The reason for an aggressive cat’s behaviour is often quite obvious. The usually laid back, well-mannered animal will become angry and act out when there is something wrong within its living environment. Because cats are naturally territorial, the bad behaviour is typical when a new cat is introduced or when you move houses.
And since cats are so territorial, this also means with their owners. Jealousy is a major motivator for a bully cat. The dominant cat will try to maintain its status as the top cat and will fight to protect that title.
When there are numerous cats in the house, there is always an order of status. It is established among the pets that there is a top cat and a bottom cat. If there are more than two, then there are middle cats, who share the same rank.
When a new kitten is brought into a household, the mature, dominant cat may react aggressively. When the kitten tries to approach the resident cat, the older cat will often respond with hissing and swatting. This retaliatory aggression can be minimized by separating the cats for the first few days to allow them to become familiar with each other’s scents.
No matter how old the cats or how long they have shared a living space, territorial aggression can still arise suddenly. This may occur between male-male, male-female, or female-female cats and the aggressor is not always the oldest or longest resident cat. The aggressor will begin “marking” its territory and randomly attacking its enemy.
Most of the time, the victim cat will back down, solidifying its lower rank. But, sometimes the attacked will fight back, leaving the owner with two cats that will just never get along and have to be permanently separated.
Preventing Cat Aggression
In order to prevent your cats from fighting, you first need to understand the cause of aggression in the bully cat. If your cat displays signs of sexual or territorial aggression, the solution may be as simple as distraction. When you recognize the first warning sign of a fight, make a loud noise like clapping or hissing loudly and say “No!” Do not yell, as this only confuses the cat and creates more feelings of negativity towards the victim cat. Toss a stuffed toy, like a teddy bear, to the attacking cat to redirect its attention away from the victim.
Much like making a hissing sound, scruffing can be used to mimic the disciplinary actions of a mother cat. Scruffing is when you grab the loose skin at the scruff of the neck then gently, but firmly, hold the cat down. When the dominant cat is acting out, use this technique until the cat relaxes. This may take a few minutes if the cat is excessively aggressive. Talk to the aggressor quietly as he or she calms down then release the disciplined cat.
Another way to reduce bullying is to provide separate spaces for each cat and to feed them separately. When a fight occurs, send the bully cat to a separate room, giving the victim cat free range of the rest of the house. Sometimes they will need to be separated for a day or two.
Be careful when separating fighting cats and don’t try to come between them. First, get the cat’s attention then grab it firmly by the scruff of the neck, supporting its weight with your other hand. The cat cannot bite or scratch you in this position.
Eventually your cats should learn to tolerate each other, but if the problem is severe and the fighting continues, seek advice from your vet. They may be able to provide medication to calm the dominant cat down.