A kitten terrorizing an older cat is fairly typical since kittens are full of energy while an adult cat is much calmer.
I grew up with cats and most of the time had two or more cats in the household at the same time. However, our cats were never kittens at the same time. So I witnessed most of my cats being terrorized by kittens.
Although it’s normal for a kitten to want to play more than an adult cat, you want to keep your cat happy as they deal with a kitten.
An older cat can become stressed, and even depressed when a new kitten is introduced.
This article will help you understand your cat and your kitten, and how to help them happily coexist.
Why is my kitten attacking my older cat?
Your kitten is attacking your older cat to try and engage them in play. Kittens are full of energy and have natural instincts to play with moving objects. This not only sharpens their skills for hunting, but it also helps them build self-defense skills.
Kitten attacks are playful until they feel threatened or they’re hurt by another animal or person. If your kitten feels fearful, their attacks will be more aggressive.
If your cat is well into their adulthood or is a senior cat, they may not have much desire to play with your kitten. Because your kitten isn’t getting the reaction they want back, they continue to harass your cat.
In most scenarios, your kitten is attacking your older cat because they want more playtime or attention.
If your kitten seems less playful and more aggressive when attacking your cat, it may be because they’re fearful of them.
You’ll be able to easily identify this situation by watching both your kitten’s and your cat’s body language.
If your kitten is vocal when attacking your cat (e.g. meowing, growling, hissing), showing teeth, using claws, attacking then cowering, and generally appearing scared, they’re on the defense. They’re attacking your older cat to try and show their dominance and to protect themselves.
You may also notice that your older cat is aggressive towards the kitten, which will provoke more aggression in them. Your cat will exhibit similar behaviour; being vocal, showing teeth, using claws, ears back, raised fur, etc.
When you notice aggression between your cat and kitten, it’s best to separate them and take the proper steps to slowly reintroduce them.
How to stop a kitten from attacking an older cat
To stop a kitten from attacking an older cat you must redirect their attention to an appropriate way to play and help them get their aggression out on a toy.
Because your kitten has developed a habit of attacking your cat, it will take diligence to teach them to play with toys, not your cat.
As long as you’re consistent with the steps below and they’re implemented frequently, especially to start, you can persuade your cat and kitten to peacefully coexist.
Step 1 – Separate them
When you first introduce a kitten to a cat, it should be done slowly. If this proper introduction process was skipped, it can lead to an unhappy cat and/or kitten.
However, you can take a few steps back and separate them now, even if you didn’t when they were first introduced.
For a kitten’s sake, it’s best to give them a small space to explore, before setting them free in a big, unfamiliar home.
So if you must separate your kitten and cat, it’s best to give your kitten a spare bedroom and your cat the run of the rest of the house.
To create a safe and happy space for your kitten, make sure the room is big enough for them to run around. It’s also great if they have a window they can look out of and get natural sunlight through.
Add the necessities, food, water, and a litter box, and keep each several feet apart. Cats don’t want to eat next to a bathroom any more than we do. Also, give them objects to make them comfortable and keep them entertained: a scratching post, a comfy bed (this can be a box with a blanket or towel in it), and safe toys for them to play with while unsupervised (no wands they could get tangled in or small items that could be choking hazards).
Spend plenty of time with your kitten in this room, and help teach them how to play appropriately; no biting or scratching (here’s how to encourage gentle play: How To Teach a Kitten Not To Bite (the proper method) & How To Teach a Kitten Not to Scratch (the proper method))
You can slowly reintroduce your kitten and cat by leaving the door open, just a crack, so they can smell each other through the door.
Then allow your cat to enter the kitten room if they want to. It’s best to do this after you’ve had a good play session with your kitten and they’re worn out.
You can then progress to letting your kitten out of the room, but only after playing with them and they’re showing signs of calming down.
Step 2 – Give your cat a safe space
When a kitten is under six months of age, they won’t be able to get everywhere an older cat can.
If your kitten is still under six months old or is much smaller than your existing cat, see if you can give your older cat a comfy space to jump up to and escape the kitten.
You may have to teach your cat that this space is the best place for them to be when the kitten is acting up. Do so by leading your cat there, or picking them up and placing them in their safe space when the kitten is in the middle of a terrorizing session.
Step 3 – Give your kitten dedicated playtime
It’s not enough to simply throw a variety of cat toys on the floor and let your kitten go to town. They have a natural desire to “hunt” moving objects and are wired to sharpen those skills as kittens.
If your kitten had a littermate, they would spend a lot of time playing with the other kitten and getting their energy out.
Your cat doesn’t have as much energy as your kitten, and depending on how old they are, they may not have much of a desire to play at all.
But your kitten still desires that interaction. This is why they keep attacking your cat; they’re trying to get your cat to play with them.
Even when a kitten has another cat to play with, they still require playtime with you.
We currently have two sibling kittens, who play with each other a lot.
But if they don’t get their morning play session with us, they do terrorize the house.
The difference is night and day when we give them 15 – 20 minutes of playtime with a wand or toy in the morning compared to when we don’t take the time.
