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How Do I Stop My Kitten From Playing Too Rough?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian with over 40 years of experience in the field. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.

Kittens who get into the habit of bossing around other household cats will likely develop aggression problems as they mature.

Kittens who get into the habit of bossing around other household cats will likely develop aggression problems as they mature.

Can I Tire My Kitten Out So She Doesn't Get Aggressive With My Other Cat?

"I have a British shorthair male cat (1.5 years old) that is very laid back and doesn't really ask for too much attention. When he was around 8 months, we brought in a female kitten (she was 2 months old at the time) just so he could have company when we are away from home. Note that they are now both fixed.

The new kitten is the exact opposite of our male. She is highly energetic and very affectionate. We try our best to tire her out every day, but she's always ready for action.

The problem is that she tries to play with our older cat but plays a bit too hard for him. She engages with him to play, but 90% of the time he is not interested and when he sometimes is, she plays too rough for him, causing him to leave the area frustrated.

We have reached the point where he is always very alert and looks out for her constantly, as he is always expecting her to come out of nowhere. How should we approach this? This has been going on for months and has not gotten any better. Does it make sense to re-introduce them? Should we try and keep them in separate rooms for some hours during the day? They usually moan when they are closed in a room.

I will try some Feliway to see if it helps him relax, but until she gets a bit lazier and less energetic, I'm not sure how to handle this." —Panayiotis

Rough Play in Kittens

I am glad to see that you are trying to get a handle on this now instead of later when it turns into intercat aggression. Kittens usually slow down a lot after about 9 months, but I certainly would not want to depend on it, especially since your kitten is already about a year old at this point.

Since this problem is still ongoing, and if she gets into the habit of bossing around the male cat, this behavior will likely develop into aggression.

Separation Likely Isn't the Answer

It is not going to do any good to try and reintroduce them and may make things worse. When cats are separated (like when one has to be hospitalized for a few days) they tend to fight more when put back together. The same thing applies to locking one cat away for part of the time.

The best way to avoid this is something you have already tried, tiring the younger cat out.

Ways to Tire Out Your Kitten

Encouraging active play with you or on her own is the best place to start when trying to tire out an energetic kitten. If those methods don't work, medication may be required.

Play With Her Often

There are several good ways of tiring a kitten out so that she does not overwhelm the older cat, but most of them require you to interact with her. Here are a few examples of toys you can use to play with your kitten and encourage her to run off some of that energy:

Get a Hunting Toy for Cats

A much better solution would be to let her distract herself on her own. If you want to tire your cat out during the day or when you are not home to play with her a cat hunting toy is a great thing to try.

It helps to have numerous hunting toys and change them every few days so that the cat does not become bored.

Consider a Behavior-Modifying Medication

If you have tried these toys already and they do not work, the only options are Feliway or other behavior-modifying drugs.

Drugs might sound too aggressive at this point, but many cats that become aggressive have a very poor chance of recovery. Preventing this problem before it starts is much better.

Talk to your regular veterinarian about getting a prescription of clomipramine, amitriptyline, or fluoxetine. If these drugs cause her to act "doped up," be sure to tell your vet and they can switch her medication.

Solve This Problem Before It Gets Worse

It sounds like the older cat is already stressed out, and stressed cats stop using the litter box, are less likely to eat and drink normally, and will develop more health problems. Take care of this rough-play problem before it really becomes a problem.

Source

Pachel CL. "Intercat aggression: restoring harmony in the home: a guide for practitioners." Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2014;44(3):565-579.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM