What Is Wrong With That Cat?

I don’t know what is wrong with Ivy. The first week Gracie was here, Ivy didn’t want anything to do with her.

Then they began playing and running up and down the hall for the next couple of weeks.

Then the trouble started.

What is wrong with that cat who fights the kitten and is now staring out the window at birds

Ivy Became Aggressive:

Ivy began to hiss and growl and make weird noises every time Gracie went anywhere near her. Then Ivy began to jump her like a schoolyard bully. Seeing Ivy on top of Gracie is like seeing a huge SUV on top of a Prius.

Is this normal cat behavior?

Some nights it wakes me up when Ivy’s going through all her repertoire of noises. Spitting, hissing, and growling.

This is all a big worry to me. What happened?

My cat Gracie stares at me with her pretty blue eyes

Earlier this week I emailed the mobile vet, Gabrielle, and told her what was going on.

What The Vet Had To Say:

She responded with this: It may be that the kitten has become more comfortable- more active and assertive which Ivy may see as a threat. As long as it is not escalating into a fight and the kitten submits to Ivy, they may work it out on their own.

I would try to give them their own space as much as possible so you can limit forced interactions. You could leave Ivy’s stuff where it has been. But set up a separate area for the kitten with a litter box, bed and food and water so they don’t have to compete for any resources.

I responded to her email asking if it would be wise if she came out to check Ivy? Could Ivy be hurting and lashing out due to pain?

Miss Ivy, the main character in what is wrong with that cat stares off in the distance

Dr. Fielstra responded with this: Since it is behavior very specific to the kitten, it is more likely behavioral rather than medical. I would continue to praise her when she is being calm and only intervene if you think she may hurt the kitten.

Maybe also give her a break for a while every day where you separate the kitten to a bedroom and give Ivy more space. 

First I’ll Try Moving Gracie’s Litter Box:

So today I guess I’ll move Gracie’s litter box from the walk-in closet where it is fairly close to Ivy’s litter box. Put it somewhere else in my bedroom. And hope I don’t get woken up, as I have before, with the smell of Gracie’s stinky poop.

She still hasn’t quite figured out the whole covering poop with litter thing. But she’s getting a little better about it. And they already eat in separate rooms with me nearby.

In what is wrong with that cat, Gracie looks out the front window.

I will see if this makes any difference.

It’s hard not to scold Ivy when she’s being a bully because she’s much bigger. I praise her when she lets Gracie pass by her without being aggressive.

A Stray Cat Hanging Around:

Another thing, there’s been a stray cat hanging around my front window and door. Could Ivy be smelling that cat and could that be exacerbating this problem? Or causing it?

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Worried Cat Mom

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42 Comments

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve had cats, so I can’t give any advice. It’s good to read that your vet, and most of your commenters say the behavior is normal, and will work itself out.

  2. When a new animal is introduced to existing animal(s), there is almost always a reshuffling of hierarchies. Gracie may be testing Ivy’s limits. Sounds like Ivy isn’t willing to give up the top spot. They’ll eventually sort it out themselves.

  3. I have 4 cats. Ivy is exhibiting normal behavior. She is the alpha cat and is territorial. That’s her personality.
    My oldest cat, Charleigh (15), is sweet as sugar and never antagonizes. She actually welcomes new cats with open paws and is a very huggy girl. Number 2 cat is Nosy Nella (10), and she is the bully. Tilly McTillster (9) only has 3 legs and is also sweet. She does get picked on by Nella, but when pushed, she will fight back. It’s a back leg that is missing, so her front paws are very strong and when she smacks Nella, it’s a loud thump. Lastly is Zoe (3). It’s been a year since I found her outside and added her to the zoo, but she and Nella still hiss and spit at one another and give each other wide berth most of the time.
    As time goes on, and as Ivy gets older and Gracie gets bigger, things may settle down more. That outside cat could also be aggravating her to the point that she takes it out on the little one.
    Things will get better. 🙂

  4. Ivy’s behavior is perfectly normal. Cats are very territorial and it takes a loong time for them to get used to each other when they haven’t grown up together. Anytime you bring a new cat into the mix, the first cat or cats that were in your home are not going to like it. The vet is on-point about keeping their litter boxes and feeding areas separate – although they might use each others litter boxes to mark territory.

