Newer cat too aggressive when playing

BeccaT

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I was hoping I wouldn't have to make this kind of post, but here I am.

So we adopted our newest cat April, at the beginning of April (hence the name, lol) and we went through a proper introduction process to our resident cat Annie. It was slow and a bit shakey as to be expected, but they now get along and can be left in the same room etc.

I wouldn't say they're the best of friends, but they are friends to a degree. Annie is the one that mostly grooms April, whereas April rarely grooms her back. They don't cuddle, but can and will sleep in close proximity of each other. There's no hostility around food or anything like that, but there is one problem that persists. Annie is the younger one and slightly smaller of the two, recently having her 1st birthday whereas April is 1 year and a few months. We adopted April for Annie's benefit, knowing she'd love to have another cat to play with, and she certainly does. Annie loves to be chased and is the instigator of all of their play sessions, and I can tell (hopefully this isn't biased though as I'm still very protective over Annie) that she is genuinely trying to play when she instigates these sessions, she sometimes bites and nibbles but it's never hard and for the most part she tries to hop around and paw at her sister to start playing with her. The problem is that about 70% of the time they play, April will get a bit carried away and bite Annie hard enough to make her make noises (idk how to describe it, but it's not a friendly noise) and I have to break them up. Sometimes Annie will go back to her sister to carry on playing after I break them up, but lately a lot of the time it ends with Annie running away from April to give them both some distance as it seems the bites are harder than before. I've never seen them draw blood, but this behavior is a persistent thing that worries me for when we're not around. They're still friends afterwards, Annie isn't necessarily scared of her sister after this happens but she does often run away to get away from her for a bit until they both calm down. It's always April pinning Annie to the ground and causing her to make noises too, never the other way round.

Some information about April that might be the reason for this; When we adopted her, we were told she was in a foster home with other cats so we were "assured" that she would get along with other cats, but I fear that maybe because she was in this foster family for so long that maybe she actually didn't always get along with the other cats and never learned how to play properly. We also were given the wrong age when we adopted her, being told initially that she was about 6 months(?) old but when we took her to the vet, we were informed she was actually over a year old, which means looking at the paperwork we were given when adopting her, she'd been with this shelter/foster family for quite a long time. She's otherwise a very sweet and affectionate cat, very silly and playful.

I'm just wondering if there's a way to help her un-learn this behavior and stop her from being so aggressive when playing with her sister.
 

Zara12345

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I was hoping I wouldn't have to make this kind of post, but here I am.

So we adopted our newest cat April, at the beginning of April (hence the name, lol) and we went through a proper introduction process to our resident cat Annie. It was slow and a bit shakey as to be expected, but they now get along and can be left in the same room etc.

I wouldn't say they're the best of friends, but they are friends to a degree. Annie is the one that mostly grooms April, whereas April rarely grooms her back. They don't cuddle, but can and will sleep in close proximity of each other. There's no hostility around food or anything like that, but there is one problem that persists. Annie is the younger one and slightly smaller of the two, recently having her 1st birthday whereas April is 1 year and a few months. We adopted April for Annie's benefit, knowing she'd love to have another cat to play with, and she certainly does. Annie loves to be chased and is the instigator of all of their play sessions, and I can tell (hopefully this isn't biased though as I'm still very protective over Annie) that she is genuinely trying to play when she instigates these sessions, she sometimes bites and nibbles but it's never hard and for the most part she tries to hop around and paw at her sister to start playing with her. The problem is that about 70% of the time they play, April will get a bit carried away and bite Annie hard enough to make her make noises (idk how to describe it, but it's not a friendly noise) and I have to break them up. Sometimes Annie will go back to her sister to carry on playing after I break them up, but lately a lot of the time it ends with Annie running away from April to give them both some distance as it seems the bites are harder than before. I've never seen them draw blood, but this behavior is a persistent thing that worries me for when we're not around. They're still friends afterwards, Annie isn't necessarily scared of her sister after this happens but she does often run away to get away from her for a bit until they both calm down. It's always April pinning Annie to the ground and causing her to make noises too, never the other way round.

Some information about April that might be the reason for this; When we adopted her, we were told she was in a foster home with other cats so we were "assured" that she would get along with other cats, but I fear that maybe because she was in this foster family for so long that maybe she actually didn't always get along with the other cats and never learned how to play properly. We also were given the wrong age when we adopted her, being told initially that she was about 6 months(?) old but when we took her to the vet, we were informed she was actually over a year old, which means looking at the paperwork we were given when adopting her, she'd been with this shelter/foster family for quite a long time. She's otherwise a very sweet and affectionate cat, very silly and playful.