If you can help your kitten burn energy and take their play aggression out on a toy, they’ll be more likely to leave your older cat alone. Or at the very least, be less aggressive with them for less time.
Get a toy out that your kitten can hunt, chase, and bite. Make sure it’s something that gets them moving.
A cat wand is often the best toy (but be sure not to leave your kitten alone with a wand, as they can get it wrapped around themselves quickly).
Get one that you can change the toy on. We have this one and our cats like any toy on the end, but go wild for feather toys.
But if you’re willing to move around the house with them, or your kitten learns to fetch, you can throw something like a soft mouse, ball, or another toy to get them running.
It’s important to get your kitten moving.
If they simply sit in one spot and bat at a feather, they’re not going to burn much energy and will have plenty to spare when your cat walks in the room.
Let your kitten signal to you when they’re done playing and are tuckered out.
They’ll stop chasing the toy and will flop down on the ground.
The younger your kitten is, the more play session you’ll need to fit in.
A kitten under six months is typically awake for 1 – 2 hours and then will sleep for about four hours.
When they wake from a sleep, they’ll be ready to play again.
The more time you spend playing with your kitten, the less they’ll pester your cat to play.
Step 4 – Feed your kitten
The natural pattern of a cat is:
(of course, using the litter box, drinking water, socializing, etc. are also worked in)
Follow this pattern as closely as possible to raise a healthy, happy cat.
After a good play session in the wild, a cat would naturally eat. They’ve hunted, chased, played with, and killed their prey, and now they get to eat it.
Mimic this in your household by feeding your kitten after a play session.
This not only acts as a reward for their good play behaviour, but it also encourages sleep.
After their meal, they’ll likely groom themselves and then settle in for a long nap.
This gives your older cat some quiet time.
Step 5 – Create a routine
You can teach your cat what to expect each day, which helps them follow a good pattern.
If each morning, you play with your kitten after you finish breakfast, they’ll know, and be waiting for, playtime after you get up from the breakfast table.
When they know playtime is coming each morning, they’ll be less likely to act out.
Your kitten will need dedicated playtime from you at least twice a day:
>> One in the morning
>> One before you go to bed
3 – 4 play sessions per day are more beneficial to your kitten.
As they get older, they’ll be less playful. But it’s still important to keep them active and stimulated with a couple of play sessions each day.
I’ve found that 6 months and younger require a lot of playtime and exploration.
6 – 9 months is when they’re getting into the most trouble because they’re big enough to explore everywhere.
After the 9-month mark, they tend to calm down.
Each cat has different energy levels and my two kittens are on polar opposite ends. However, I find even Arthur, who likes to sleep and eat a lot, needs at least 3 play sessions each day and he’s around 10 months old.
Your kitten will settle into a routine if you help them do so.
Each morning, play with your kitten until they tire, then feed them.
If you’re at home when they wake from their nap, get ready to play with them again until they tire. Then feed them again.
Repeat this routine each time they wake and are ready to play.
Plan for a final play and eat session right before you go to bed, which will help you have a more peaceful night.
However, if you’re trying to give your older cat a break, you’ll need to work playtime in as often as your kitten needs.
As soon as your kitten starts attacking your older cat, get the toys out and get your kitten focusing on another moving object.
Kitten keeps chasing the older cat
Your kitten is chasing your older cat because they want a moving object to hunt. Cats are born with natural instincts to hunt and during the kitten stage, their play is mimicking the skills they would need in the wild. Stalking, chasing, playing, and biting are developed and refined through play.
Why does my older cat let my kitten beat him up?
An older cat likely isn’t bothered by a kitten beating them up and is simply being tolerant of the kitten’s playing. Your kitten’s behaviour is likely a minor inconvenience rather than a traumatic event. If your kitten were truly beating up your cat, your cat would be reacting and reciprocating.
Kittens will play with their mom. If the kitten bites too hard, the mom will give a little nip back, or get up and walk away to teach the kitten not to do that.
It’s likely the kitten attacks are annoying to your cat, but not hurtful.
Why is my kitten obsessed with my older cat?
Your kitten is obsessed with your older cat because they want to play and bond with them. It may even be that they think your older cat is their mother.
If your kitten were still around their mom and littermates, they would be finding one of them to play with throughout the day. They would also be drawn to their mom, as she fed, groomed, and cared for them for weeks, if not months.
To a kitten, it’s likely a larger cat looks just like their mom. They may be looking at your older cat and hoping for similar attention, affection, and caring from them.
Can a kitten hurt an older cat?
A kitten cannot hurt an older cat. They may cause minor injuries with their sharp claws and teeth. However, a kitten is not strong enough to cause major harm. As they get older and closer to being an adult cat (around 1 year old), they’re stronger and may be able hurt your older cat if they bite or scratch too hard and break the skin.
Your cat will also let your kitten know if they’re hurting them during playtime.
If your kitten bites your older cat too hard or scratches them, they may get vocal, bite or scratch back, or simply walk away. This behaviour helps teach a kitten how hard they can bite and scratch during play.
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