    Clementine and Monkey are mother and son and they still fight, too! Monkey is twice the size of Clem and he sometimes attacks and jumps on her for no reason, which upsets me. Cats can be interesting animals!

    If Ivy has seen this stray cat, then that definitely adds into the mix. My cats go ballistic if they even so much as eyeball another cat in our yard. (We don’t have strays around here, but there used to be a neighbor who let their cat wander outside.)

  5. Yrs ago I used to have 2 cats Cola and Polly Gray. Cola was much bigger and never the nicest to Polly . I remember she used to full on body slam Polly . I don’t remember any hissing or anything like that , but again it was about 15-16 yrs ago. They just figured it out , I don’t remember doing anything about it.

  6. I see the exact same thing with my Maddie, the rescue kitten we rescued. She and the other rescue boy, who is a year younger, go through the same things. For awhile, she will tolerate him, even lick his head… he has learned to be more submissive to her and then she seems OK. He’s alot bigger than she is! So if he wants to get a little more aggressive, she IMMEDIATELY puts him in his place. I let it be, unless a big fight happens and fur starts flying.. then I yell at them to quit it.. and they do.. and each go their own way. This has been going on for 5 years now. Maddie always wants to be the queen and this house is HER territory. I also notice that once when a stray tom cat was prowling around, and would walk on our walkway, and if Maddie saw him, she would get very aggitated and growl and hiss.. and if Rudy was close by, she would get mad at him too…. like… don’t bother me.. let me concentrate on that stray out there! A new stray cat seems to always upset them both. Also.. anything new, like the move, will very more than likely upset Ivy for awhile. She may even become very aloof and ignore you for awhile, up to a month. She tends to get her feelings hurt very easily and then ignores me, sometimes for weeks, then all of a sudden, she’s lovey dovey again and wants tons of attention. I think she and Gracie will get their pecking order worked out.. Gracie will learn.. also I’ve heard it’s a good idea to keep the litter boxes of each cat in different areas.. not all grouped together. Maddie will NOT go in a litter box if she knows another cat as gone there… she very rarely uses the litter box in the house either, so I have to make sure and let her outside when I know she needs to go.. she will start wandering. if you have two separate boxes, that should do the trick. I have to say, although I’ve had cats my entire life, that Maddie is very unique being a resue at such an early age, about 5 weeks, and was bottle fed. They’ve lost out on that nurturing by their mama, and are very different, aloof, possessive of their space and sensitive to new things and to any changes. I’m sure things will settle down in another year or so! Marilyn

  7. I am wondering if that stray cat isn’t the root of the problem. We had a female cat who was super aware of and distressed by an outside stranger cat. Millie had been a stray and came to us in our back yard, then became our kitty, an inside only kitty. She peed on the rug by the window where she saw the cat. Our vet agreed with us that although more unusual with a girl cat, that it does happen. Cats are pretty territorial. I think Ivy is stressed by this cat and Gracie gets treated roughly as a consequence.
    Hate to say it, but Feliway never worked for any of my cats. Wish it had!
    Wishing you the best,
    Mary

  8. I think the outdoor interloper might have something to do with Ivy’s behavior. I remember a past blogger who had cats and when one cat in particular saw the neighbor’s cat through the door she would become enraged and attack her fellow indoor cats. Your move may resolve everything. Neutral ground, you know. The great equalizer. Perhaps a Feliway (sp?) started in the new home a few days before the cats move in may help.
    That second bedroom may prove to be a blessing.

  9. Brenda, you might want to Google “feline displaced aggression.” When our beloved Spookie saw a cat outside, she would become enraged. She would attack her stepsister, Cayce, and even me at times. It was especially bad if the outside cat was at her level and they had time to interact. After my vet told me what was going on with her, I made fabric panels to cover the lower portion of the French doors and any windows that were at floor level. Eventually, she mostly outgrew it. After each time it happened, though, she needed lots of reassurance and attention for a while. Good luck and congratulations on finding your new apartment!

