Best Ways to Stop a Cat From Being a Bully

Is your cat a bully?
Is your cat a bully? | Source

For those that are casual cat fans and not mutliple-cat owners, you may not realize that within any group of cats there is a hierarchy of order. Each cat has a role within the cat family and a place.

When a new animal, most notably, another cat, is introduced into a household, it turns this hierarchy upside down and creates chaos while everyone re-establishes their place. Sometimes within that situation one of the cats becomes a bully and the other the target.

There are some ways to both help the cat (or dog) being bullied and redirect the bully cat.

The Social Structure of Multi-Cat Households

When you have more than one cat in your house, there is a social structure. Depending on the personality of the cat and the age, the cats may seek each other's company, may ignore each other, may actively dislike each other, or may have a bully/victim relationship.

Following are some cat bully scenarios along with an analysis of the situation and suggestions for correcting the problem or easing the behavior issues.

First Things First

The rest of the following advice is predicated on the idea that your cat has been spayed or neutered.

If you are having behavioral or bullying issues between your cats, making sure they are fixed is the first step in reducing the problem.

This not only calms both pets down but it is also important as a public service. Tens of thousands of healthy cats are euthanized every year because of a lack of homes. Allowing your pet to reproduce adds to the problem.

Be a part of the solution.

Scenario One: A New Cat Is Introduced To The Home

In this short Simon's Cat video, many of the problems that occur when a new cat is introduced into the home are depicted.

In this cartoon a new kitten is introduced to the home. Immediately, the established cat begins hissing. He feels that he is now in competition with this new cat for:

  • territory
  • food
  • litterbox

There are ways to help minimize a cat's stress when a new cat is introduced into the home. If you help to ease the transition, you are likely to also reduce the need for either the established cat or the new cat to feel the need to bully.

  • Territory

Introduce the new cat slowly. When you first bring the new cat home, keep him or her in a separate room away from the other pets in the house. If possible, allow them to interact under a door (for example) and hiss and fight and stick their paws out.

Bring the new cat out into the home in a cat carrier. Allow the other pets to sniff, interact and even hiss. This is all part of their introduction and warning to each other.

Finally, begin allowing the other cat out into the house for short periods of time with you supervising. Be ready to separate and remove the new cat back to its room if the situation gets to stressful.

Some hissing, paw slapping and arching of back is normal. Establishing a new pecking order takes time---sometimes months. I even once had an older cat that took about a year to acclimate and find his place in the home.

The key is to be patient.

Make sure that the cats have their own food bowls.
Make sure that the cats have their own food bowls. | Source
  • Food

If you think about it, most domesticated pets still have remnants of their feral ancestors. One of the resources that was the hardest to find in the wild was food.

Even though the cats get plenty of food and water in your household, some of that instinct to be territorial about their food remains. After all, in the wild, it could mean the difference between life and death.

As cats become acclimated they may be fine with sharing a food bowl, but until then and even after the new cat is let out into the shared areas in the home, make sure to maintain separate food bowls and keep them in different parts of the house if possible.

If bullying occurs while the cat is eating, put the cats in two different rooms and close the door so that they can eat in peace.

  • Litterbox

Another important component in establishing a new cat and preventing bullying behavior is to have enough litterboxes.

When a cat uses the bathroom he or she is at its most vulnerable. If the cat feels threatened he may forgo the litterbox and find a "safer" place to do bathroom business.

I have a cat who likes to take advantage of other cats using the litterbox to pick a fight.

To help alleviate this problem I have added more litterboxes in other parts of the house.

If you have a cat who is bullying other cats in the litterbox and the litterbox is covered, consider taking the top off, at least for awhile. This allows the dominated cat to feel like he or she can see around and fend off an attack.

In addition, make sure the litterboxes are cleaned at least daily to encourage use.

Scenario Two: When Dogs Are Bullied By Cats

Despite the old adage that dogs will chase cats, it's often the other way around.

While it may make for a funny video, cats bullying dogs and dogs being afraid of cats actually creates a stressful situation for both of the animals.

The cat is feeling defensive (notice how some of the cats have flattened ears in the video) and the dog is scared and anxious. Long term this is not good for either pet.

If you are establishing a dog to cat relationship, some of the above advice for establishing a new cat applies. Also, consider this:

  • Introduce them slowly.

Allow the established pet to stay in the main part of the home and place the new pet in a closed room or crate. Introduce them slowly and keep the dog on a leash.

  • Give them time apart.

Give the cat and dog breaks from each other. While they are new, make sure that they sleep apart.

  • Make sure to show both pets attention and love.

When they are out together, reassure both pets with love, attention and treats to let them know that you care about them equally.

