“You can’t get just one cat,” they said. “You’ve got to get two cats!” they said. “Cats are chill!” they said. A two-cat household can be heavenly if your kitties get along. However, when one cat routinely bullies the other, you’ve got the makings of a living nightmare. If you’re wondering to stop your cat from bullying your other cat, you’re not alone (seriously), and we’ve got some good news for you: It can be done. It just takes time.
How Can I Stop My Cat from Bullying My Other Cat? (A Question I Never Thought I’d Have to Ask)
What does cat bullying look like?
Cat bullying comes in many forms, from large physical acts like pouncing with claws out to subtle power moves like guarding the food bowls. The common denominator among all bullying behavior is a lack of provocation. For example, Milo chasing Belle down the hallway because Belle swatted his face is a reaction to aggression (not bullying). Belle trotting over to Milo and swatting him in the face for no reason? Yeah, that’s bullying.
Other behaviors to look for include biting, scratching, hissing, toy hoarding, litter box guarding, territorial aggression and, no joke, mean stares. Because some of these can be tricky to spot, it’s important to be in tune with your cats’ habits and to keep tabs on their weight, litter box use and temperament. Look for flattened ears, dilated pupils and whiskers tossed back against their faces. These are signs of aggression.
Identify the cause
Once you’ve done the tricky job of figuring out bullying is happening, the next stage is identifying the driving force behind it. According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s Behavior Series, it’s very difficult to stop your cat from bullying your other cat if you don’t know why the aggression started in the first place.
Traumatic events (like upsetting vet visits) and undiagnosed medical conditions can trigger nasty behavior, as outlined by Cornell University’s Feline Health Center. Adopted cats that had poor experiences in previous homes with people or with other animals may exhibit bullying behavior as a coping mechanism for the fear they feel in a new setting. Another study found early weaning can lead to hostile behavior. Bullying could also simply be a response to boredom.
Often, introducing a new cat or kitten to the home creates a bully. Existing cats may begin bullying the newcomer as a way to protect their turf, or new cats may begin bullying as a way to assert dominance or express nervousness. Aggression and bullying can pop up at any time too. Just because an introduction between two felines goes well for a few weeks doesn’t mean something can’t shift down the line.
Be sure to visit your vet to rule out (or confirm) medical issues. If bullying is a product of kidney disease (who wouldn’t be cranky if their kidneys were in pain!?), medication may be the only remedy necessary.
So what can I do?
After identifying the cause, or while you work to figure it out, prevention is key. If you can pinpoint bullying triggers, do everything you can to eliminate them. For instance, if vet visits turn Milo into Belle’s biggest enemy, prep your home before you leave. Seclude Belle in a room alone so Milo can’t pounce when you bring him home. Provide Milo with interactive toys on which he can take out any aggression.
Spats tend to escalate when resources are limited. By providing your cats with an extra litter box, additional food and water bowls, more perches and plenty of playthings, there’s less to argue over. This is especially helpful if Milo and Belle consider themselves parts of different social groups.
If the fighting is constant, the two cats should each be given a living space of their own for a few weeks. This means no interaction between them. Provide each with their own food and water bowls, litter boxes and toys. You’ll have to reintroduce them to each other over time to establish a better relationship. As outlined by the ASPCA, this can involve…
- Making sure they can hear and smell each other but can’t see each other.
- Feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door.
- Switching rooms occasionally so they can smell the other’s scent.
- Reintroducing them slowly, one small playdate at a time.
Pheromone diffusers have been known to ease aggression in and between felines as well. Jackson Galaxy’s Bully Solution is an all-natural formula that has rave reviews from cat owners dealing with bully kitties.
Positively reinforce good behavior. Give out treats freely when your cats get along, even if that means just existing peacefully in the same room together.
What shouldn’t I do?
Do not punish your cat physically or verbally. Yelling or swatting your cat just leads to more aggression. A spray bottle of water isn’t a great tactic either; it’s more of a short-term solution that separates the fight but teaches them nothing.
Do not try to break up a fight with your hands, especially in overly aggressive cats. You’ll get caught in the middle and may become the new target.
CBD oil has been used to treat anxiety in felines, but no medication should be administered without consulting your vet. Again, there could be additional medical issues at play!
Don’t look at separating cats as punishing them. They need their space to build independence before trying to play nice.
At the end of the day, consulting a certified applied animal behaviorist or board-certified veterinary behaviorist may be your best bet.