    Sherry in Little Rock

    1. I don’t know if Ivy has seen the stray. But then I had to move that cupboard she liked to lay on and look out of. Because that’s where the maintenance man had to put the window air conditioner he still hasn’t come back to get.

        1. Brenda, I have 3 kitties and I have witnessed that “displaced aggression” at times when a stray animal was spotted outside. While normally my two males get along well, one turned his ire on the other. Makes sense: if you can’t get the interloper, might as well attack your best friend! Cats!!

  10. Having a multi-cat household, and after having worked at veterinary hospitals for over 10 years in the past, I am a firm believer in using Feliway to help make cats more comfortable. On Amazon it’s
    under Feliway MultiCat Calming Diffuser Kit (30 Day Starter Kit) | Vet Recommended | Reduce Fighting and Conflict Among Cats. Comfort Zone has some but they don’t all have Feliway. Feliway is the key since it mimics the cat’s natural pheromones and helps them feel safe. It’s completely odorless so you won’t notice it. And it’s completely safe, I’ve used it for years when I had a canary in the house and it didn’t bother him. With new little Gracie and the upcoming move, it may help!

    1. All cats are different but I’ve heard pheromone calming can be helpful in calming aggression or general distress in cats. With a move coming it might help adjusting to a new home, too.
      Frances

  11. I have two cats one is two and the other nine. The nine year old often gets aggressive and “play” can escalate quickly to a fight. I try not to fuss at him. I have several toys that I turn on and use a distraction from the squabbling. I don’t believe it is over food or water or litter space. I feed them in separate areas, they eat have their own litter boxes and water fountains. I believe it is more of from time to time the older one wants to show who is boss. Try as others have said and give Ivy some space to herself and try a few distracting toys. One I bought is an automatic laser pointer. I turn it on and it flashes on the floor. They both chase it and stop fighting.

  12. I’ve heard of people changing their cat’s food so the poop is not so smelly. But I don’t know what might be a better brand. Or if the cats would like it

  13. There could be several things that has caused Ivy’s new behavior. She doesn’t need to smell the outdoor cat, but if she sees it, she could feel threatened by it and take it out on Gracie. Yes, jealousy is a real thing and Ivy has had you all to herself, and when she realized Gracie was staying, it probably didn’t sit too well with her. She also needs to show Gracie she is still the boss, as she came first and that does not change. Separate the litter boxes. Give them time away from each other. We had the same problem with one of our cats when we saved two kittens (brother and sister) that were abandoned under our gazebo. I was worried about the only male in a now, 4 cat environment. He’s never been the problem. (I was very wrong) but 1 of our older cats did not like his sister. We had a lot of encounters and they were separated at night for a long time but then one day the older cat realized something…the kittens weren’t kittens anymore. They grew up and they are both bigger than her. She changed and became much less assertive/aggressive and everyone is in the house together now. We still have little encounters of chasing each other and a hiss, here and there but it’s so much better. It will work out once Ivy realizes that she is still the boss and her momma loves them both. This is a bit long – sorry. I hope it helps.

  14. We have an older female cat who was the only cat in the household until my son had to part with his big younger male cat and we took him in. There was some hissing and growling for a bit but they worked it out for themselves and became very close. It takes time and each “set” of cats will work out what works best for them I think. The strange cat hanging around may also be part of the problem. Ivy may feel threatened and is taking it out on Gracie because she’s handy.

  15. For your own comfort you might try one of the robotic litter boxes that covers the poop and removes it immediately as soon as the cat leaves the box.

    My daughter has one of these. Her HUSBAND likes the cats much better now. 🙂

  16. Cats are very happy being alone and don’t need a “companion” like you were used to with your two dogs. I went from 1 cat to 2 kittens with the cat and was happy I had the 2 kittens to play with each other. Eventually the older cat ignored them and the 2 kittens were happy to have each other.

    1. I suppose cats work all this out eventually. At the new place they will have more room to spread out. I have changed out both litter boxes and moved them to separate spaces. One in the closet and one in my bedroom.

