It is common for older cats to bully the younger and weaker ones. However, there are situations where it is the younger cat that is calling the shots at home. If this looks familiar to you, read on to learn how to stop your younger cat from bullying your older cat.
Younger cat bullying older cat: What are the reasons?
1. It could be caused by fear or curiosity.
Kittens and younger cats may bully older cats because of plain curiosity or fear. It could also be due to redirected aggression.
2. The younger cat is protecting its territory from a perceived threat.
Younger cats tend to bully older cats because they are protecting their territory. This kind of behavior may be normal, but if it intensifies and lasts for a few months, you need to take corrective action.
3. It could be due to health conditions.
Younger cats with medical issues can become aggressive. It is essential to rule out underlying medical causes before addressing behavioral causes for aggression and bullying. Health conditions like liver disease, epilepsy, poor hearing or eyesight, arthritis, brain disorder, and even certain medications like Cortisone can trigger aggression.
Other reasons that can cause bullying and aggression may include lack of socialization, the inappropriate introduction of a new cat, and overcrowding in a home.
According to Dr. Sharon Cromwell-Davis, a veterinary doctor, high-ranking cats are bullies. They exhibit intense dominance displays and aggression to lower-ranking cats. This type of bullying happens in households that have no outward stressors except for one cat wanting to assert his or her rank and dominance over food, water, toys, bedding, and the litter box. Dr. Cromwell-Davis also notes that some cats just want to be the boss.
The common signs of bullying include the following:
- aggressive body posture such as an arched back, puffed-out tail, dilated pupils, and angled or flattened ears
What to do if your younger cat is bullying the older cat?
1. Place your younger cat in a “time-out area” each time she exhibits bullying.
If your younger cat constantly attacks and bites your older cat, the latter may become paranoid. Teach your younger cat that there are consequences by placing her in a “time-out area” such as a crate or the laundry room for at least five to 10 minutes.
Do the following things:
- Do not yell at the younger cat.
- Do not punish or be harsh with her. Physical punishment is not acceptable because it only creates an atmosphere of fear.
- Pick her up and place her in the time-out area.
- Do not give the younger cat any attention.
- You may have to do this countless times before the young bully gets the idea.
Be consistent and patient in retraining your younger cat so she will be able to learn from her mistakes.
2. Provide your older cat with a sanctuary or retreat so she can sleep undisturbed.
Reassure your older cat that she will be alright by providing her with a retreat or sanctuary where she can sleep and nap in peace. You can also provide her with a box or food-dispensing toy to keep her busy and to work off her energy.
While the older cat is tucked away in a safe area, relocate the younger cat to another room with a climbing tower or cat tree where it can exercise and burn off excess energy. You can also play some games with her. By wearing out the younger cat through play and exercise, she won’t have the energy anymore to terrorize the older cat upon its return.
3. Reward both cats for collaborative play with treats.
Try to involve the two cats in a game and reward them every few minutes if they are behaving and not engaging in aggressive behavior. Through this process, both of them will learn to associate good playtime with yummy treats. If the younger cat starts to bully the other cat, do not reward her, but do not resort to screaming and physical punishment.
If the two cats play well in the same area, reward each of them with a treat at the same time. If the younger cat does not attack and the older cat allows the kitten to get close, give each one of them a treat. You can also give each of them a treat if they share toys amicably.
4. Separate their resources.
If there is more than one cat in your home, it will all come down to hierarchy. Having an additional cat could bring chaos and while the older cat may be bigger, the younger one has an edge because of its energy. A proper introduction is key to easing a new cat into the family. If this does not solve the issue, you may want to consider a distraction.
Provide each cat with its own food bowl. These should be spaced well apart or placed a good distance from each other. Separate their litter trays. Allow the older cat to keep her bed and toys since it could result in retaliation if you take them away. Get a new bed for the younger cat so each of them have their own.
5. Establish a peaceful and calm household.
Create a relaxed household by playing with your cats. Play with them using some interactive toys or a feather wand. Try clicker training to wear them out and stimulate their minds. Pheromones like Feliway can also help create a calm atmosphere at home. Close the drapes at night or set up motion-activated sprinklers to scare away wild animals or feral cats. If your cats get into a fight, redirect their attention by using a toy to catch the aggressor’s eyes and distract her.
6. Provide your cats with their own respective territories.
Install window perches, condos and cat trees around your home so your cats have the option to escape or avoid each other. These will give each cat its space. Provide more litter boxes and consider those that have no top covers so neither cat will get cornered. Separate their food and water bowls to avoid unnecessary tension.
7. You may have to reintroduce your cats.
If the bullying worsens, you may have to reintroduce your two cats and reacquaint them with each other. This could take a few weeks, but most often this will solve the conflict. Keep them in separate rooms and swap their blankets so they will get used to each other’s scent. Feed them from opposite sides with the door closed.
If the two cats behave well, try to feed them on opposite sides of a screen door where they can see each other. If they stay calm, you can schedule visits or have them stay in the same room. Give them treats and toys to distract them from each other. This will allow them to associate each other with positive experiences and make them realize that the other is not a threat.
Never leave your younger cat and older cat alone together if you are going out of the house for the day. Separate them while you are away and give the older cat access to most of the house. Keep the younger cat confined to a couple rooms with toys and treats so she will stay busy. This will ensure that the older cat will have a peaceful day with no furry bully to terrorize her.
It is unlikely that younger cats will bully older ones, but this does happen in a multi-cat household. The reasons that could cause bullying may include an inappropriate introduction, lack of socialization, and overcrowding. Some cats are also more persistent when it comes to ranking and asserting their territory. You can correct this untoward behavior by separating their resources, reintroducing them, and providing them each with their own space. Always reward them with treats if they behave and create a more relaxed and peaceful atmosphere at home.
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