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How to Deal With an Adolescent Indoor Cat

I've raised cats through the adolescent phase and have done extensive research on the trouble we endured.

Indoor cats sometimes feel more like roommates than pets.

Indoor cats sometimes feel more like roommates than pets.

How to Deal With a Teenage Indoor Cat

If you’ve never shared a house with a completely indoor cat, you have never experienced cathood at its extreme, otherwise known as cat adolescence. Kittens really should come with a warning!

The Adolescent Phase

All cats go through it, but for those who live their lives entirely confined to watching the outside world only through a pane of glass or screen, the intensity of the adolescent phase is magnified a thousand times. During peak periods, the amplitude is almost unbearable.

For this period of adolescence, a cat suffers an identity crisis and a form of insanity. It fits all the clinical descriptions—a demonstrated departure from reality, dramatic and spontaneous personality changes, a tendency to slide into a delusional state (hallucinations and the like), and a blatant disregard for social mores.

At this stage, the young feline seems to have an inability to commit to a temperament. So, she fluctuates between pompous aloofness, endearing docility, and alienating bouts of maliciousness. Though the age range varies from cat to cat, the phase begins at about three months after the switch from kitten chow to adult cat food where they have big cat bodies but the mind of a two-year-old human child.

Indoor Cats Do Indoor Cat Things

Living entirely indoors just complicates matters as it plays havoc with kitty’s internal mapping. For example, cats instinctively know they are rulers. Who are their subjects? The precious years of youth give them this information. Cats who experience the outside world soon learn their domain over the “lesser elements”: other cats, birds, rodents, dogs, and, as a matter of fact, all other living creatures. This superiority makes for a happy and self-satisfied cat.

Indoor cats, however, prey upon and attack things like uneven carpet threads, wine bottle corks, shoelaces, wads of paper, twistie-ties from garbage bags, etc. Eventually, the cat realizes her domination of the world as she has come to know it is really an aberration of nature thrust upon her.

Despite living indoors, adolescent cats' predatory instincts may still cause them to "hunt."

Despite living indoors, adolescent cats' predatory instincts may still cause them to "hunt."

Not recognizing the benefits of safety that her living arrangements provide, she rebels. Part of that adolescent immaturity is revealed through her on and off mission in life to drive her human companions to madness. Yet, in this endeavor, she is dutifully torn as survival requires her to stay in the good graces of those who buy the cat food. Thus one can easily see where the internal conflict originates.

Kitty is stuck in a double-bind. To be true to her nature, she must dominate. To be fed, she must subordinate herself. To dominate or subordinate? She vacillates back and forth and the indecision drives her wild. So, as if an errant paw made its way into an electric socket, she tears through the house at lightning speed, making obnoxious noises, and then dropping to rest at will. She seems to derive a great deal of satisfaction from niggling acts of destruction such as lying in wait to strike a run in the panty hose worn by the female human housemate with a single swipe of the claw, or obstructing normal household rituals, i.e. making the bed.

Can Adolescent Cat Psychosis Be Helped?

Through my extensive research on the matter, albeit anecdotal (my own experience and interviews with others who share their household with a completely indoor cat), I have found this phenomenon (psychosis) to be widespread. It appears to escalate during adolescence, it peaks, then levels off and starts to subside at about two years old. It shows up sporadically, in diminishing small spurts throughout the entire adult life until kitty can no longer be bothered.

Unnerving as it may be, there is no remedy for the symptoms of the adolescent cat phase—spanking is unthinkable and spritzes don’t work on cats who like water (as does mine). But, if you have a cat in this maddening phase of feline life, all you can do is sit back, restrain yourself, and hope nothing gets broken—let the phase run its course.

You can always lock yourself in a room to get away from it all. However, be warned. She will soon be at the door with cries of agony and a probing paw in the door jam, wondering herself mad as to what you are doing in there and why she wasn’t invited.

Adolescent indoor cats sometimes rebel as an expression of the internal conflict they experience between dominance and subordination.

Adolescent indoor cats sometimes rebel as an expression of the internal conflict they experience between dominance and subordination.

Just Love Her Through It

Remember, you have leverage to ensure a better portion of good behavior. It’s the one thing she needs more than anything—your complete and unconditional adoration. Only realize, however, that cats, having no genetic sense of humility, will never admit to needing anything but complete sovereignty.

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So maybe she has knocked dishes off the counter then darted through the house to escape punishment, dug her teeth into your important business documents, chewed your computer and telephone wires, nibbled buttons off your shirt, torn the spine off of your books, and shredded the toilet paper to bits. You must remind her of the one thing she can never get in that big wide, very wild, and dangerous world outside the window—the true devotion of a human being.

Pick her up, stroke her lovingly, and talk softly to her. Tickle her memory and subdue her will with that affection. Let her know how privileged you are to have her presence grace the household. That, when it comes down to it, enduring her frenzied bouts of insanity is nothing compared to the utter madness you would experience if she were not part of your life.