      1. I’ve looked into those. Don’t want to spend the money now when I have to both pay for the expense to move and pay my yearly taxes in the same month.

  17. Agree 100% with Gail… it simply takes a bit of time for everyone (Ivy & Gracie) to completely adjust to one another. They’ll work it out.
    Ivy could also be picking-up on some of the stress you’ve been experiencing with your current apartment, and that too may be part of Ivy’s aggressiveness.
    I suspect they’ll go through another adjustment stage when you all move to your new home. Patience and understanding (count to 10 cat momma) will help.
    I suspect the stray hanging around outside may also be contributing to Ivy’s current aggressiveness. Unfortunately, Gracie’s a “convenient” target for Ivy right now, and a bit of extra loving for Ivy will go a long way. Ivy sounds like she may need a bit of reassurance that she remains the queen.
    As far as the Gracie & her litter box habits, 2 of my 3 cats dig & dig in the litter box to cover both pee & poop… you’d think they were digging to China. Both were strays who were on their own for a long time and their need to completely & thoroughly cover their pee & poop was a survival mechanism. My 3rd cat has been around humans from the get go, and doesn’t seem to have that ingrained survival “bathroom” attitude. A vet friend told me that’s very normal… the 3rd cat trusts me implicitly and knows she safe. There are times I wish she’d take lessons from the other 2, but she’s now 12 years old, so it’s unlikely.
    All will be well.

    1. Gracie makes a mess with the litter by kicking it out before, but then she doesn’t seem to know to cover her poop once she’s finished. And lawsy that smell would wake the dead.

  18. I have two cats. Joey the tripod is 13. And Nora is 3 the same age as Ivy. They’ve never been great friends but at times I see Nora go up to Joey and try to play. Ivy might just be set in her ways and not fond of the young ones playful habits. And she might also be responding to the cat outside. At least when you move you will have two separate bedrooms and can maybe give one a time out once in awhile. And it might be that the extra space will be a blessing in disguise for them.

    1. When Charlie was alive Ivy did her best to try to play with him. So when I lost Charlie, after a while I thought I’d get Ivy what I thought would be a playmate. Guess I just have to be patient.

  19. I have always had dogs so I don’t have advice on this but I just wonder if once you move and the terrority is going to be neutral to both that might help. Ivy had your space all to herself for a long time and then Gracie came in. Maybe once they are both introduced to a new space together it will be much better. Good Luck.

  20. When I have brought a new kitten/cat home, the newcomer and the current cats go through the phases you have described. For me, I would say it takes a good 9 months or so for them to work it out. I had a pair of kittens, same age but different mamas, that were tightly bonded as kittens. Now, as adults, they seem antagonistic to each other. Two cats that could not get along and constantly spit, hissed a growled at one another, will Snuggle together now. You just have to let them work it out between themselves. Kinda seems like sibling rivalry with Ivy. It will pass eventually. Although,
    when you move to your new home, both will have an adjustment period again. I am wondering if perhaps it being a new space and neutral territory, Ivy being territorial will diminish. As far as stinky poos, my elderly cat has her own litter box in my bedroom and I use a dome covered litter box that helps with odor.

  21. I don’t know if this is what is happening with Ivy but I have had the same issues with my little one jumping the older one who is 16. I have had cats for a long time, and when I see behavior like that I have learned to spend more time and give a little more attention to that particular cat. Ivy may be lashing out with a little jealousy and that’s understandable. I know you have a lot going on right now, but as much as you can, spend some time loving on her, and I would let Gracie see that. She has to learn too, that she has to share. They’ll be fine. Just give Ivy extra love and let her know she is still the Queen of the apartment. I will be praying for Gracie and Ivy. This is my opinion only but separating them will only delay them getting along. Ivy may think she won, and what you want is for them to see and learn how to interact with each other with love. They will always have little spats but this sounds like a case of jealousy. I get that. Take care!

    1. Oh, I give Ivy lots of love. I talk to her and reassure her. I brush her, which Gracie won’t let me do yet. Ivy spends a lot of time at the top of that cat tower which Gracie can’t get to yet. Ivy won’t let you hold her, but I’ve been giving her extra love.

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