some cat behavior problems to deal with
February 9, 2007 5:12 PM   Subscribe

The cats are bein' bad...

She: 2 year-old Maine Coon and Calico mix. Delightful cat. Generally good attitude. Playful. Been in our house about 2 months.

He: 10-month old Russian Blue. Formerly feral, rescued by and adopted from a fostering agency. More cautious/jumpy. Was a hider at first. Now coming out of his shell. Been in our house about a month.

Problem with him: he "hunts" the other cat, stalking her around the house and occasionally pouncing on her. She is large and able to defend herself mostly but she's not aggressive enough to really fight back. The male winds up irritating the shit out of her a lot and brutalizing her a little. No serious injuries on either side but the fur does fly.

Problem with her: can't teach her to stay off the kitchen table. She jumps down when she hears me coming, but she's always up there. I've tried the spray bottle, but all it does is make her fear me (not the table).

Any tactics for improving either of these?
posted by scarabic to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
First, is he neutered? That would be a good place to start. After that, you may need to determine if the fighting is 'real' or not. I have four cats and they duel all the time. Lot's of wacking each other in the head and chasing each other around while yowling to wake the dead.

Perfectly normal young cat behavior, some cats just like to stalk and wrestle.

When they aren't fighting, are they getting along ok?

A tip for the spray bottle, make sure you zap them when they aren't looking at you. Then it's just angry judgment from on high.
posted by quin at 5:47 PM on February 9, 2007


As Quin said, making sure that your male cat is neutered is important. Un-neutered cats are a lot more ornery and difficult to deal with.

If your female cat is always on the kitchen table, perhaps she's trying to get away from your other cat. Provide another refuge for her like a kitty condo or cat tree where she can climb up high.

Finally, many cats hate the smell of citrus. Wash your kitchen table with a citrusy cleanser like Method's Grapefruit and she might think it's stinky enough to stay away from.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:03 PM on February 9, 2007


I would say that it's just the personality of the cat.

My only cat is very much the same, except he attacks my legs. He's neutered and a ragdoll breed (supposedly very kind and gentle cats), but he loves to pounce behind my legs and bites hard. I tried clapping my hands loudly to scare him off, but he still does it.
posted by koshka at 6:06 PM on February 9, 2007


I really hesitate to suggest this, because I remember my reaction to the same suggestion.

Get another kitten.

I had an elderly, sweet and very passive cat who was just hounded by our new kitten. The vet (perhaps just trying to pawn off another cat) advised me to get a kitten roughly the same age as the bully to absorb some of the energy of the rampageous kitten.

Worked like a damn charm, it did.

(Next AskMeFi: So, I have three cats. At what point am I the neighborhood "cat lady"?)
posted by thebrokedown at 7:16 PM on February 9, 2007


Finally, many cats hate the smell of citrus. Wash your kitchen table with a citrusy cleanser like Method's Grapefruit and she might think it's stinky enough to stay away from.

Ah that's a great idea. She HATES citrus. I bet even a bowl of fruit on the table would do the trick. Thanks! She does have other refuges, btw, and has been doing this since before the other cat arrived.

The little aggressive male is neutered. His attacks don't seem amorous. They're the posturings of a dominant alpha cat. This is what makes it hard to watch, and a pain in the ass for the other cat. He does things for no reason, out of nowhere, just to fuck with her. They do seem to be getting along just fine much of the time, and then BANG. It's like one of those awful cat fights you hear outside at night, but it's going on in our hallway. Perhaps it is "normal" (although in a lifetime of having cats I've never experienced this) but it's not acceptable. The female certainly isn't okay with it.

My hope is that he'll grow out of it as he ages. He's almost fully grown. Is that a false hope? She's only just out of her kitten phase herself.
posted by scarabic at 8:00 PM on February 9, 2007


scarabic, your male cat may or may not grow out of it -- some cats just have a different idea of what "play" is than others.

I've got two cats, litter mates, 1 male and 1 female. Though they are almost 8 years old the male has still not clued into the fact that his sister doesn't like to be stalked and leaped upon. He gets nothing but negative response from this but it hasn't stopped him yet. It's just how he plays. I figured out that, in his wierd cat way, he wants her to react similarly, join the hunt and stalk him back, I guess, but she won't go for it. She gets super defensive each and every time. Poor little guy acts so rejected, I feel sorry for him even though he's kind of being a brute.

So, either she'll figure out her role in that scenario or get her hackles up each and every time. I would advise not consoling your female overly much if he persists in doing this, though. I made this mistake. Now my female cat does this whole waaah-waaah-pity-me thing, for real!, when her brother goes after her. She has to learn to stick up for herself. The only time to intervene is if they're really tearing each other up, or wrecking the house.
posted by brain cloud at 8:38 PM on February 9, 2007


I had a similar situation a yours for eight years, scarabic. Slightly older fixed female cat, younger fixed male cat, constant outbreaks of hissing and hassling. I'm sorry to report that it didn't resolve. The male cat died last year and the female is thriving and happy again as the sole cat of the household.

I can only say: make sure the female gets enough to eat. My female cat was getting thinner and thinner as time went on because of some cat politics around the food bowls. (She's back to a healthy weight now.)
posted by zadcat at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2007


thebrokedown : (Next AskMeFi: So, I have three cats. At what point am I the neighborhood "cat lady"?)

Five. The number you are looking for is five. Four cats = OK. Five cats = crazy. I don't make the rules, I just explain them.

And brain cloud raises a good point, this will probably work itself out. Both your cats are pretty new to your house, the good news is that the female was there first and is older, and therefore will, at some point, realize that she is the queen and smack the crap out of the little boy. Your cats are still adjusting, give them time to figure out their place and everything will be fine.

