My Younger Cat Attacks My Older Cat. What Can I Do?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, advises an owner on how to stop younger cats from irritating older cats.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: June 29, 2012, 3 p.m. EST

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Young Cat, Old Cat
Q: I have a 13-year-old female cat named Angie and a 1-year-old male cat named Tony I adopted a few months ago. Sometimes the older cat swats at the younger cat when he is nearby, but, mostly, the younger cat chases the older cat. This doesn't always happen. At times, the two cats lie together on the bed and take naps. The younger cat does like to wait behind doors and then jump out, pounce on and chase the older cat. The older cat starts screaming and hides under the bed.

A: The difference between the cats' ages is at the root of the problem. Angie, being a senior cat would rather nap, undisturbed, then play. Tony wants to play and roughhouse — normal behavior for kittens and young adult cats. Unfortunately, neither cat is having their needs met by the other.

You can help change your young cat's behavior toward your older cat by engaging your young cat in play and providing both cats stimulating toys. Play with your young cat at least twice a day, in a way that imitates the hunt. Pretend that the toy at the end of the pole is a little animal. Make sure to pull it away from the cat — prey never runs towards the predator. When you are ready to stop playing, slow down the movements of the toy and finally let your cat catch it one last time. Immediately feed him a substantial meal. He will eat, groom and then go to sleep. (Note fishing pole toys should only be available to cats when someone can supervise.) The best times to play with your cat are mornings and evening. Cats are usually the most active at these times.

In addition to the frequent play sessions, provide a variety of interactive toys for both cats to play with and high places for the cats to climb. Ball and tract toys, puzzle boxes and other toys will help keep both cats stimulated. Vertical territory, such as cat trees, shelves and window perches will focus Tony away from Angie while providing Angie places to perch and nap.

Try clicker training for cats, a science-based training system will help keep Tony from being bored. It will also mentally stimulate him and it's fun for both the cat and the teacher/trainer.
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Reader Comments

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

8/27/2013 9:05:21 AM

Kathy -- The youngest male is still in a kitten phase and has lots of energy. It's likely he's just looking for playmates, but your thought that he might want to topple the Alpha cat is not too far off; cats have hierarchies like dogs and need ways to establish their place in them, like lots of places to perch so the alpha cat can grab the top spot. Still, the fact that this young cat plays with everyone aggressively sounds like he's all kitten still. The best strategy is to play with him and have him burn some energy. Ask your pet-sitters to do the same; also look into toys that he can entertain himself with. Check out some of these new options: LINK

KathyW    Redondo Beach, CA

8/26/2013 9:20:01 PM

I think the advice is good but may not solve the problem 100%. I have 4 cats, females 13 and 14, and males 10 and 3. The youngest male chases the 13-year-old but isn't super aggressive about it; she just hisses and goes under the bed. However, he and the oldest have staring contests and today I heard her cry and I turned around and they were rolling on the sofa; he’d obviously pounced on her. A few months ago they had a down & out fight and there was a ton of her fur all over the room. He and the 10-year-old male play a lot, but I think his aggressive behavior may have to do with her being the alpha cat? Is there such a thing or is it just a "dog thing?" I yell, clap my hands and use the spray bottle of water on him but it's just a matter of time before he's back at it again. I’d hate to medicate him but I wonder if that’s a good option? I’m going on vacation for two weeks for the holidays and while there will be people to care for them, they won’t get the level of attention they’re used to from me. I’m considering boarding him and leaving the other 3 at home with my roommate and the pet sitter. The last thing I want is a free-for-all while I’m gone.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

7/29/2012 11:25:04 PM

Good to remember.

Tania    Leesburg, VA

7/17/2012 8:42:54 PM

I have the same issue....a 13 yr old cat and 2 new kittens who are 4 months old. They play with each other like crazy, wrestling and having a good old time. I spend LOTS of time with them as well, playing with them with fishing poles, etc until they are exhausted. But after a month, they still run up to my older cat and pounce on her the few times I let her into the room, she hisses, and then she stands by the door waiting for me to let her out. I feel like I will have to keep the kittens separated from her for months and fear I'll never be able to have them all together in the house unsupervised. Maybe it will just take more time. I am surprised the kittens aren't wary when she hisses at them. They don't get the message. They let a minute or so pass and then try again to jump on her back. I feel so bad for her as much as love my 2 new little playful affectionate boys!

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