How To Stop My Cat From Bullying My Other Cat

When I first adopted Charlie, my second cat, he was the same size as Nala. Then Charlie kept growing. And growing… Once he got bigger, he started attacking my other cat, Nala. 

I tried various methods that my vet and the internet told me but ultimately, I had to get to the root of the problem instead of trying temporary solutions. 

The short answer is, you can stop your cat from bullying the other cat by creating more space between them in the house. Also, designate a routine schedule consisting of playing, feeding, grooming and sleeping for them as to alleviate any stress they may have. And finally, you can condition them that bullying is wrong by using a water squirt gun. But let’s dive into more. 

Two things were important to me in resolving this issue. I wanted to make sure everything I used was all natural (no chemicals!) and that there wouldn’t be any pain or yelling involved.

To be honest, this is not an easy problem that will get resolved overnight, and I’m still working on my two cats’ behavior. But the situation is so much better than before and I’m happy to share with you what worked and what doesn’t. 

First, let’s dive into understanding why your cat is attacking your other cat in the first place in order to understand the root cause of the problem. Finally, we can discuss the temporary and long-term solutions that you will have to commit to.

Why Does My Cat Attack My Other Cat?

Redirect aggression

Cats get stressed out when, for example, their surrounding changes, they’re hungry, they’re afraid, or they see a prey but can’t catch it. And the way they get rid of the aggression is that they don’t know any better than to take it out on another cat.

This prompts a cat owner to think hard about “why does my cat redirect his/her aggression?

I know this is broad, but truth be told, many solutions to prevent your cat from bullying your other cat is not going to work if you don’t get to the bottom of what’s stressing out your cat for him/her to redirect his/her aggression.

We’ll talk more about getting to the root of the problem below.

Establish dominance

Cats start to establish their social dominance between 2 and 4. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do here.

My cats are both spayed/neutered, so that’s the first step if you haven’t gotten your cats spayed or neutered yet.

Because this is just natural behavior for your cats as they reach social maturity, the only thing that you can do is to create a loving environment with enough territorial space for each cat.

Cats are going to play fight regardless of enough personal space for themselves. It’s just natural behavior but something that should be addressed as as a solution to the root cause if one or both your cats are displaying aggressive behavior.

Territorial

This is a tough one if you live in an expensive city with very little space. But this is one of the most important solutions for a happy cat and why your cat might be aggressive.

Because cats are territorial animals, if they feel threatened in any way. For example, they are fed in the same area and as such, they feel nervous about the other cat coming for their food, then they will show aggression.

I can also sense that the bully cat feels territorial of me. If I am being affectionate with Nala, the smaller female cat, Charlie the bully will stare at me with an intense gaze from across the room. And when our eyes meet, he’ll often get up, grunt and leave the room.

When I learned about the above reasons, it all made sense to me. Charlie started attacking Nala in the last year. He is 4.5 years old now, so he must’ve reached his social maturity and wanted to establish dominance last year.

I also moved to a new country and obviously a new apartment, so their surrounding changed. My apartment now is much smaller than the last few apartments I lived in, so territorial space must have become an issue.

I live on the 4th floor with a balcony overlooking a small park that has luscious trees with flocks of birds playing in the branches. In fact, I wake up to birds chirping every morning.

I often find Charlie and Nala making predator clicking sounds at the birds. They can’t jump over the balcony because they see how high up they are, so Charlie might have built-up aggression from wanting to catch prey and takes it out on Nala when his bottled up aggression peaks.

Solutions to Get to the Root of the Problem

Now that we know the primary reasons why your cat may be bullying your other cat, it’s now time to break it all down. Here are solutions to tackle the root cause of the problem.

Again, behavioral problems in cats cannot be fixed overnight. Helping your cat to become calmer and gentler and relieve his or her stress is a long-term solution, which often involves a combination of the solutions below.

I’ve organized these solutions into temporary and long-term solutions.

Long-Term Solutions

Remember don’t get frustrated and stick to it. Make one change at a time. It’s all about discipline.

