Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting time.
If you have an older cat, they’ll be more active again and the kitty will learn from them.
That thinking quickly goes out the window if household harmony is under threat.
Sometimes the older cat doesn’t accept a kitten, but other times the kitty seems to be bothering the poor old soul.
Indeed, kittens seemingly have boundless joy riling adult cats up.
Jumping, biting at the face or neck, constantly approaching the older cat like a magnet.
Soon, the other party might not be in such a jolly mood anymore and that’s that can be the tipping point.
My #1 tip is to address the root cause.
You need to intervene, but not always by reprimanding the kitten.
A kitty bullying the older cat might just be a symptom of a lack of exercise in which case it shouldn’t be corrected.
The case might also be complex with the kitten mirroring behavior or the older cat not being able to communicate.
Let’s dive in and figure out why exactly your kitten aggravates the chief in the house.
My Kitty Is Bullying My Older Cat: 9 Causes & Solutions
Reasons why your kitty is bullying your older cat include a lack of exercise or socialization, rough play, resource guarding, aggression, or medical issues.
Kitty aggression as a reason why your kitten is attacking your older cat might sound harsh but rest assured that it’s rarely the cause.
You might want to triple-check aggression or resource guarding issues if the kitten was a rescue.
A kitty from a breeder rarely displays these issues right from the get-go.
The number one reason for kittens bullying older cats is a lack of exercise and socialization.
There are simple ways to tell which reason it could be and I’ll explain each issue so you’ll finally reap the benefits of caring for your beloved felines.
That includes protecting your older cat while training your kitten how to behave.
Time to restore household harmony!
1. Medical Issues
Medical issues could be the reason why your kitty seems to bully your older cat.
Kittens can suffer from joint issues or even just the side effects of growing.
Joint issues are often expressed by limping in young cats.
Also, your little furry friend will go through a kitty-biting phase.
Have your kitten examined by a vet if you’re unsure and monitor your kitten’s growth or any signs of illness.
Your kitty may be bullying the older cat due to kitty aggression.
While that’s rarely the cause, aggression should always be kept in mind.
If you’ve gotten your kitten from a shelter, inquire about their past.
Owners who got their kitten from a proper breeder will have to worry less about aggression.
I’ve seen it happen, though the chances increase tenfold with poor breeders or kitty mills.
These kittens show signs of aggression but these underlying fear issues often develop due to a lack of socialization or issues within the litter (i.e. resource guarding or rough play).
3. Resource Guarding
Resource guarding where kittens protect toys or food from an older cat and bully them to the point where they have trouble accessing these resources is not common but can definitely happen.
Furry companions who had to fight with littermates for resources due to a lack of a proper structure and access to food might develop this issue.
Similarly, your kitten may just mirror your older cat’s behavior.
Resource guarding or food aggression should be avoided right away and is a bit more difficult to get rid of once it happened.
- Hand-feed your kitten
- Dedicate playtime with each cat
- Remove 24/7 access to toys
- Incorporate obedience training
All these steps can help with resource issues.
However, your older cat might just get bullied in a way because they can’t properly communicate anymore.
This ties in closely with medical issues, I’ll go into details below.
4. Rough Play
Some kittens just play rough and that extends to older cats who might not appreciate the bursts of energy and feel bullied, especially if the kitty is biting the neck.
It’s quite common for kittens to go for the face, neck, or legs (more on that below) and older cats can just disdain that behavior.
Provide your kitty with an outlet for their excess energy and socialize them properly so they learn how to play with their peers.
Sometimes, older cats use measured corrections and that’s an important aspect of development for kittens too.
However, interacting with other kittens is still crucial and rough play can be corrected verbally, but usually it’s best to let the other cat provide feedback.
If your kitten is poorly socialized, he may interact with your older cat in an unhealthy way and that may include constant nagging and biting the face.
Make sure to check out my socialization guide.
A common cause of kittens bullying older cats is a lack of exercise. Naturally, kittens have exercise needs and if not met, they annoy the other cat in the house.
Review your exercise schedule.
- What do you do for exercise?
- Do you play together?
- Desensitizing your kitten to new sounds and sights?
- Are you providing mental stimulation?
Do not correct (and never “punish”) your kitten when he seems to be bullying your older cat whereas in reality, is just lacking mental and physical stimulation.
7. Protect Your Older Cat
Besides providing your cat with an outlet for their energy and training them to behave well, make your older cat feel comfortable.
Provide them a safe space, interact with them 1-on-1 to avoid jealousy, and go on bonding trips with your kitten and older cat.
If you don’t teach both cats how to behave, you may end up in another difficult situation.
That’s when you’ll find your older cat attacking your kitten.
8. Aging Cat Lacks Communication Skills
If your kitten is relentlessly stressing your older cat, it might not be bullying behavior at all, but instead a lack of feedback from your older cat who was previously well-socialized.
This one’s a bit different than a lack of socialization from the get-go because your senior loses a previously mastered power.
