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Best Ways to Stop a Cat From Being a Bully

Updated on April 10, 2016
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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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 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
      Author

      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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
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      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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

      Caren White 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
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      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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
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      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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
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      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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

      Shauna L Bowling 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
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      L C David 2 years ago from Florida

      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

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      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

      Shauna L Bowling 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

    • profile image

      Gramby 17 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.

    • profile image

      Nessa 5 months 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
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      L C David 5 months ago from Florida

      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.

    • profile image

      Julie Frary 4 months ago

      We had seven indoor cats that all happily lived together, In August 2016 our eldest cat Morgan sadly had to be put to sleep, Morgan was A beautiful big black and white tom cat.,very placid who kept the peace.

      A few weeks later Chrystal decided she was boss and started to attack the other cats especially Sophie our tiny two tear old Selkirk Rex.

      She was making her life miserable and kept attacking her.

      We tried plug in cat calmer, calming drops to put on cats food and between the attacking cats eyes, but nothing seemed to have any real effect, even shutting her in solitary confinement.

      Then I came up with the Idea to buy a collar for Chrystal with a noisy bell on it so Sophie would know where Chrystal was.

      So far this seems to have worked it has been two weeks now with no more attacks,

      Hopefully this will last!

      Julie

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 4 months ago from Florida

      That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      Natalie 4 months ago

      We've had a dog for about 4 years now, there's nothing wrong with her, she's the best dog we've ever had. So two days ago we brought home a cat. We are trying to take things slow. My dog is still trying to figure out what's happening so she tries to smell her face A LOT well the cat scratches her face every time and I understand that. Now (yes I realize it hasn't been long) the cat walks up to our dog and attacks her. Today my dog was just looking at her curiously trying to figure this out and the cat walks up to her hisses and attacks her stomach. I don't know what to do I know it hasn't been long and these things take time but I don't want my dog getting hurt.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 3 months ago from Florida

      Try putting your cat in a room with the dog in a crate. Then try the opposite with the cat in the crate.

    • profile image

      Saffyre89 3 months ago

      I have had my dog for 9 years and just introduced a kitty to the house about 4 months ago... they are not afraid of eachother all... but my cat likes to jump on the dogs back and "see how long he can ride" or bites at her tail and hind legs. The sog yips, yelps and barks at the cat and the cat leaves, but minutes later the cat is back at it again. I THINK my kitty is just trying to be playful, but doesnt realize it hurts the dogs tail when biting and such... I don't want my dog to live in fear of my kitty. I also dont want the dog to someday get fed up and hurt my kitty.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 3 months ago from Florida

      Is the cat a kitten? If so, this is normal kitten behavior which will calm down over the next few months. In the meantime, keep the kitten's nails trimmed and give the dog some breaks by either crating the kitten or putting it in another room. They may turn out to be best friends.

    • profile image

      FurMom2323 3 months ago

      We added a third cat to our two-cat household 6 weeks ago. The new cat (age 17) is a doll, amazing cat, wonderful with people...but she's a total bully with our other two. One of the originals is a big guy and brave enough to hold his own, but even there, she's causing problems - she stalks him and will sit and stare at him for half an hour...and then when he falls asleep, she will pounce on him, violently. So, he's miserable but dealing with it. But, our other girl is extremely timid - she immediately runs away in fear, which incites the new cat to chase her, and again, it's very violent. So our timid girl now basically lives inside the sofa, or inside our mattress boxspring, the only place she feels safe. I feel like we have ruined the two originals' lives, although we have succeeded in doing what we wanted to do for the new cat - rescuing an older cat. But at what cost? We have tried the spray bottle, chastising, we've tried locking the whole family (with us) in a room together for a few hours so they can have some peaceful time together...but it doesn't seem to help. The timid girl disappears at the very hint of the new girl, and even when we lock the new girl away for a few hours, the timid one stays hidden. If she comes out to get water or use the litter box, she literally looks over her shoulder in a panic. And in open space, she just runs away, and so all the time we spend in a confined room doesn't solve the problem of what happens in the rest of the house. I'm not sure we can live like this, where everyone has to be confined in a particular room, and half of our sweet babies are miserable. I know it takes time, but in 6 weeks, it's not gotten the slightest bit better with these two girls. I can't envision how it will, if the timid one continues to live in hiding. I'd love some suggestions!

    • profile image

      StopChasing 3 months ago

      Hi,

      I was wondering if you have any input on my scenario. I have a pair of two year old cats, both fixed, that started suddenly fighting about three months ago. They are siblings. I have slowly reintroduced them and they are generally peaceful during feeding times. They will even hang around for ~25-30 minutes together working out all the kibble from a slow feeder puzzle that we use. The moment they are done eating, however, the male chases the female up the stairs and under the bed, where she'll usually stay hidden and/or drive him away from.

      What can be done to reduce this aggression? They seem ok with each other until the instant that the food or play distraction goes away.

