Is there a bully living in your house? Does it have four legs, no language, and prefers going to the bathroom in a plastic box? Cat bullies exist just as human bullies do, and just like in our world, victims of this bullying can become overstressed and withdraw.
There are a number of reasons cats bully each other, such as old age, submissive behaviour, they are intact and it’s mating season, changes to routine or environment, status challenges and more. At the end of the day, cats are very particular creatures and any change to their daily lives can have a major effect on them.
A common misconception regarding cat fighting is that it is just normal. To a degree, that is true. Cats mark their territory and will punish other cats for trespassing. When cats fight frequently, though, there could be a social problem that needs to be addressed.
What Do You Do?
There are a number of different approaches to stopping cat bullies. Not all of these suggestions will work for your cats as their personalities are all so unique. The best course of action is to try a few until you find something that works.
Calm yourself or your home first
Is your home high stress? Is there fighting or tension between people living in the home? This tension directly affects your cats and can cause them to stress out and react. The first place to start work is on yourself or your home if things are stressful.
Don’t reward poor behaviour
Some pet owners try to lure their pets with a treat when they are acting badly. The thought behind this is it will distract them from the problem at hand. While true, it also re-enforces bad behaviour and may encourage more over time.
Reward good behaviour with treats
When the bully cat starts going after their prey, redirect them to a toy or a laser pointer. If they divert their attention to the new thing and leave the other cat alone, give them a treat for doing so! The point is to build positive associations in their minds when they behave the way you want them to.
Give them some space
If tensions are high, getting away from each other may be what they need most. Set up a separate room in the home for each cat. Place a litter box and feeding station in each space and let the cats take a break.
Set up controlled meetings
After the cats have spent some time on their own (maybe a day or two), set up some meetings where they can’t fight each other. A cat carrier or a baby gate make good places for them to interact without the risk of a fight. Ideally, they’ll get used to not fighting around each other.
Use a hissing sound to break up the intensity
You know the look a cat gets before it pounces or fights? When you see they are starting to intensify, or they are fighting with each other, make a hissing sound with your mouth or an aerosol can to break the tension.
Add more territorial space
If your home is feeling a bit crowded as far as the cats are concerned, try to find some space you can open up to each cat for them to call their own. Lean into the spaces they already like and try to find ways to enhance them (blankets, more space, water bowl, food, litter, etc).
Just as if they were new cats in the same home, separate them for a couple of weeks before re-introducing them. This is different from the advice above of giving space and controlled meetings. Giving space isn’t meant to last multiple weeks. Some cats may just need a chance to re-introduce themselves after the bully has had time to forget about previous transgressions.
Buy a pheromone diffuser
Pheromone diffusers can be purchased online and are said to provide a calming effect to all cats in the home. These diffusers emit pheromones attractive to cats aiming to reduce their stress. Not all cats react to pheromone diffusers, so make sure you keep your receipt!
These are just a few ideas of things you can try at home. If they aren’t working for your cats, it might be worth contacting a behavioural specialist. They can assess your home and try to dig deeper on the reasons your cats may be bullying, but approach it with years of experience helping other cats and their owners.
Also, make sure you are providing plenty of quality time with each cat. Nothing compares to one-on-one time when building relationships with cats. So long as they feel loved and cared for, their penchant for violence often lessens.