How do I get my cats to stop humping each other when the baby cries loudly?
July 8, 2005 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I have two cats (brother and sister from the same litter 8 years ago) and one baby. The cats have never messed with each other beyond play fighting every so often and chasing each other for kicks. But recently, we noticed a horrible new behavior: when the baby cries at full tilt (only once every 3-4 days), the male cat gets up and goes after the female and tries to mount her, in an almost automatic, robot-like response. I have some ideas of why, but I can't find any tips on what to do to stop it.

I've heard cats in heat before outside my window and it can sound a bit like a baby's cry. The way the male cat will bolt awake if asleep, or start scanning a room looking for the female -- I get the idea that he thinks she's crying in heat and his instincts are taking over (they're both fixed by the way, but it's still weird and aggressive that it happens).

For now we just have one person not holding the baby separate the cats by throwing the male into a closed bathroom or closet or something until the baby calms down. It's not perfect because you're trying to help the baby out but at the same time keep the female cat from being raped as it were.

I've googled around and can't find anyone else reporting the same problem but I would think it's fairly universal if these are in fact instincts at play. So I can't find any info on why this happens exactly and I'm not seeing any info on how to stop it.

Is there anything I can do to put an end to this unfortunate behavior?
posted by mathowie to Pets & Animals (26 answers total)
 
Get them fixed?

If they're already fixed, you probably can't do anything about it. My neutered male cat used to mount my mom's spayed female cat sometimes. It's just animal nature. It probably seems especially bad because they're siblings, but felines don't have incest taboos.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2005


As a cat owner, and 2 time parent, I've never heard of this reaction. Your analysis sounds plausible, and your male cat sounds like he may be confused. When our male cat tries to mount the female, she hisses and scratches and fights him off - does your female fight? or just lets him do it? If she seems ok with it, you could just let them work it out - and see if the behavior lessens over time. Or, you could keep a plant sprayer handy and give him a squirt of water when he's approaching her.

I'm not sure you can train a cat to do anything, but we use the plant sprayer (or a squirt gun) to remind our cats to get off the kitchen table. At this point, all they need is to see the sprayer, and they run off.
posted by jasper411 at 2:51 PM on July 8, 2005


Response by poster: Yeah, like I mentioned in the extended section, they are in fact fixed. I know I'm probably fighting nature here, but the worst part is that it adds stress to an already stressful situation. It makes soothing a crying baby a two-person job where someone has to quarantine the cat and watch it until the baby is happy again.
posted by mathowie at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2005


Response by poster: does your female fight? or just lets him do it? If she seems ok with it, you could just let them work it out - and see if the behavior lessens over time.

He's a dominant cat already so she doesn't really fight him because he's been kicking her ass for years. The first few times it happened we couldn't really tell what the heck was going on and I have a feeling the mounting wouldn't stop until we separated them.

We have a plant sprayer for table jumping as well, I'll get another to keep around for crying incidents.
posted by mathowie at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2005


This is interesting because I've had neutered male cats who are absolutely uninterested in the REAL cries of female neighbor cats in heat. I've seen one neighbor's cat writhing around on the sidewalk and yowling while my cat sunned his fat stomach in our driveway, unfazed. And my god, seeing cats mate or try to mate is like the most traumatic thing ever, so I sympathize. Your poor female cat.

Are they otherwise adjusting well to the baby's arrival?
posted by peep at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2005


Other than the spray bottle idea, you could also ask your vet about it and see if s/he has any suggestions. What would concern me is that this could become an ingrained habit. It's also possible that this is a stress reaction from the male cat (in which case a temporary course of medication could help), and not specifically sexual in nature.
posted by biscotti at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2005


I've certainly seen fixed cats trying to mount each other, but they generally seem to get bored with it pretty quickly and wander off looking for something to knock over.

Cat mating is an odd business at the best of times: from what I've seen, the female generally doesn't look to be enjoying it that much, and the males just do their thing and wander off without even buying the female a dead mouse or something.

I'd guess that you are probably right: the babys cry is kicking in some bizarre instinctive behavior. I'd probably just leave them to it: as long as nobody is getting hurt, I don't see it as much of an issue.
posted by baggers at 3:28 PM on July 8, 2005


I don't think it's a big deal unless he is hurting her. When I've seen fixed cats mount, usually the dominant male gets on top of the female or subordinate male, gets in position, maybe bites the scruff of his bottom's neck, and then just kind of hangs out there going "hmm, I seem to remember something's supposed to happen now, but I don't really know what it is" until the subordinate cat whacks him one and he goes away. Use the spray bottle if it really bothers you, otherwise just let them sort the politics out between themselves.
posted by matildaben at 3:43 PM on July 8, 2005


Yeah, I'm with matildaben, it doesn't seem particularly harmful. Perhaps pointing and laughing would be most appropriate?
posted by kindall at 3:49 PM on July 8, 2005


Spray bottle. Definately. I would give some supporting story, but you already know.
posted by snsranch at 4:42 PM on July 8, 2005


Oh, and get a GOOD squirt bottle, with an adjustable nozzle so that you can set it to "stun".