Create more physical space between the two cats

Sell your house, break your lease and go buy a 5,000 sqft house. I wish!

For the rest of us who can’t do that, think about where your cats spend the most time or what surface or lighting they like to chill in the most. Make two separate areas of the apartment or house that aren’t apart from each other cozy and comfy for each of the two cats.

How do you let your cat know which area is theirs? Your cats’ personalities are so different and as such, their preference for toys is so different too. So, putting their favorite toys in their respective designated areas will entice them to spend time there and claim it as their own.

Create a hiding space for your bullied cat. After a trip to the vet, I was too lazy to put the cat carriers away, so I left them out in the shoe area. One day I couldn’t find Nala, the bullied cat and found her cozied up in her small cat carrier where I had left the zipper half open. I’ve also found her hiding in my suitcase in my closet.

So, make sure your bullied cat knows that she or he has a safe hiding place especially for when you’re not home.

Does your cat have vertical space where they can observe the surroundings from atop? If not, I recommend you get an affordable large cat tree. This will help your bulllied cat a lot.

I also built DIY shelf walls for the cats and intentionally made the top of much higher than the step below so that only Nala, the small, lean, athletic bullied cat can jump up there. 

Another great alternative is to build an outdoor cat enclosure or a balcony netting, aka “catios”. Catios can be custom built to meet the needs of your cats while working with the functionality and aesthetics of your house or apartment.

I’m now a lot more cognizant about where I am going to live next. I do move around a fair bit (a new apartment every year and a new city every couple of years), so I will be making sure that my next apartment is more spacious and ideally has a loft.

Separate their feeding area and litter box area

And similarly to creating the cats’ own personal space, designate two separate litter box areas, one for each cat.

Start feeding the two cats in separate feeding stations so that one of the cats doesn’t get nervous about the other eating their food.

So even if you live in a small apartment, you can create more physical personal space for each cat in order to alleviate the territorial behavior that your bully cat displays.

Establish a routine for feeding, playing and sleeping

The famous (among the cat community) Jackson Galaxy is always hammering home about a cat’s 24-hour circadian rhythm. He says that a cat needs to have a scheduled routine so that after one action, he or she is prompted to the next action and so on. That calms down the cat and you don’t end up with a stressed out cat going haywire and becoming aggressive at odd times.

The typical cat routine goes like this: play > eat > groom > sleep. In a 24-hour span, this routine can be repeated 3 times. Play with your cat until he/she is winded, which usually takes a few cycles of running around. After that, feed your cat. Then your cat will naturally groom him/herself. And then sleep time.

I kind of a have a different routine with them, to be honest. They don’t like to play before they eat. When they have food on their mind, they will beg for food. Now, I have a trick to get my cat to play and eat, but that’s another story.

Getting your cat into this routine three times a day will leave him/her knowing what to expect in a day and will alleviate any stress your cat might have.

Play with your cat until they’re exhausted

As a cat owner, I fully admit I need to be better at this. Your indoor cat NEEDS play time with you.

There are so many benefits of this, including bonding with your cat so that your cat shows you affection. But on the topic of how to stop a bully cat from attacking the other cat, playing with your cats (especially the bully) is particularly crucial.

Playing with your cat with a mouse or bird toy they can chase mimics attacking a prey in real life. Thus, it releases their pent up aggression of not being able to attack one in real life.

Find the right toy that excites your cat. These cat toys are what we have in our home that Nala and Charlie play with.

Just designate 20 minutes before you leave the house in the morning to play with your cats. Then, play with them for another

Redirecting boredom

Your cat might be redirecting boredom, so implement bored cat solutions in your and your cats’ lives. This includes having the basic things like vertical space and a window view for cats to watch birds and people outside.

And it also includes specific toys and other mental stimulation. You can read more about all the bored cat solutions here.

Temporary Solutions

Now, the following are all the solutions that I would put in the bucket of “temporary” solutions.

In other words, they don’t get to the root of the problem like the above. As a result, it may work when you first start, but your cat will adapt to your action and ignore it.

