Cats- Is he really just a jerk or is it something else?
I recently (about 3 weeks ago) acquired two cats. They are about a year old, brothers, and have been in shelter or foster care most of their lives, together. They are absolutely wonderful and a fun addition to my little "family."
However, over the last week or so the bigger of the two (Bobby) has taken to tormenting his smaller, more timid brother (Ricky). This seems to be new behavior, as when they first arrived, they'd wrestle and play with no issues. Now, while they do still play together and at times get along just fine, Bobby will randomly decide to pounce on Ricky, and when Ricky takes offense and seeks shelter, Bobby will chase him and keep at it until I intervene, Ricky gets his point across (Bobby doesn't take no for an answer very well), or Bobby just gets bored. Last night, after I thought we'd all finally settled down (there was a lot of Ricky-tormenting and just plain old hooliganism like only a cat can do for awhile), Ricky was laying in bed next to me, and Bobby kept jumping up on the bed and trying to start things!! I think I may have kicked him off the bed half a dozen times before he jumped up and went to sleep.
I am going to talk with my friend at the shelter they came from and see if she can talk to their foster family and find out if this is NEW behavior, or if Bobby's always been a jerk! I love cats and have had them all my life, but unlike dogs and horses, I don't "get" them and their hierarchy and social pecking order nearly as much! Anyone have any input?
I frequently find myself hating any "teenage" cats in my household. They go one of two ways when they reach that one year mark...either they are fantastically adorable, sweet, calm little munchkins, or they are absolute horrors who you want to drop kick on a daily basis. And I'm a cat person!
Give it a little more time. They're at a bad age, and readjusting to boot.
Don't be afraid to lock yourself in a room with the good one and make the bad one find a different place to sleep.
It sounds pretty normal to me. Cats, especially males, can play pretty hard, with lots of growling, spitting, etc. Mine sound like they're in a full-blown catfight when they get riled up. Young cats especially play hard. Watch them carefully; it may even be that the seemingly innocent one is provoking the other. Just a certain flick of the tail or a look plainly says "come get you some" to the other one. As someone said, they're at the age where they are establishing themselves as cats and are readjusting to a new situation as well. It sounds like just the end of obnoxious kittenhood to me, when they are big and strong but still full of crap.
Usually if it's more serious, there will be fur flying and even a possible bite or scratch that breaks the skin, and they'll got for vulnerable areas, like the ears. If you're not seeing that, it's probably normal.
One last thought, though. Are you trying REALLY hard to give them equal attention? It could be that Bobby is jealous of Ricky, if he's getting more snuggles because he's sweeter, even if it's because Ricky comes and asks for attention and Bobby doesn't. ("Hey, how come YOU get to snuggle in bed with Mommy and I'm down here on the floor?!") If you swoop in and sweep Ricky up when he's pestering him and snuggle him ("oh, poor Ricky, is Bobby being MEAN to you") it could be actually making the behavior worse. Be VERY careful to give them equal attention, even if they aren't both asking for it equally, and see if that helps. When my boys go at it, they BOTH get a well-timed squirt from the spray bottle, regardless of who started it.
Then again, they ARE cats. It could be that Bobby is just a jerk. But IME, it sounds pretty normal if there isn't bloodshed.
Thanks, everyone! A friend also said it may be there age, so i'm feeling we may grow past this. Bobby is far more gregarious than Ricky and is my little shadow when I'm in the house. I feel like they get equal attention, but I'll pay attention to that.
It isn't horribly violent, but I feel like Ricky wouldn't constantly run away as soon as he got the chance if they were playing. He NEVER starts it (at least, obviously...and Bobby will literally jump on the bed next to Ricky and immediately lay into him). It really is just obnoxious! Very much like a teenage boy!
I suspect that Ricky could live his life just fine without Bobby!
Truly matched cat "pairs" are more balanced in their behavior - sometimes kittens end up in pairs determined by the rescue etc rather than by the cats involved, the dynamic can also change as cats approach adulthood & previously OK "pairs" will splinter: in a cat colony they'd end up going their separate ways or spending very little time together.
Sounds like just normal teenage behavior - playing too hard and trying to establish dominance. What I would not do, though, is step in and separate them. The more attention you give to Ricky, the more Bobby feels he needs to assert himself. And if you are punishing Bobby, then he feels he need to lash out against Ricky. If the torment gets out of hand, there are a couple of ways you can deal with it. Drop something loud - like a pot or trash can - that gives them the chance to separate without anyone losing "face." In the absence of that, I will walk over to spatting cats and stomp loudly right thru the middle of them while singing or talking loudly, again giving them chance to separate without losing face. Pay more attention to Bobby. Give him a good old hard play. He isn't Ricky's mirror image after all. They both have different needs for attention and ways of reacting to things. Worry about when it gets to the stage where they are drawing blood - that's bad.
If you can get a copy of Anitra Frazier's book The New Natural Cat. She has a good section on multi-cat households. Also check out books by Pam Johnson-Bennett - she makes sense.
"Cats aren't clean; they're covered with cat spit."
- John S Nichols (1745-1846,writer/printer)