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.
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.
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: 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!