how to stop my old cat from bullying my new cat
October 9, 2006 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I punish my old cat when she terrorizes my new cat? This is part of the larger question of how do I stop my old cat from bullying my new kitten, despite my adherence to everything I've read about integrating the new kitten into my cat's kingdom.

Life blessed me this summer with a new stray kitten, who is now six or seven months old. After making sure the kitten was healthy and fixing her, we started the process of introducing her to my 4-year-old manx.
We were very careful with the introduction process, since we've seen our manx attack every cat she's ever been introduced to in the past. Manx and Kitten spent two weeks getting acquainted under a door and then another two weeks only seeing each other when we were around to supervise. Then we started to let them both roam free but promptly stopped when we saw the pattern that was developing.
That pattern is that Kitten lives under the bed and Manx stays within view of her, even if it's across the house, so she can attack Kitten whenever Kitten emerges from under the bed. And it seems to be getting worse: now Manx will even bully Kitten out from under the bed and chase her into the corner of the closet where she'd probably do damage to her if we didn't intervene.
I don't know how or whether I should start punishing Manx in some fashion when she does this or whether that would make her even more hateful towards Kitten. I also don't know whether I can still hope to undo this pattern or how to do so if it is possible.
I should add that I've tried feeding them across the room from each other, but Kitten is so terrified and Manx so hateful that as soon as Manx notices Kitten she attacks her. Similarly, my husband and I tried engaging them in play at the same time in the same room, but none of these techniques seem possible now since Manx attacks Kitten as soon as she sees her.
posted by rikitiki to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The behavior you are describing is pretty normal and may continue for months while your cats sort out who is "boss."

Once they have it sorted out there are a variety of patterns that you may see. This can range from napping together and being the bestest cutest cuddliest friends ever to avoiding each other 98% of the time. Even once they're used to each other you may notice that they fight.

The course that you take from here is going to be more for your comfort than for the cats, because they will sort it out if left on their own.
posted by bilabial at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2006

For what it's worth: I once tried to adopt an adult male cat who bullied my older, skittish female cat. In the end, I couldn't make it work. Maybe I gave up too soon, but the day he took a chunk out of my beloved cat's ear was the day I decided that he was leaving. Punishment from you will not make the situation better; it's a cycle of dominant/submissive kitty behavior. The more scared the kitten acts, the more agressive your Manx becomes, and the more agressive your Manx becomes, the more scared the kitten gets....

I later read on some cat forums that giving the "scared" cat mild tranquilizers to lessen the fearful reaction sometimes helps break this cycle. Feliway is another product designed to mellow your cats out, which should lessen the hostilities until the cats adjust to one another. Good luck!
posted by junkbox at 12:37 PM on October 9, 2006

The kitten should have a safe hiding place that a) the manx cannot reach by any means, and b) the kitten can't see the manx or vice versa. A small kitty door leading to a walk-in closet with food and a litter box or something like that.

It sounds to me like you're going to just have to give it time with the first two steps, until the kitten is old enough to defend itself. I'm not at all discouraged, but the manx is def. feeling threatened by the kitten. Give both of them lots of love.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on October 9, 2006

I mean no disrespect, but if you've seen that Manx has had a pattern of attacking all other cats he's been introduced to, it probably was not a good idea to take in Kitten. Unfortunately, some cats are just territorial and mean bastards, and you can't stop it. It is possible that over time they will become more acquainted with one another, but only time will tell that, and you will need to permit them to have (many) scuffles.

Punishing Manx will not help - he will only learn:
a) To associate Kitten with bad experiences
b) That when you're not around, he can terrorize Kitten without recourse

The only thing I can suggest is that you work to invent ways to find more attractive things for Manx to do than attack Kitten, and/or learn to teach Manx to associate positive things with the presence of Kitten. Some suggestions:

- When you see Manx getting ready to attack, but before he attacks - quickly grab a cat toy and play with Manx. Manx wants to hunt and assert dominance - guide him toward doing it on something other than Kitten.
- If you ever see Manx and Kitten being friendly, praise them in a calm, soothing voice and perhaps even give them each a treat.

You are going to need to be very watchful and very patient, and you may have signed Kitten up for a pretty unhappy time of things for quite some time and/or for the duration of his little life. I would strongly urge all readers who have territorial / nonsocial cats not to bring any other cats into the home. It's incredibly challenging and generally not a good idea.
posted by twiggy at 1:18 PM on October 9, 2006

Exactly what twiggy said. Punishment is going to make this worse, your cat already associates the kitten with stress and frustration, punishment is just going to reinforce those feelings, which is the opposite of what you want.

I would separate them again immediately - the month clearly wasn't long enough (NO amount of time may be long enough), but you have to stop the kitten from being terrorized in the interim. Some people say that Feliway-type things work, I don't know, classical conditioning (feeding the cat good treats only when the kitten is around, that sort of thing), might help, but you may simply have to accept that your cat just doesn't want or need a buddy.

I usually advocate letting them sort it out, but if your cat has a history of disliking and attacking other cats, it might seriously injure the kitten (not to mention the fact that it's not fair to allow this level of bullying to go on - it's one thing to have cats who spat occasionally but otherwise just avoid each other, but IMO your situation as described is much more serious than that). Some cats just don't like other cats, some cats can learn to co-exist relatively peacefully with other cats, but some cat's simply can't. Cats (other than lions) aren't generally social animals as a species at the best of times (individual cats can be, cats in general are pretty solitary), and your cat just may not ever accept the kitten. You could certainly try giving it more time and going back to the "supervised visits only", but if I were in your shoes I'd either be prepared to keep them separate possibly forever, or start looking for a new home for the kitten where it won't be terrorized (it is much easier to find a home for a kitten than an adult cat, so keep this in mind).
posted by biscotti at 3:24 PM on October 9, 2006

And by the way, this experience is not going to help the kitten learn to like other cats either.
posted by biscotti at 3:26 PM on October 9, 2006

we've seen our manx attack every cat she's ever been introduced to in the past.

I do not understand why you took in a kitten. You should find the kitten a new home ASAP.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on October 10, 2006

« Older Could this really be anything other than bruising?   |   What is this flag? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.