Calming spray; i.e. pheromones

Pheromones that cats produce to mark their territory are simulated into a spray form or powder, which come in the form of spray bottles, collars, home diffusers.

Because they mimic the natural chemicals that the cat produces, pheromones are supposed to relieve cats’ stress and calm them down as it reminds them of familiarity.

I’ve used the pheromone spray liberally when I drove with the cats across country. I sprayed it in the car and the cat carrier before we set foot on the journey. And when the cats started getting antsy again and meowing non stop, I sprayed it in the area around them.

I also put the pheromone collar around Charlie during the trip, because he especially hates leaving the house to go anywhere (and he’ll let you know about it).

I found that the pheromone spray only works for a short time. Experts say it only lasts a few minutes. I did find that it worked for about half an hour. So, I wouldn’t rely on pheromone sprays or diffusers as a permanent solution to stop my cat from bullying the other cat.

Spray water on the bully cat when the bully cat is attacking the other cat

You don’t need an expert to tell you that cats hate water. When your cat starts misbehaving, for example, attacking your other cat, one of the ways to associate that behavior as something that is not allowed, is to spray water at your bully cat.

Of course, this works immediately to shoo your bully cat away.

But unfortunately, I’ve tried this and my bully cat, Charlie, has made the association that attacking Nala, my bullied cat, is not allowed but he will be naughty and do it anyway when I’m not looking. 

Sometimes, I can’t get to my cats in time across the room. Or admittedly, if I’m on my laptop on my couch, I don’t want to get up to grab the water bottle. So, I’ve come up with a genius way to solve this problem. A squirt gun!

Play with the bully cat to divert his/her attention while attacking the other cat

If you try to divert your bully cat’s attention with a laser pointer or their favorite toy while he’s mid-attack of your other cat, you might be able to distract him. 

For quick results while you’re implementing the long-term solutions laid out above, this could help, but don’t rely on this as a long-term solution.

What Doesn’t Work

Yelling or punishing

Please, please DO NOT YELL at your bully cat or punishing him/her. Your cat has no idea what you’re yelling to them about and you just become an object of fear. Nobody is going to benefit from you getting mad at your cat.

Separating them completely

Similarly, some websites recommend separating them completely and then re-introducing them slowly. Honestly, I’m on the fence about this.

I’ve tried this by leaving Charlie in the room, but the problem this created is that when I’m not home, they get bored and hate being alone. I think this should be tried only if the cats absolutely can’t even stand the sight of each other but otherwise, it does not work.

Comforting the victim cat and ignoring your bully cat

Contrary to what some websites suggest, this does not work. In fact, when I comfort the victim cat, Nala, she gets comforted and well, she and I have bonded because of that. But Charlie would stare from afar and then grunt and walk away.

He does not like it and I think that makes him jealous and target Nala as an enemy even more.

Summary

A lot of advice given on the internet are temporary solutions to stop your bully cat from attacking the victim cat. After a lot of research on this topic to get Charlie to stop attacking Nala, I got to the bottom of the problem as opposed to trying temporary solutions to no avail.

By understanding the root cause of the problem to be that your cat is probably territorial and there isn’t enough personal space and is redirecting their aggression, you can make the necessary changes to permanently fix the problem.

But also know that this problem won’t go away overnight. It requires commitment on your part by following the long-term solutions.

Basically, it boils down to meeting your cats’ needs and understanding what is causing their aggression or stress. Cater to their daily routine and cycle.

Have a playing, feeding, grooming, sleeping routine 3 times in a 24 hour cycle, create sanctuaries for each cat – somewhere each cat loves to spend time in where they won’t be bothered by the other cat. Move to a bigger place if that’s within your means! Have separate feeding area and litter box area.

While you incorporate the long-term changes to make sure your one bully cat doesn’t attack the other anymore, you can try the temporary solutions to break up the fight. Please just don’t yell or punish your cat. That will do more damage than good.

At the end of the day, you just have to accept the fact that we are slaves to our cats and do what we can to make sure our beloved owners are happy!! I hope you found this helpful and good luck!