  • Discourage bullying behavior.

Try to discourage bullying and domination by either pet. It is not only stressful but can lead to injury.

Other Methods for Stopping the Bullying

  • Verbal Reprimand

When you are trying to stop a cat from being a bully, make sure you tell that cat "no" in a firm and solid voice when he or she is being dominating. Saying "no" while redirecting the cat will help the cat to learn what behaviors are acceptable and what are not.

  • Water/Spray Bottle

A simple spray bottle (like the kind you might use to water houseplants) can be an effective tool against aggressive behavior. Be sure that the cat only gets a squirt of water when it is displaying the unwanted behavior. The water doesn't hurt the cat but along with a firm "no" from its owner, the cat begins to learn that the behavior is unacceptable.

The water bottle method works in many instances where a cat needs to be redirected from negative behavior.

*Important: You should never hit an animal that is misbehaving. The messages they get from being hit are that their owner is a bully and is willing to hurt them. This is not a great way to establish a loving pet/owner relationship.

Scenario Three: When Bullying By Your Cat Is A Good Thing

And then, sometimes, your cat being a bully is exactly what you need.

In this case an aggressive dog meets a bully cat and the result is wonderful.

This cat saved its four year old owner from a dog attack by bravely chasing the dog away as it pulled the child off his riding toy.

In this case the best action is some treats, a new scratching post with catnip and lots of pets and snuggles.

Bullying is not always an action you want to discourage.

Multiple Pet Households Can Work

The key to having a harmonious, multiple pet household is patience, love and a little bit of training. Aggressive cats can learn to stifle their behavior.

After the posturing, hissing and fighting is over, the cat may discover that he or she has a new best friend.

A bully cat can be a frustrating experience. Keep working with your pet and consult a vet if the behavioral issues are worrisome, a pet gets injured, or the situation does not improve.

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Comments 18 comments

OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

Good hub. I would add that territory is not just rooms in your house. Cats see "territory" in three dimensions, so multiple cats can claim a room as their "territory" if they are in different areas or different heights in the same room. An excellent example is a cat tree. Mine has three levels so my three cats can all use it at the same time. Each has his own level or territory even though they are vertically stacked on top of each other. Furniture, tables and bookshelves also allow cats to occupy the same room at different levels. I have a bully cat but I never chase him from a room or remove a "victim" from a room. I merely separate them in the same room, using their perception of three dimensional territory.

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 2 years ago from California

A friend of mine got a second cat recently and the new cat was constantly hiding because her other cat wasn't very accepting. I don't know if she fixed the problem but I'll pass this on to her.

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Very good point OldRoses and if having cats on different levels works in regards to the bullying then definitely go for it. Unfortunately, in my cat situation the cat being bullied was stressed considerably by the bully cat just being in proximity to him. I found that giving him a break really helped to relieve his anxiety level. He has multiple other issues due to be a rescue of questionable origins.

I think the take-away in all this is to be aware of your cats, their reactions and their stress levels. Find something that works and returns harmony to the household. Because each cat has his own unique personality, each situation is likely a variation on a theme.

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

When i got a second cat my first cat, a Siamese was very territorial. The second cat was very timid. The second cat spent nearly a year mostly living under my bed. At night I would close him in our bedroom and close the other cat out. By the end of their lives (at 13 and 15) they were the best of friends and would sleep draped over each other, share the same food bowl and look for the other one. The key is patience and gradual introductions. I adopted a cat in March from the Human Society (the one I refer to in the above comment) and because of multiple issues, he is still having to mostly be kept separate from the others. I will not be surprised if it take 6 months to a year for full acclimation. He was 4 years old when adopted.

OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

LCDwriter, I agree that it depends on the temperament of the cat. I've always used the gradual introduction method when introducing a new cat to my home except for one cat who wanted to join the family immediately. The other cats accepted him with no problem. It's interesting how the dynamics change over time. Last summer I had to put one of my cats to sleep. Suddenly another cat who had been my friendliest cat began bullying the other cat. When I fostered, then adopted a third cat, after initially leaving her alone, he has begun to bully her also. I'm trying to find a solution to keep peace in the house.

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Best of luck in finding something that works. I talked with our vet's office just yesterday and it really is a process that takes time and energy and patience. I have two of the three. :-)

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

I have a multiple cat household (4 indoor cats) and everyone gets along except that my deaf/low vision male cat scares the living hell out of the only female cat in the house, chasing her. (Everyone is fixed.) It's odd but he can see well enough to watch her run. His physical disabilities make it extra difficult to work with his behavior. We've found that isolating him in a room of his own at night allows her some uninterrupted "roam time" around the house. I've also trained him not to enter the bedroom she claims as hers. He now just stops at the doorway and peers in. She growls but he cannot hear her. It had been getting so bad that she had resorted to peeing all over his food and water station in retaliation. Awful. Voted up and more, and pinned.

