I have three cats. All neutered and spayed. A tuxedo named Pip, a tabby named Kitty, and a tortie named Faith. Pip isn't really all that important in this question, I'll give more info about him later. Faith is a grumpy cat and she is pretty aggressive, but it's more out of fear. She didn't trust me for most of my life but now she won't stop kneading my face in bed and keeping me up all night because she wants me to pet her. She's about 7-9 years, we aren't really sure. Now enter Kitty. He's a li'l devil. We got him in about September or August of 2015, he's, I think, 3 years. We thought he was a kitten when we first found him because he was so small and skinny. Now he's small and fat. He's very territorial, constantly rub-rub-rubbing on every little thing to get his scent there and claim it. Pip, our sweet li'l innocent angel that wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, he would, but he's a cat, what do you expect? He used to be more aggressive until my brother traumatized him (more on that in another question) and now he's very skittish.

This all sounds nice. You have 3 happy cats, what could possibly go wrong? ... A lot. Kitty's favorite activity is chasing Faith and battling with her. He's gotten into quite a few 'duels' with Pip (all of which Pip won) and so I think he's trying to show his dominance. He failed with Pip but Faith is weak and old so she's the perfect target for our little bully. I've not been sure on if I should ask this or not but the final straw was when I heard yowling and hissing from outside today. (Note: whenever Faith comes in Kitty tries to chase her, so we have to hold him down so he won't chase her.) and Kitty was chasing Faith up the stairs to our deck and Faith was backed into a corner. I opened the door, shook Kitty a few times and flicked him on the nose as punishment.

Things get worse when Faith fuels the fire. Whenever she sees Kitty she hisses and tries to scratch at him. Things get even worse when Pip joins in though. Pip doesn't know what he's doing, he chases her very rarely, and I think he only does it because Kitty does it. (Kitty is then ultimate bad role model.)

I'm sure one of you will suggest to have them 'make friends' or something but that definitely wouldn't work. They'd murder each other, and if they didn't, Faith would collapse under the stress.

Maybe one of you will suggest "Maybe give one of them up." However, I could not give up any of my kitties even if I wanted to. Faith, although she'd be freed from the stress of Pip and Kitty, will be separated from me. She gets very attached very easily and it would definitely not be a good idea. My sister (her original owner) left her in September to go to college and Faith got attached to me, somebody she already had a slight bond with. In a new house, she wouldn't recognize anyone, and I think it would be even worse than the stress with Pip and Kitty she is facing now.

Suggestions, please? I am so tired. I've tried everything, clapping, flicking Kitty/Faith (when she starts the fight) on the forehead/nose, nothing works.

  • 1
    Only solutions I know are either to let the cats settle it their way, separate them, or separate them and try re-introfucing them in a much more structured and controlled manner -- which may not work
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 0:18
  • There are a lot of previously answered questions about fighting cats. Do some searches here if you need more information than the answers below.
    – Beo
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:20
  • Are all of them fixed/altered @booty tornado ?
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:50

6 Answers 6


You need to establish a pecking order, one where you are at the top. Your cats need to abide by your rules, and that includes not picking on each other. Even if they cannot stand each other, they need to respect your wishes and not start fights.

1. No picking on each other.

You need to consistently enforce this rule in all directions. Cats don't respond to your intention of teaching them (dogs do), but cats do respond to their environment and situation.

A cat might never stop doing something because you tell it to, but you can get it to stop doing something because it causes you to retaliate

A retaliation by you is supposed to be negative feedback and an inconvenience to the cat. It should never cross ethical boundaries. No violence, fear, or harsh punishments.

The rule is clear, no picking on each other. If you can't interact nicely, then don't interact. All you need to do now is consistently enforce it.

2. Responding to transgressions.

A real world example might help here. We have three cats: Cleo, Misha and Alfie. Cleo and Misha are sisters (about 15 months old), Alfie is a brand new addition (about 6 months old). Alfie always wants to be first, everywhere, every time.
Treats? Alfie is front and center. Food? Alfie rushes to the first bowl and quickly jumps to the next bowl when his is finished. I'm giving love to a cat? Alfie will come and ask for attention.

I may be biased because I like the little bastard, but imo Alfie does not mean to undercut the girls, he's just eager for everything. He is always highly suggestible and easily distracted by anything that catches his attention. Literally anything distracts him, both in cases where it is a benefit or a drawback. He's not gaming the system, he's just incessantly eager.
However, and this is key to how to respond to transgressions, Alfie's intent does not matter. He gets punished for breaking the rules, not for why he broke the rules. The rules are non-negotiable, and need to be enforced as such.

He's allowed to be highly energetic and eager. Cleo and Misha are a bit more relaxed, so it's natural for Alfie to generally be first. I don't punish him for being first if the others are slower than him. However, whenever he crosses the line and actually cuts in between me and another cat, he does get punished.

I (softly) put my hand on his side and then give him a strong push. At the very least, he'll slide to the side. At worst, he'll fall on his side. It doesn't hurt him, but it inconveniences him to be pushed away and have to walk towards me again.
If he rushes at a treat that was clearly placed in front of another cat (I tend to also say the name of the cat whose treat it is, for further clarity) I will do everything in my power to ensure that the treat is eaten by the cat I gave it to. I will take it from Alfie's mouth if I have to (luckily, he doesn't put up a fight).