If your older cat becomes slower and slower and sometimes doesn’t react at all, there’s no feedback loop your kitten can use to learn.
Let your vet examine your senior and if that’s the reason, you’ll probably have to monitor their interactions more often and provide a calm space for your senior.
9. Kitty Challenges Older Cat
Even if your cats have been living together harmoniously, the kitty may start bullying the older cat in a bid to challenge the status quo.
While the alpha theory finds no practical application in most modern training sessions, there’s quite a lot of debate on whether the dominance hierarchy is an accurate interpretation of the cat’s intentions.
Do kittens challenge older cats?
Yes, it can happen that your kitten challenges an older cat.
The agile and growing kitten bursts with life whereas the aging cat withdraws or suffers from medical issues.
Behavioral issues and fights are bound to happen.
Not all kittens challenge and not all seniors refuse to relinquish power.
In some households, this dynamic doesn’t seem to exist.
But in others, the previously submissive kitty is set on overtaking resources they deem valuable enough to fight for.
The senior might also have been relentlessly attacking the kitten when they were young, despite submissive body language and actions by the kitten.
Consult a behaviorist to get the full picture of your household and rule out resource guarding, aggression, or medical issues as a cause of your kitten bullying the older cat.
Kitten Biting Older Cat’s Neck
If your kitty is biting your older cat’s neck, that’s usually just playfighting but if the kitty is too rough, they might need more socialization as well as exercise to get rid of excess energy.
What you should do about a kitty biting your older cat’s neck depends on how they react.
Your older cat doesn’t seem to mind?
Mutual play gets a green light.
However, make sure your older cat is not just accepting your kitty biting their neck because they can’t communicate properly that they’ve had enough.
A major sign that your older cat is okay with the kitten biting their neck is a relaxed, calm posture.
Love bites are a thing with humans too, but there’s a point where it’s just too much.
If the chief of the house doesn’t appreciate the neck biting at all, you need to do something about it.
Signs that your cat is uncomfortable include showing teeth or gums, snarling, a stiff body posture or tail, flat ears, or hackles.
Provide them a safe space where they’re shielded from the kitten.
Don’t do that all the time though.
In addition, you might look into more playtime for your kitten and teach them to settle down.
However, if the biting is too rough, it’s often best to intervene.
When the biting causes puncture wounds, it’s definitely too much and doesn’t matter whether or not the older cat is bothered by it.
Teaching your kitten bite inhibition isn’t the only thing you can do to stop the neck bites.
If the neck biting is excessive, you also need to provide your older cat with a safe space and get rid of your kitten’s excess energy.
Kitty Biting Older Cat’s Face
If your kitty is biting your older cat’s face, monitor whether it’s playful and mutual or if the older cat corrects the kitty. Intervene if necessary to avoid injuries.
In case the playful biting is reciprocated or enjoyed by your older cat, it’s okay.
However, most older cats hate having kittens in their face 24/7.
If that’s the case, you need to protect your older cat, train your kitten, as well as socialize and exercise them properly.
Pretty much the same steps as when your kitten is biting their neck, minus the dominance myth.
How Do I Stop My Kitty From Bothering My Older Cat?
You can stop your kitty from bothering your older cat by teaching your kitten how to behave correctly while providing them with mental and physical stimulation.
You can’t expect your kitten to stop bothering your other cat out of nowhere.
As explained above, there’s a reason why your kitten is bothering the other cat in your house.
Either her exercise or attention needs aren’t met, or your kitten hasn’t yet learned when your other cat doesn’t want to play.
Figure out why your kitten is in your cat’s face all day with the tips outlined above and you’ll soon reap the benefits of owning a kitty and older cat.
Can a Kitty Be Dominant Over an Older Cat?
Yes, a kitty can challenge an older cat but it rarely happens and depends on your response as well as the older cat’s signaling and medical status.
Dominance is an outdated term to describe the relationship between two cats.
However, it can happen that kittens have a problem with resources and are trying to redistribute them in their favor (food, toys, space, attention).
This issue can be also paired with other issues though.
A poorly socialized cat or rough player is more likely to display “dominant” behavior when interacting with an older cat, especially if they’re more on the gentle side.
Kitty Aggressive With Older Cat
If your kitty is aggressive with your older cat and that extends beyond simple attention-seeking and instead results in serious attacks, you need to consult a professional behaviorist.
Whenever your kitten seems to be bullying the other cat in your house, ask yourself a couple of questions.
Is your kitty doing, experiencing, or lacking any of the following?
- Medical issues
- Signs of aggression
- Resource guarding
- Rough play
- Lacking socialization
- Exercise needs not met
- Constantly nagging the older cat who has nowhere to go
- Lack of feedback
- Signs of overthrowing relationship
If you can answer yes to any of that, dive deeper to find out why exactly your kitten is annoying your aging feline companion.
Some issues are easy to fix, while others require a bit more refined approach and consistent training.
Medical issues should always be checked out by a vet, be it on the kitten’s side or the older cat's side.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your cat shows any sign of illness, call your vet.