I'm just wondering if there's a way to help her un-learn this behavior and stop her from being so aggressive when playing with her sister.
Hi! How long has it been since you have introduced Annie and April? If it hasn't been too long then the bites could be a way of April trying to exercise her dominance over Annie especially if they bites are in the head or neck area.
I also have two cats; the first is 1 year and the second is 10 months and the first one is always the one who's starting the playing which sometimes results in too much excitement and a fight. He also shows hostility towards my second kitty when he's not getting all the attention but overall he's a very loving cat:)
 

FeebysOwner

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Dominance as mentioned above is a very likely probability. The fact that Annie comes back for more is a good sign in that the biting behavior is not totally destroying their relationship. At this point, you probably need to institute a practice of 'teaching' April what is and is not OK in terms of play. First off, that means intervening when April starts the process of biting Annie that leads up to causing Annie to run away. That is primarily distraction by playing with April to distract her from Annie. If that doesn't work, then you pick up April and tell her 'NO' or hiss in her face (pick one and stick with it), then place her in a 1–2-minute time out away from Annie. But, for this to be effective you have to be consistent. April just needs to learn her boundaries, and if Annie is not willing to teach her, it becomes your job.
 
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BeccaT

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Hi! How long has it been since you have introduced Annie and April? If it hasn't been too long then the bites could be a way of April trying to exercise her dominance over Annie especially if they bites are in the head or neck area.
I also have two cats; the first is 1 year and the second is 10 months and the first one is always the one who's starting the playing which sometimes results in too much excitement and a fight. He also shows hostility towards my second kitty when he's not getting all the attention but overall he's a very loving cat:)
We've had April for about 4 months now, and the separation part of the introduction process was only about a week, maybe 2 weeks long. After that they were fine to be around each other without any hostility, so they were introduced about 4 months ago.

Dominance as mentioned above is a very likely probability. The fact that Annie comes back for more is a good sign in that the biting behavior is not totally destroying their relationship. At this point, you probably need to institute a practice of 'teaching' April what is and is not OK in terms of play. First off, that means intervening when April starts the process of biting Annie that leads up to causing Annie to run away. That is primarily distraction by playing with April to distract her from Annie. If that doesn't work, then you pick up April and tell her 'NO' or hiss in her face (pick one and stick with it), then place her in a 1–2-minute time out away from Annie. But, for this to be effective you have to be consistent. April just needs to learn her boundaries, and if Annie is not willing to teach her, it becomes your job.
Thank you for this, I do worry that Annie isn't able to really teach April as Annie has had no experience with other cats since we adopted her when she was about 2 months old. I clap loudly to break them up and it works every time, but then sometimes they'll keep chasing each other until it happens again. I often pick up Annie and hold her to comfort her when I know she's bothered by April's aggressiveness. I'll start trying to distract by waving a wand toy around to distract April, and if not I'll try what you mentioned by picking her up and telling her no and placing her in a time out. I have occasionally put her in a time out before by putting her in a room away from Annie for a few minutes, but I maybe don't do this enough.
 

Zara12345

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What I typically do when a fight breaks out is I start talking to both of them in a loving voice and I make sure I refer to both the cats so it doesn't seem as though I am reprimanding or favouring the other. And immediately they each distance themselves from the other.
I used to use the "saying no" technique on my older cat which is what feels like the right thing to do instinctually but I've found that even though it temporarily disperses the fight, it makes him feel more threatened by my other cats presence like "he's getting all the attention and I am not".
Also its important to understand that it was Annie's home first before it became Aprils home so for her to be completely accepting of April you should make her feel reassured. Don't "punish" her for bad behaviour. Instead try positive reinforcement like giving them both treats and/or cuddles when they are on good behaviour and using praises like "good girl Annie" when they both successfully manage to walk away from a fight.
Also I am not entirely sure that the dominance thing will go away and that's fine as long as the two cats are OK with it and have established a "hierarchy" within the household.
Hope this helps.
 

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I disagree a bit with the takes so far. Its super common for one cat to be the dominant player when one is either bigger or more active. And one year olds tend to be at the most playful adult age, with excess common. So its very common for one cat to be the one to always disengage and end play sessions early, and to make protest noises when the other cat goes a bit too far. Sometimes if the active player isn't too accepting of disengaging, the smaller/less active cat will actually run off a bit. But wounds are never found, and the smaller/less active cat tends to come back in a few minutes and act like nothing happened, even initiating play sometimes. To me, that is the smaller/less active cat telling you that all is well, and they are getting a net benefit from the play. After all, cats are very capable of holding grudges, and will hide/evade/hiss at/act skittish around another cat that they are afraid of. I believe that the discomfort they are sometimes made to feel is on the level of a head noogie, if you know what that is. (It is when one human child, usually a young boy, because boys, rubs their knuckles on another childs head. Usually their younger brother. It is uncomfortable! Mom might be called for! But it is no more than uncomfortable, and the younger brother still wants to play with big brother. I think its the same sort of thing.)

