you have the cause narrowed down, you can move on to trying a solution to the problem.
Here are the common solutions to stopping bullying and incidents of cat-to-cat aggression.
Make Sure They Have Time Apart From One Another
Housecats want a lot of time to be alone and to feel safe.
Give them time apart from your other pets. They use this time to calm down and recharge their batteries.
Be sure to monitor them if one is new to your household.
Give Them Attention and Love
Make sure you show all your pets plenty of attention and love.
When your pets are together in the same room, give each the same amount of attention. Don’t let one dominate the other.
Reassure them they are important to you, play with them, talk with them and maybe give each a little treat too.
Offer Separate Cat Food Bowls and Water Dishes
The pets in your house probably don’t stand a chance of starving, but that doesn’t mean they don’t worry about it.
Animals have an instinctual need to save and protect their food and water. They might not want another cat eating out of their dish.
So just feed them from separate bowls to get rid of any tension. If it’s an issue, feed them in different parts of the house.
Provide Extra Litter Boxes
Disagreements sometimes take place around the litter box area.
When kitty needs to use the litter, she feels vulnerable. You don’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation with another feline.
You don’t want her to start viewing other parts of the house as a safer place to go to the bathroom.
What do to? Add another litter box in the same area.
If your litter box is covered, consider adding an uncovered one. A picked-on kitty might feel trapped inside an enclosed box.
Keep those boxes as clean as you can. If it’s possible, place another box somewhere else in the house so your victim cat has options.
Offer Plenty of Other Resources Too
Limited resources lead to competition. Competition can lead to tension and fighting.
Provide everyone with everything they need. Make sure they have great places to sleep, toys, hiding places, high perches, areas with sun and safety.
Tire Them Out
If you have a young, high-energy cat, they may be stalking and pouncing on your other cat simply because they have a need to hunt and they have way too much energy.
Help your feline burn that pent-up energy by playing with her. Get her to chase you around the house a little bit.
Use toys to help her engage in pretend hunting. Give her some extra stimulation. It’s possible she has been sleeping most of the day. Tire her out some.
If she’s tired, she won’t be so interested in running after her housemate.
Break Up Any Fight Right Away
If a fight breaks out, you need to stop it.
Nothing good happens from a catfight.
The best way to get it to stop is to startle them somehow and distract them.
You don’t want to scare them. That could make the whole problem worse.
Try putting something in between them, or throwing a soft blanket over the aggressor, or using a whistle that isn’t too loud, or even using a water misting bottle with a small amount of water.
Use the word “No” and reprimand her. Don’t go on and on berating her, just tell her “No” once.
Don’t try to pick one up when they’re fighting.
Divert Their Attention Before a Fight Starts
If you really know your cats and you can see that the bossy one is ready to act out, you can distract him before he does it.
Grab your feather wand or whatever toy she can’t resist and distract her away from the other feline.
Get her to play for a while and reward her with a treat. Reinforce her good behavior.
It’s likely that your other cat will be watching too. If you can get him involved with the playtime, it’s a golden opportunity for both cats to play the same game at the same time in the same place.
This is great because if both cats can associate being around each other and being praised, receiving treats and having fun, all at the same time, it’s possible they’ll remember that tomorrow and the next day too.
Your bully cat might start thinking of her housemate as a play partner or friend, and not as an intruder or as prey. It’s a good start.
Offer a Safe Space for the Victim
Make sure the victim kitty has a safe space to go to. It has to be a place where the dominant cat won’t go.
It could be up high. Or in a room or closet where the bossy cat doesn’t like to go.
It needs to be a place where she can retreat to and not worry.
If you live in a small space, you might have to get creative.
Give Each Their Own Territory
In the same topic, your goal could be to provide each feline with its own territory.
While you probably don’t want to dedicate your entire home to your cats, the more areas you can allocate to your cats, the better for them.
If you can add window perches, cat trees, climbing areas, soft areas on bookshelves, small cat beds, open closet doors and other spaces for them to explore and use, the happier they will all be.
This gives all your cats more options and spaces they can use so they aren’t forced to be around each other all the time.
Some owners forget about adding the vertical element in their home, but cats love to climb and explore and be up high.
Be Cautious When One Returns From the Vet
When you bring a feline home from the veterinarian, he is covered in weird smells. Your other house cats will be confused. They may not be fully certain they know who he is.
One of your other cats may attack him. You don’t want your felines to start attacking each other.
Protect him by secluding him in his own room for a while, until he can groom himself and re-cover himself in the smells of your pet community.
Spay or Neuter Your Pet
When you have behavioral problems between cats, getting them spayed or neutered can be a good step to take.
All those wild hormones can lead to thoughts of competition, aggression and fighting.
You may also benefit from less spraying and marking around the litter box or elsewhere.
Try Cat Pheromones
You can purchase a cat pheromone diffuser.
These diffusers plug into a wall outlet and periodically spray out a solution that mimics a cat’s natural pheromones.
When kitty emits her own pheromones, it relaxes and reassures her. These artificial pheromones do the same thing.
