Why Is My Cat Suddenly Fighting With Everybody?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Help! I have five cats: a 19-year-old Maine Coon, a spayed 3-year-old Russian Blue, and her three almost 1-year-old kittens, two females and one male. Suddenly the spayed mother cat is becoming aggressive and violent to all the other cats. She fights them and has held down one of the girl kittens and was ripping her fur out. I don’t know why because she is affectionate to humans and has been fine with the other cats until now. I don’t know what to do.

~ Marla

Siouxsie: Well, Marla, there are two main reasons why cats suddenly become aggressive: physical illness and stress.

Thomas: We cats are driven by instinct to hide our pain, so you won’t actually notice we’re hurting until we’re too poorly off to hide it anymore. But one of the clues that something may be wrong is a change in temperament, and sudden grumpiness is definitely a potential warning sign of pain.

Bella: Siouxsie gets grumpy when her hips bother her, and Thomas says she was really grumpy until she had some sore teeth pulled out!

Siouxsie: You know what else makes me grumpy? A nasty little kitten chasing me all around the house … Bella!

Bella: But I just want to play! Why don’t you want to play with me?

Siouxsie: I’m too old — er, I mean wise! — to waste my energy running all around the house.

Bella: *pout*

Thomas: So, Marla, the first step probably should be a trip to the vet just to make sure she’s okay.

Siouxsie: If your hissy Russian Blue gets a clean bill of health, the next step is to figure out the source of her stress.

Thomas: If there’s not enough territory to go around, for example, it could cause one or more of the cats to act out. Cats see territory in three dimensions, so even if your home is small, you can increase the available territory by going up.

Bella the cat sits on a window-mounted cat perch

Bella enjoys the view from a window-mounted perch.

Bella: Tall cat trees, shelves,  hanging cat beds like The Cat’s Trapeze, window-mounted cat beds, or even just an empty space or two in a bookshelf, can do wonders to create new space.

Siouxsie: Sometimes cats get stressed by intruders outside. Your Russian Blue may be feeling irritated or threatened by the smell of other cats coming into her territory. If intruders are setting her off, you may also find that she’s peeing, spraying or pooping near windows or doors.

Thomas: The best thing to do to ward off intruders is to use some humane deterrents such as motion sensing devices that spray water or emit a sound that only cats and other animals can hear.

Bella: In order to lower the stress levels inside the house, consider using feline pheromone plug-ins.

Siouxsie: Another way to work off anxiety is to engage in play. Lots and lots of play. Invest in some good interactive play toys (our favorites are Da Bird and Neko Flies) and give her at least two good, vigorous play sessions every day.

Thomas: And when we say “vigorous,” we mean “get her exhausted to the point of panting.” Let her rest for a little while, and rev her up again until she’s panting. Repeat this “boil and simmer” play, as our favorite cat daddy in the world calls it, three or four times per play session.

Bella: Of course, make sure you spend time playing with the other cats, too. You wouldn’t want anyone else getting jealous and acting out!

Siouxsie: Also consider whether your Russian Blue could be acting out because of relationship dynamics among the humans in your home, too. Cats are a lot like little kids: when there’s disharmony in the home, they begin acting out because they’re emotional sponges and need to work off chaotic energy somehow!

Thomas: Please give us an update on your feline family and let us know if any of our tips helped you to get your kitties living happily together again.

Bella: And what about you other readers? Do you have any tips for Marla to help her stop this aggressive behavior? Please share your ideas in the comments. Purrs to you!

  • AnitaB

    I work with a rescue group and often see a rescued mom and her kittens in a large cage together. If the kittens are over a certain age and not much smaller than mom, she seems to view them as just another cat and often does not want to be bothered with them. Although the kittens still want to be around her she will hiss and swat at them. (I’ve also seen this in two siblings who foster parents insist must be adopted together). Hopefully your mom is now fixed and won’t be bothered by little kittens again. And, too, she may not feel good and you don’t realize it. Pay lots of attention to mom now and maybe she will not resent the others if this is what’s going on.

  • http://twolittlecavaliers.com Felissa

    Maybe she’s having a dominance issue with the little kitties? Whatever the reason I hope you find out quickly and that she goes back to being her sweet old self.

  • http://www.CelticGoddess1326.com CelticGoddess1326

    On the topic of playing: My kitty needs to lose a few pounds, and my vet suggested play, but I’ve tried everything I can think of, and she just isn’t interested in the toys. I’ve got catnip toys, bouncy toys, soft toys, fuzzy toys – a whole bagful – but she’ll only play with a milk ring, and even then, she’s bored after 2-3 minutes. Do you guys have any ideas for getting my kitty to play more?

    • The Paws and Effect Gang

      Interactive play is the key here. With bouncy toys, fluffy toys and milk rings, it’s fun to play with them for a little while, but imagine how you would feel if you were a kid and told to go out and play ball … by yourself? It’d be fun for a few minutes, maybe, and they you’d get bored too.

      In order to really get a cat revved up, you need to play with her using an interactive toy like Da Bird (our favorite) or Neko Flies, or even any old “thing on a string” type toy. Move the toy around like her natural prey — a bird or a mouse — and she’ll get interested pretty quickly. If she’s overweight, she may get tired out quickly, though, so go through a few play-and-rest cycles with her every day.

      You can also try intellectually challenging “puzzle toys” and rolling treat ball feeders if you feed kibble — if you use the rolling treat ball, she’ll have to work for her food, and that’ll help her lose a few pounds and get interested in life.

      Good luck.

  • http://bagheeradiabeticcat.com Bagheera

    Another thing that works really well is The Cat’s Meow. If you have a feline that’s too energetic and too playful, that is a good toy to use.

    Jacey LOVES pouncing on the thing. She is a smart girl but she has a lot of energy to work off.

    I, on the other hand, will pop on there once or twice and then walk away.

  • http://www.playfulkitty.net Playful Kitty

    That is some pretty good advice kitties! I certainly hope that this person is able to sort out the problems her Russian Blue is having. It’s no fun when a kitty doesn’t feel well.

  • Mikey

    The problem may be simply that she is a Russian Blue. Several years ago, I had a
    Russian Blue – she was a young stray that ‘moved in’ when the weather got cold. I had her for 15 years. Anyway, when she came inside, I already had 2 cats about 4 years old.

    For the most part, she accepted that they were the boss – but when a 4th was added, she tried to be in charge of everyone. She was also marking territory for a while, but eventually that stopped. She was always terribly nervous and jumpy, very vocal as well.

    I currently have a Russian Blue in my basement with two of her litters. A male & female from last Spring, and 4 new babies about a month old.
    Stormy (mom) has been more aggressive with the older pair since they were maybe 6 or 7 months.

    It seems, to me, based on my experience with both of them, that Russian Blue cats (females anyway) are more stressed than usual when there are other cats present in the house. Therefore, they act out more.

    I truly believe that both Stormy and Lit’l One would have been thoroughly happy and calm as ‘only cats’, as part of a group, they need help to be at ease AND a quiet, secluded little place to be on their own. Lots of love isn’t much help with them because they get overwhelmed so quickly.

    Good luck.

  • Multi-Facets

    Try some good ol’ Feliway diffusers too. They can really make a difference.