So, I see this as something that, while not ideal, is still consistent with them being friends and getting a net benefit from each other -- even the cat on the receiving end of the other's excessive enthusiasm. I think its fine to gently break them up if there is squealing going on and the squealer seems to be having trouble disengaging on their own. But I don't think its truly necessary to break things up -- the squealer develops ways of disengaging, and the way they act when the excessive play is over tells you that all is well.
 
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BeccaT

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What I typically do when a fight breaks out is I start talking to both of them in a loving voice and I make sure I refer to both the cats so it doesn't seem as though I am reprimanding or favouring the other. And immediately they each distance themselves from the other.
I used to use the "saying no" technique on my older cat which is what feels like the right thing to do instinctually but I've found that even though it temporarily disperses the fight, it makes him feel more threatened by my other cats presence like "he's getting all the attention and I am not".
Also its important to understand that it was Annie's home first before it became Aprils home so for her to be completely accepting of April you should make her feel reassured. Don't "punish" her for bad behaviour. Instead try positive reinforcement like giving them both treats and/or cuddles when they are on good behaviour and using praises like "good girl Annie" when they both successfully manage to walk away from a fight.
Also I am not entirely sure that the dominance thing will go away and that's fine as long as the two cats are OK with it and have established a "hierarchy" within the household.
Hope this helps.
Sadly talking to my two doesn't do enough to break them up, which is why I've resorted to clapping loudly. That seems to be the only thing that breaks them up, and doesn't seem to scare them exactly but they know it's time to part ways for a while. Without trying to play favourites, I do make sure to reassure Annie whenever I can because I do want her and April to realise that it was Annie's home first, even though she's the youngest and smallest of the two, it's hardly ever Annie that makes April upset enough to make a noise. And I always do my best to reward them with treats when I see their good behavior, it's just rare to see April grooming Annie so I'd always be giving Annie the treats. Thank you for your advice.

I disagree a bit with the takes so far. Its super common for one cat to be the dominant player when one is either bigger or more active. And one year olds tend to be at the most playful adult age, with excess common. So its very common for one cat to be the one to always disengage and end play sessions early, and to make protest noises when the other cat goes a bit too far. Sometimes if the active player isn't too accepting of disengaging, the smaller/less active cat will actually run off a bit. But wounds are never found, and the smaller/less active cat tends to come back in a few minutes and act like nothing happened, even initiating play sometimes. To me, that is the smaller/less active cat telling you that all is well, and they are getting a net benefit from the play. After all, cats are very capable of holding grudges, and will hide/evade/hiss at/act skittish around another cat that they are afraid of. I believe that the discomfort they are sometimes made to feel is on the level of a head noogie, if you know what that is. (It is when one human child, usually a young boy, because boys, rubs their knuckles on another childs head. Usually their younger brother. It is uncomfortable! Mom might be called for! But it is no more than uncomfortable, and the younger brother still wants to play with big brother. I think its the same sort of thing.)

So, I see this as something that, while not ideal, is still consistent with them being friends and getting a net benefit from each other -- even the cat on the receiving end of the other's excessive enthusiasm. I think its fine to gently break them up if there is squealing going on and the squealer seems to be having trouble disengaging on their own. But I don't think its truly necessary to break things up -- the squealer develops ways of disengaging, and the way they act when the excessive play is over tells you that all is well.
This is very reassuring to read if their behavior is the equivalent to a head noogie, I can absolutely deal with that! I just worry in case it'll end up getting more violent or they'll end up doing some serious damage to each other one day, especially considering they're not the closest of friends when they're not fighting/playing. They can tolerate each other and exist near each other, but it's very rare to catch them cuddling or sleeping side by side. It's also the fact that Annie is always the one to initiate play, never April, so when it's April hurting Annie then I worry that April doesn't see Annie's behavior as play and perhaps see's it as fighting or something.
 

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I consider mine good friends and they never cuddle or sleep side by side.

Anyway, I don't think you have much to worry about. Something can always go wrong in a cat relationship, even between besties, but I dont think you necessarily have more than the normal risk of that. Cats like April that are willing and able to wump an annoying youngster to get some peace tend to do pretty well. I think April be like, "Oy, did I say I wanted to play? You need another lesson punk? Fine, school is in session." As opposed to real fighting, which is "I'm going to kill you!"
 

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I would let it play out for a couple weeks & see what happens. I would also try playing with both of them using two wand toys at once. I would also play with your hyper cat, use more interactive toys/puzzle feeders, possibly clicker train your cats & would look into electronic toys you can pull out for a day when they are extra hyper or once a week. Bird feeders work great to.

If you think a fight is going to break out, use a pillow or thick poster board to block their line of sight (& to let the other cat run away to a secure place.)
 
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