Also, great suggestion above about the citrus. Keep some oranges on the table and she'll most likely avoid it.
posted by quin at 9:43 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree with some of the comments above - given a few more months the kitten may calm down a bit. Or he may not, in which case I think you'll have to try and just see their behavior as cats being cats and try not too get too upset for the older kitty.

I had two male cats about the same age, but like yours, one was much more dominant and would torment the other, more passive one. He would pounce on the other one while he was eating and bite the other cat's tail while he was sleeping.

He even would lie in wait, stretched out in the doorway so that in order to get to his food, the other cat would have to step over him. He would be lying there, pretending to be asleep, so the other cat thought it was safe to pass - then he would swipe out and tackle the other cat, just as he thought he'd escaped danger!!

And then, when they weren't at war the rest of the time they'd be snuggled up together, with the dominant cat washing the other one, or just asleep peacefully together. So - with cats, I think it's fair to say that they are just CRAZY!
posted by schmoo at 2:06 AM on February 10, 2007


These are still young cats!

Distraction will be your friend here. Ensure that you spend an awful lot of time playing with your male cat. Get him tired! Observe them both and learn the signs of when an 'attack' is about to happen. Before the attack is launched, step in with some play (with a toy) to lure away the boisterous male. Even throwing a cat biscuit across his line of sight and calling his name will be enough to distract him from his pursuit of the female.

Get hold of many cat toys, leave them around. A cat tower would be good. It's a playspace and also a refuge for any cat who wants to be out of the way of a boisterous youngster. Feeding balls are useful sometimes, fill them with dry food, and encourage him to wrestle it to get at the single nuggets of food that come out. At ten months old he still has a great deal of kitten in him.

Set up a few Feliway diffusers around the home, this will keep both cats feeling more secure. The female especially. Feliway has a pretty profound calming effect in multicat households.

Cats naturally seek out a high up space as a refuge, so your female is just doing what comes naturally. Make some high up spaces just for her. She needs some respite. All she is doing on the table is trying to find a space away from the male. Now she's associated the squirt bottle with you, quit using it. All she will see is punishment. Punishment is useless. If she has some 'legal' high up places, she will most likely lose interest in your table!

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 3:25 AM on February 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Go to the hardware store and buy some of the sticky-paper style mousetraps. Put them on the table. Enjoy the show when naughty-female-cat goes tearing around the house trying to remove stickypaper from her paws.
posted by ilsa at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2007


ilsa's suggestion, while funny, is a really really bad idea. Those traps use a substance similar to fly paper. Once it adheres to fur, it's extremely difficult to remove. If you want the same effect, only with a much safer material, just use strips of Scotch tape. We've used it to keep cats off of the tops of fishtanks and other places they shouldn't be. Though, to be honest, it's not really that effective. Eventually they just learn to step very carefully around it.
posted by quin at 11:08 AM on February 10, 2007


admittedly, my idea stems from the time our cat got into a mousetrap intended for a mouse. yes, indictment of her feline skillz from the get-go. i don't remember if we ever did catch the darn mouse. and the darn trap was baited with peanut butter too, meaning she spread it through the kitchen as she tore through the house.
posted by ilsa at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2007


I surmised as much ilsa, I've never seen you post anything that would make me suspect that you would ever do anything malicious to an animal, I was just worried that some misguided reader might get the idea that it might be a fun prank to play on kitty. It wouldn't be.

Now if you want to discuss tying a helium balloon to their tails or putting aluminum foil on their paws, that could be an entertaining discussion for another time... :)

posted by quin at 1:01 PM on February 10, 2007


Boy cats are just assholes a lot of the time. My two current cats Garfield and Fluffy are five years old and four years old. Garfield was a real pain in the butt to any other cat until he was two or so, then he began to greatly improve. Fluffy was tormented by him when she first came to live with us but over time he became less aggressive and more affectionate.

At five years of age he still sometimes harasses Fluffy but most of the time he is very loving and protective of her. When he is feeling frisky he might randomly tackle her but he tends to stop once she makes a "I don't like this!" noise at him. There is no way to know if your cat will do the same or not, but it should at least calm down some as it gets older. I definitely would not expect it to improve much until he is a little older.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2007


As mentioned above, he may or may not grow out of it. I have two littermates (male and female) who are almost four years old. The male is much, much calmer than he was as a kitten. However, he still loves to harass his sister on an almost daily basis. She's always been good at ignoring him - she'll just lie there until he gets bored and wanders away. Sometimes she even instigates play-time.

Four cats is good for staying out of "cat lady" territory? I've been wanting another one, maybe I'll get two!
posted by deborah at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2007


Thanks for the responses, everyone. I guess I'm happy that no one is getting hurt, that she seems to be able to hold her own at the foodbowl, and she is not overly oppressed or terrorized at all times. For a couple weeks she was more subdued - didn't play as much, looked dejected and uncomfortable. Now she is more or less back to normal despite the incidents. Perhaps I'm making too much of them. I am still breaking them up and giving him the squirt bottle when they happen. That may be futile, but I notice he's generally more submissive around her if one of us reminds him we're there.

I'll try to keep it all in perspective and hope he improves. Playing with him a lot and perhaps giving her a new strategic hideout are both good ideas.

Thanks again!
posted by scarabic at 6:26 PM on February 18, 2007


Oh, and I'm also trying to kill him with love. Maybe if he can relax, put aside his feral days and be truly DOMESTICATED, this will diminish. As is, he's still a little wildcat.
posted by scarabic at 6:27 PM on February 18, 2007


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