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks FlourishAnyway. I'm working on something like this with my bully cat and that's why I separate the one that gets scared. It's so strange as I've had other multiple cat combinations that have not really had problems. But this current set is just not working. Two of my five are old cats and one has chronic kidney issues. When they pass away I know the dynamics will change again. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Ann1Az2 profile image

Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

These are all great suggestions and I was interested in this hub because I have a 4-cat household that is fairly harmonious. I say fairly because I have one cat who is the typical Garfield with an attitude. He doesn't get along very well with my female cat and she usually avoids him. Sometimes, though, I see them sleeping together, so he isn't always a jerk. Then, I have another cat who gets along with everyone and that's his brother! Every one has a different personality.

All of them like their daily brushing accept Garfield (his real name is Tuxedo) and he growls most of the time, although I think usually he just likes to complain because while I'm brushing him, he's nosing my arm and purring at the same time that he's growling.

Cats are amazing creatures and I've never met one I didn't like! I love your cartoon, by the way - great choice.

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks for stopping by Ann1Az2. Yes, you can't even tell what cats will be like from the same family. I have also noticed that cat's personalities change over time so even if they don't get along when they are younger, they sometimes mellow out when they are older (or vice versa). I'm glad to see others with four cats. I don't feel quite so crazy with my 5!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

L.C., my male cat came into the fold about 8 months after I adopted my two (sisters) girl rescues. He's purebred; they are not. Although he was the last of the brood and they are all fixed, he sometimes bullies my girls. Maybe it's just a guy thing. Lately, he's taken to staying in the laundry room and doesn't bother anyone. He doesn't even come out for human lovin'. That may be because I'm not working (freelance) steadily and don't have as much time to socialize.

When I was a little girl, we had a cat and a German Shepherd. The Shepard was very territorial and could be mean. One day my cat laid on her back and put her claws though the dog's eyelid. She never bothered the cat again!

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Hope all is well with your male cat. Maybe he is just pouting because you are busy but don't forget that behavior change can also signal illness.

I love how cats, even though they are small compared to most dogs, can really hold their own---especially if they have claws.

I'm so glad you stopped by bravewarrior.

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

I have had the totem pole rearranged several times as each pet passes away. I have a bully cat or shall I saw two of them. It is always interesting in this house and outside as I have two indoor/outdoor cats and a total outdoor cat. All of them are fixed. I also have a big dogs that was bullied by a cat that since has passed away. The dog finally had enough of her and barked at her and she never bothered him after that. Thanks for the helpful advice.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

L.C. I fear 2 of my 3 if not all are ill in some way. Someone is peeing on my furniture (including bare wood) and pooping on my ceramic tile. I've not been able to determine who's doing it. The sad thing is, I've not been able to keep up with their vet appointment for the last two years due to financial strains. It kills me that I may be killing my cats.

Ann1Az2 profile image

Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

Who says you're crazy?? I used to have 6! lol My family calls me the cat lady! lol

Gramby 12 months ago

I have two cats in a 2BR apartment. Charlie is a 15lb black cat and Maggie is a much smaller (and older) tabby. Charlie has bullied Maggie and tried to dominate her since he was a kitten, even after he got neutered. That I don't worry about too much. What worries me is his behaviour towards my kids. I have four kids that stay with me every other weekend, and my youngest two are afraid of him. He'll lay in the middle of the kitchen floor or the middle of the hallway or right in front of the bathroom door and attack their feet as they walk past. He's as sweet as the day is long to me, but he's an asshole to my kids, and I won't stand for it. I get that he's territorial, and I get that my kids are like constant strangers to him. But I won't stand for this behaviour from him. I've tried the squirt bottle and grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and giving him a firm "no," but I'm also at work 8 hours a day, and so when I'm gone he does whatever he wants. I'm getting really tired of my kids being afraid of him, and I need to break him of this behaviour.

Nessa 2 weeks ago

I have two cats which are about one year old one male and one female the mail being significantly larger than the female. The male cat constantly bullies the female cat who is now scared and petrified of everything. how can I stop her brother from terrorizing her and making her so scared of everything?

LCDWriter profile image

LCDWriter 4 days ago from Florida Author

Some cats will always be bullies. You can give her some relief by crating the bully cat for a few hours and giving her free roam or putting him in another room. You can also try getting a water spray bottle and giving him a light spray whenever he seems to be after her. Just be careful not to spray her or she will think she is being punished.

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