Then, if she hasn't wrestled herself out of your arms already, put her back down and let her get back to her business—the business of being a cat.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 Leafy Den


Kulsoom on July 10, 2020:

Hii i just bought a 8 month cat and now she's to scared not coming up and she didn't eat anything it's almost 2 days we are going through it so kindly tell me what should we do and what cat food we have to give her and which vaccine we have to give her?

Marissa on June 05, 2018:

Thank you so much for this article. I recently brought home a 10 month old cat and he fits your description perfectly. For the first night he was pleasant and affectionate, but after he got used to his surroundings, he started going pretty crazy. I thought it was me; maybe I scared him as I was moving furniture around to accommodate him. But to know that he is going through normal teenage cat behavior and I just need to wait it out is very reassuring. He's a sweet cat when he wants to be.

Christy on March 14, 2018:

Thank you SO MUCH for this article you've written! I've had my 8 month old tomcat for about 6 months now, since I took him home from the shelter. Having had cats/kittens growing up and most of my adult life I consider myself to be pretty kitty-literate, but nothing could've prepared me for Oliver's reign! He has more energy than any other before him and is a strictly indoor cat (with time out on the apt balcony daily, of course). Although he has a surplus of toys and lounging options, I feel guilty leaving for work every morning knowing he must feel so bored and trapped as the "only child", just watching the world thru windows and quietly resenting me. I've considered giving him to another loving home that could offer him more, namely a yard with a tree to run up and real, live creatures to stalk. I thought he wasn't fit to be an indoor cat and all the playtime I provide is just no match for the real thing. But after reading this piece, I feel so relieved to know it is just a phase and I'm actually doing a pretty darn good job with playtime and reinforcing good behavior, not to mention staying sane!! Lol. Thanks again :)

Allie on February 12, 2016:

This was a great read, both accurate and entertaining. I laugh when my indoor cat makes the sudden change from placidly relaxing to bolting from one end of the house to the other, growling. He has always enjoyed play-biting without really hurting anyone but over the last few weeks he has become a bit nasty sometimes launching sneak attacks or biting in protest to being picked up. It seemed out of character but, reading this it sounds like he's passing through the adolescent phase too. He's 16 mths old now - is there a rough estimate of how long this stage lasts?

BallOfFluff on January 27, 2014:

Phew! I'm not alone! I have an adolescent kitty & sometimes I worry she'll never grow out of it. Thank you for letting me know this is a normal phase, in fact I think she's doing quite well.

Leafy Den (author) from the heart on July 02, 2012:

Hi H Shin, I am happy to hear that my hub has given you insight into your cat's mood changes and congratulations on your first cat! Be patient with your kitty. As he grows up and matures, he will settle down and will be a wonderful companion. The turbulence will pass.

Thank you for reading and for your comment!

H Shin on June 26, 2012:

My indoor cat is experiencing adolescent now. As he is my first cat, I didn't know how to interprete his mood change. Now I'm a bit more comfortable to know that my cat is not only one experiencing the turbulence.

Leafy Den (author) from the heart on April 22, 2012:

Thank you, Rebecca. I am glad you and your cat found it useful... our indoor kitties teach us much daily! :)

rebecca on April 19, 2012:

This page was, in peticular, really awesome. I have taught my adolescent cat much more from this article. :)

Leafy Den (author) from the heart on February 11, 2011:

donotfear, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

Yes, through the years, my cats have "trained" me very well in the way they want me to think that they think :)

Annette Thomas from United States on February 10, 2011:

How totally neat!! This is funny....and well written. Plus you mastered the cat psych very well.

Leafy Den (author) from the heart on June 21, 2010:

epigramman, our kitties are indoors but we let them outside to enjoy the summer days but only under close supervision.

Thank you for your comment!

epigramman on June 20, 2010:

my two cats are so adolescent that they prefer to spend all of their time outdoors - in our Canadian summer!

Leafy Den (author) from the heart on June 20, 2010:


Thank you for reading and for your comments.

Sorry to hear about your kitty! That must have been a shock to find out that this happened. Glad he survived it!

Thank you also for following me - I shall have a look at your hubs as well.

Best wishes,


Jane Bovary from The Fatal Shore on June 20, 2010:

This is terrific Leafy and I very much enjoyed reading it. I have a cat so I know what you're talking about. Unfortunately at the peak of my cat's adolescence phase I accidentally ran over him in the driveway..a complete trauma to all concerned!

He was okay,..[nine lives and all]...but I'd damaged his pelvis and as result he became an enforced indoor cat for a while. They are an an amazing animal and have a way of ingratiating themselves into your affections.


Leafy Den (author) from the heart on June 18, 2010:


Thank you for reading and for your kind comments. Cats are wonderful, aren't they? In this case, this was almost a narrative from watching my own cat! It was her way of helping. They like to be involved :-)

Thank you also for following me. I shall have a look at your writings as well.

Best wishes,


David Stone from New York City on June 18, 2010:

Very enjoyable hub. I appreciated you tongue-in-cheek description of the antic, colorful behavior of cats was something I could easily relate to.

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