Squirt. Cat is hit on the side of the head. Cat runs under sofa. The End.
posted by snsranch at 5:05 PM on July 8, 2005


Our old male cat was neutered but he would still try to do his thing on an old stuffed sheep toy we had. I think the squirt gun could work as a one person job if you try it a few times. Also consider that this could be a short term problem, as the pitch of your baby's crying should change as she ages. Must be tough, though -- sorry.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:11 PM on July 8, 2005


If you go the squirt bottle route, I highly recommend a can of compressed air -- that's what I've been using on my shelter-adopted cat who's a bit of a biter. Same effect, no puddles all over the apartment/house.
posted by awegz at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2005


Have you tried making some other sound at the same time? Something that won't hurt the baby but might distract the male? When I make a loud "PSSST!" sound my cat jumps to. I'm not sure if he perceives it as cat-hissing, but you might try interrupting his response to the howling with something else that might get his attention.

Other than that, I'd suggest you adjust your setup until Fiona's a little older. Maybe keep one cat outside or in the garage or something? You can't do much more to the cat than fix him. Perhaps declawing him to give the female an advantage. But declawing is extreme and cruel.
posted by scarabic at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2005


I recommend compressed air as well. My cats scoff at squirt bottles, but their butt starts behaving the moment I begin reaching for the compressed air.
posted by lynda at 8:46 PM on July 8, 2005


I'm with the "leave it alone" crowd, as long as neither cat really seems bothered by it. Spraying will probably work, but I doubt you can train that behavior out of them- those are some seriously primal impulses you're fighting.

I gotta say, that's the weirdest cat behavior story I've heard.
posted by mkultra at 9:04 PM on July 8, 2005


Nothing helpful to add. I used to have a University of Washington keychain that played their fight song. Playing that made our male cat mount his sister. Not that we tested it out from time to time. It worked every time. For years.
posted by Jazz Hands at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2005 [2 favorites]


I've used both the squirt bottle and compressed air. Just the sound of the air is enough to "correct" any aberrant behavior.
posted by ericb at 9:33 PM on July 8, 2005


Oh, and I think Fiona's still too young for this, but I've heard that baby sign language really cuts down on awful tantrums and crying by giving the kid a more productive means of communicating her needs. When she's of age you might consider it.
posted by scarabic at 10:13 PM on July 8, 2005


Matt, althought it isn't pretty (to our eyes), male cats mounting female cats is one of the most natural things in the world; don't worry that your female is getting hurt, she is made to handle mounting. Anyway, I've seen many neutered males (ours included) mount neutered females (ours included, also his sister) and believe me, no amount of Viagra is going help actually do anything. Well, anything serious. The neck biting is natural and no more harmful than their normal play.

By the way, I disagree strongly that you should consider medicating the cat as per Biscotti. If it is causing you stress, use the squirt gun or the compressed air. But you should worry more about your daughter than the cats, they'll be fine.
posted by sic at 2:00 AM on July 9, 2005


As may have been implied by my comment above, I have seen same-sex cat neutered cat mounting as well, just recently with the new 1-year-old kitten being mounted by the larger and more dominant 6-year-old cat that was already in the house. I think it was just an "establishing I'm the boss" thing, which the boy accepted and which only happened twice. On the other hand, my friends and I have often suggested that Lars is gay, in a very butch Tom of Finland leatherdaddy kind of way.
posted by matildaben at 6:36 AM on July 9, 2005


I've seen cats acting out when a baby cries. The cat in question would jump up and attack an empty Huggies box, scratching it like crazy until the screaming stopped. The loud, incessant noise is definitely upsetting to kitties. Is there some way you could set up an escape route for the cats, like a cat-door which leads into the garage, so they can get away from the noise when it gets unbearable?
posted by bonheur at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2005


It really isn't possible for cats to have sex without cooperation from the female. I would just ignore it.
posted by free pie at 8:54 AM on July 9, 2005


Just as an FYI, it's really difficult, if not actually impossible, for your cat to "rape" another cat. If I recall correctly the only non-human mammals ever recorded as being sexual aggressors are dolphins. Dogs hump your leg because it's a stationary object. If the female kitty doesn't want to be breeding, then outside of the male being four times her size he's not going to have the strength to hold her down and keep her in the correct position. I'm not sure how to respond to the Pavlovian response to the baby crying, but as for your worries about the cat being hurt, if she doesn't want to be mounted by the male, she wouldn't let him.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:31 AM on July 9, 2005


Also- Matt, when the male mounts the female, does he also actually go through the actions of mating with her? Or does he just get on top of her and stay there? If the latter, then the odds are your male cat thinks the baby's crying is the call of another male in heat, and your cat is actually trying to "call dibs" on the female to protect her from possibly wanting to copulate with the "other" male cat.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:34 AM on July 9, 2005


I used to have a University of Washington keychain that played their fight song. Playing that made our male cat mount his sister.

Actually, THAT is the weirdest cat behavior story I've ever heard.
posted by jeanmari at 11:05 AM on October 19, 2005


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