If you have a big house, this may not be the best option.
On the other hand, it would be cheaper and easier than giving kitty an oral prescription from your veterinarian that is designed to reduce anxiety or tension.
Try Some Natural Cat Deterrents
If you have an outside cat coming around, maybe you can stop him from doing that.
There are motion-activated ultrasonic sounds that might keep him away. You can also try blocking his access to your door by laying down something he won’t want to walk on.
You don’t want to go overboard on this, but maybe there is something you could do that wouldn’t look too weird to your neighbors.
There are lots of houses that an outside cat could go to, just make yours one that isn’t his favorite.
Block Their View of Outside Cats
We usually encourage our felines to get into the window and look outside.
But if he is seeing an outside cat that is freaking him out, try to stop him from seeing outside.
Close your drapes or blinds when you can. Or you could put some peel-and-stick covering on the bottom part of the window for a few weeks which will prevent him from seeing the neighborhood intruder.
Call in a Behavior Specialist
Not having any luck?
Tired and disappointed with your attempts at working it out?
It’s possible a veterinary behaviorist can help you.
They might be able to either detect what the issue is that is triggering your kitty’s behavior or come up with the correct solution to take care of it.
They also might be able to see if your cat appears to have some type of physical ailment too.
How To Stop My Cat From Bullying My New Cat or Kitten
The most common situation for bullying to start is when a new second cat is introduced into a home.
Typically, this cat is a kitten. And his arrival shakes up the entire household.
When you bring your kitten home, you will keep him separated in a small room away from your other pets. He won’t mind being in there. He will feel safe.
Your other pets will soon hear him or smell him and they can hiss or growl at him under the door. That’s okay.
One technique that owners use is to feed them both at the same time, right by the door that separates them. They will be able to hear each other but that’s it. Mealtime is a happy time and you want to associate happy moments with being around the other cat.
You can also replace their sleeping blankets. Bring them into the other cat’s area so they can get used to the other cat’s smell.
You can bring out the kitten in a carrier to show him off to the other pets. That will allow everyone to see the other.
There will come a day when you open the door and let him come out if he wants to.
Be positive with your older cats. Give them treats and reward them for acting nice. Hissing is fine. That’s normal. You don’t want to see swiping or attacking.
Both cats will have to figure out what to do. It will take some time for the kitten to understand the social norms of living with other cats. And it will take the established cats a while to accept the kitten.
We want them to accept each other immediately. That probably won’t happen. Just be patient.
If the introduction process fails miserably, you can move the kitten back to his room and try it again. Reintroduce them slower and more carefully this time.
Tips for Stopping Bullying Behavior in Cats
In summary, you need to do four things:
- Identify the cause of the aggression.
- Come up with several possible solutions to eliminate the behavior.
- Initiate one or more of the potential solutions to prevent the behavior from happening.
- Work with your felines and their environment, monitor the situation and adapt your approach as you see success or failure.
How to Stop Bullying – What Not To Do
There are a few things you should never do when you have cats that fight or if one is bullying the other.
- Don’t let them fight it out. It just sets them up to fight again. And they could get hurt.
- Don’t use your arms or legs to break up a fight. Never pick a fighting kitty up.
- Don’t put yourself in a situation where you could get bit. Cat bites can be bad.
- Don’t physically punish them. Felines don’t understand it. It will only confuse them.
- Never hit them or strike them. They don’t understand.
- Don’t yell. You can raise your voice, but don’t yell too much.
- Don’t throw something hard at them. Don’t hurt them.
- Don’t drench them with water. A little spray can work, you don’t need a lot of water.
Once in a while, a homeowner who has a problem will decide that adding another animal to your household mix might balance everything out and take care of it.
Don’t try that. You’re not making soup. Adding more animals to your household will only lead to further dysfunction.
What To Do If Nothing Works
Basically — you start over.
You separate them and reintroduce them again, just like you would if you were bringing home a new kitten.
This time you do your best to complete all the steps and to allocate as much attention to each of them as you can.
If your reintroduction is not successful and you give up, you could consider rehoming one of them to another home to live in. It’s a dramatic step and it’s hard on the owners and the feline, but sometimes it is necessary.
Stopping a Cat From Being a Bully
We don’t like to see any of our pets being bullied. We want our felines to get along all the time.
Witnessing bullying and fighting and not being able to stop it can be frustrating.
If you have a cat with some aggressive issues, you should be able to change your cat’s attitude and put a stop to any excessive aggressive behavior.
It will take time and effort, keep working at it. It can take months to see progress.
In some cases, household felines will never become real friends. At best they may only tolerate the other’s existence.
Talk with your vet if you can’t get the bad behavior to stop or if someone gets injured. Good luck.
NOTE: This article is not intended to be veterinarian advice. Do not consider this article to be professional medical advice. The authors of these articles are not veterinarians or doctors. This article is to be viewed as general information only. The only professional advice you should depend on for your situation is the guidance and advice you receive from your own vet, doctor and staff you have direct contact with. Please call your vet with any serious concern you have with your cat.