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 3 months ago from Florida

      Thanks for rescuing a senior cat. I have faced scenarios like what you are facing. What I would suggest is giving the cats breaks. Put the bully cat in a bedroom with litter box, water, etc. and give the originals the day out without the new cat. Play with them and give them treats. Another thing to try is to get a cat harness and leash and actually leash the bully sometimes and help pull her back when she starts bothering the other cats. Especially for a senior cat that may have been used to being an alpha, it may be that separation is the best thing. Six weeks isn't that long in adult cat adjustment period. They may still work it out.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 3 months ago from Florida

      Are you sure it's not playing? Sometimes cat play looks an awful lot like fighting to humans (even the chasing an hiding). Do they both have claws? I would think if they are eating together then they are friends. They may be re-working out dominance but that's okay. Cats are strange sometimes and their play patterns are strange too. I have two adult cats who "fight" in the floor every night. Nipping and tumbling and kicking each other with their back feet. It's their nightly routine and they both seem to enjoy the "play aggression." Sometimes one will chase the other off somewhere and maybe under a bed. The usually signals that it's over.

    • profile image

      StopChasing 3 months ago

      No, this doesn't seem like play aggression. They had a vicious fight and would not go near each other for quite a while after. We had had to slowly reintroduce them using a screen door to keep them from hurting each other. It took around a month before they wouldn't scream and growl at each other.

      Now, though, it still doesn't look like play time. First, the boy is always the chaser, and he always chases her at the same time and to the same place. Second, she always hisses and growls at him, hiding under the bed instead of playing back. These cats got along just fine for a year and a half before their fight, and this looks nothing like what their old rough play looked like. They usually didn't vocalize during that play time and they also took turns chasing.

      I would just let them reassert dominance and so on, but right now it's clear that the whole thing might escalate into a serious fight if left unchecked. The female is, at this point, quite wary of him in light of being hurt and frightened during their fights.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 3 months ago from Florida

      Interesting. I actually wonder if the male cat needs something to calm him down. No kidding I have a male cat that is on a low dose of Prozac and it has worked wonders for his temperament. I got him from a shelter and he was aggressive and a sprayer (even though neutered). He takes one pill a day and he is a much more calm and relaxed kitty and aggression has turned into playful bouts in the floor.

      Just a thought. It's so strange that they got along and then something changed! Don't you wish you could talk to them and ask what's up?

    • profile image

      Nichole 2 months ago

      I have two 2 year old cats they came from the same liter and they are both fixed. I recently just had to get the boy cat groomed and shaved because he had alot of matted fur and wouldnt let me cut it out or brush him. Ever since i got him groomed his sister wont go near him and when she does shes growls and hisses at him. I dont know what to do. The boy cat looks so sad when his sister hisses because he doesnt know what he did wrong. Please help me

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 2 months ago from Florida

      He looks different and smells funny from the groomer's powders and perfumes. Give that a few days to wear off and they should be back to being fine.

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      Tiffany Probus 2 months ago

      My boy cat is fine but my girl cat is 6 and she gets worse each year with attacking my dog when all she does is walk by. If we can't get this taken care of, tempted to get rid of her. We say no, spray her, flick her on the nose then she wants to attack me. Also, a kid I watch sometimes was trying to play with her then she attacked her. Now she runs if she she's the girl.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 2 months ago from Florida

      First, inflicting any kind of pain including flicking the nose will only make the problem worse. I'd suggest stopping that. Second is the cat declawed? Declawed cats are often more aggressive because they feel more vulnerable. Cats are very particular and most aren't very patient with kids. It's best to keep her separate from the kid as it sounds like she is feeling stressed by the kid. It sounds like she's stressed in general, actually. With cats you have to work with them, not expect them to conform to unrealistic expectations. Listen to their body signals and allow them space to get out of situations if they don't want to be petted, held, played with etc. Give the cat positive attention with treats and toys (the cat fishing pole works great for playtime). Your cat may begin to relax more when she realizes that she is allowed to be herself and is not always worried about begin stressed out more by you or by other animals.

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      Karen Perry 8 weeks ago

      I have two male cats that came from the same litter and have been together for 4 years. They have always been very affectionate and loving toward each other until I decided to get them lion style haircuts. Taking them one at a time on different days it was like bringing a new cat into the home. I had never seen these two treat each other like total strangers before. I was totally surprised at the hossing and hiding from eachother.

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 7 weeks ago from Florida

      They likely smell different from the groomers and cats do recognize each other. Give them a few days and they will be fine. And maybe skip the lion cut next time.

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      beachdayz 6 weeks ago

      Please help! I have 2 males cats, brothers, now age 8 that have behavior issues that started about 2 years ago and have gotten worse. They are both neutered and had a healthy vet visit last month.

      They were the best of friends for 6 years. My bigger cat, Tigger started more intense bullying the smaller cat Louie. Fights, hissing chasing. The behavioral vet recommended prozac for Tigger which we did for 1 1/2 years! He seemed sleepy and drugged out. We weaned him off the prozac.

      Now the bullying is continuing and Louie has started spraying. I am freaked out that my house will become a litterbox!

      Is there any other choice besides the prozac? We have tried to separate them in different areas but Tigger howls and Louie digs at the door like a maniac. There is definate stress. Can you recommend any other options? How do I stop the spraying?

    • LCDWriter profile image
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      L C David 6 weeks ago from Florida

      My experience with Prozac was different. My cat did not act sleepy. Perhaps you could try a lower dose for the bully cat? Have you tried spraying water on him when you see acts of aggression? The water will not hurt and might get the message that you don't like what is going on. So sorry you are going through this.

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