The core of my feedback is always consistent: No cat gets to bend a rule that I have made. If I give a treat to Misha, no one gets to take it from her.
This also extends to unjust behavior that I see happen. If a cat drives another cat from their sleeping spot in order to claim it for themselves, I will actively remove that cat and make sure their crime did not pay. This includes dunking water on the spot (after the cat has been removed) to make it an inhospitable sleeping spot.

Interestingly, before Alfie joined our family, Cleo was similarly eager. It was always "me first!" with her, and we needed to push her aside to actually be able to interact with Misha. However, Alfie is much more energetic (and socially oblivious) than Cleo, and now Cleo is basically being treated the way she (obliviously) treated Misha. Since Alfie, Cleo no longer cuts in front of Misha, not even unintentionally.
This sort of proves my point: cats learn to not undercut others (unintentionally or intentionally), when they themselves become the victim of being undercut. When I see a cat undercut another cat, I will interfere in a way that the offender becomes a victim to their own crime.

3. Patience and consistency.

Most people who see me interact with my cats make a comment about how much effort it must take to enforce rules that get broken constantly, since cats are not really trainable (compared to dogs).
But I disagree with that. Cats are slow learners (compared to dogs) because they do not observe a human's intent to teach, but that doesn't mean that cats are unable to learn something.

Consistency is the most important factor here. If you always apply the same rule, and apply the same punishment, then the cat will eventually see the pattern and learn to avoid it.

Cats already learn this way. There's a rope hanging off of a bucket. The bucket is standing on a table, filled with water. Cleo jumps and tries to catch the rope. The inevitable happens: she catches the rope and throws a bucket of water on herself. Cleo made the mistake a second time, but has not played with the bucket since then. Cause meets inevitable effect. Cleo saw the pattern (play with the bucket => get drenched) and actively avoided it in the future (don't want to get drenched => should not play with bucket).

The key part here is inevitable. It's not just a random occurrence, the effect consistently happens. I try to artificially recreate that same environment of cause and effect. Alfie takes food from another cat, and gets pushed aside (roughly but without hurting him). The more aggressively he tries it, the more aggressively he gets pushed back.
Misha sometimes walks away from treats. When she does, he's allowed to take it once she turns her back, unless he has already tried to steal it.

It has taken about 2-3 weeks, but Alfie understands that now. He will eagerly look at the treat and Misha, but he will generally not try to steal it anymore (exceptions made on days where he's much too playful to be thinking straight, he's still a kitten after all).

4. Focusing on your situation.

My situation has been a bit more relaxed. It's mostly about a social fax-pas. Your situation is more severe, your cats are antagonizing each other. You can apply the same principles as above, but you'll have to tailor it to the situation.

The rule: No cat shall be aggressive or unkind towards another cat. No cat is above this rule. As the pets' owner, you will not accept any disregard for this rule (no matter which cat is breaking the rule).

Kitty's favorite activity is chasing Faith and battling with her. ... Faith is weak and old so she's the perfect target for our little bully.

The moment he acts out, you respond. This can be done by name calling (neutral, then angrily), throwing soft things (e.g. pillows) or physically intervening. The important part is that Kitty is guilty, and must be appropriately punished. I'll address possible punishments further in the answer, but the general idea here is that you need to tailor a punishment that fits Kitty's crime. Crime does not pay, and it is your job to deliver that message to Kitty's doorstep.

He's gotten into quite a few 'duels' with Pip (all of which Pip won) and so i think he's trying to show his dominance. He failed with Pip.

If you see it happen, you need to intervene. Regardless of who started it, if both are actively engaging each other in the fight, they are both guilty. Note that you should observe what is going on. If one of them is attacking, and the other is fiercely defending (but doing nothing more than defending incoming attacks), then only the aggressor is guilty. But if both of them are aggressive (even if one of them started off simply defending themselves), both are actively breaking your rule and need to be punished for it.

If Kitty is the aggressor, and Pip consistently wins before you can intervene, you do not need to intervene after the fact (as long as no cat gets hurt in the process). Kitty has already experienced the effect from what he caused: Pip dominated him. Kitty must recognize the pattern and decide: do I want to keep losing this? Or do I want to avoid poking the bear?
However, if the aggressor ends up winning, then you do need to intervene after the fact and make sure that the aggressor does not gain anything from their behavior.

I've not been sure on if i should ask this or not but the final straw was when i heard yowling and hissing from outside today.

In order to retain consistency, you should yell at the hissing cat before you even know who it is. That proves the point that you're not upset with a specific cat, but rather whoever is being unkind.

whenever Faith comes in Kitty tries to chase her so we have to hold him down so he won't chase her.

Holding him down is a good idea. However, maybe a pedantic niggle, but I'd make sure to only hold him down after he has shown to make a move. If you immediately hold him down before he has even misbehaved, then there's no lesson for him to learn. However, if he only gets held down after misbehaving, then he can learn the pattern (run after Faith => get held) and learn to avoid it (don't want to get held => shouldn't run after Faith)

Don't be afraid to hold a pillow and use it as a projectile to block him when he makes a move for her. If he's being that aggressive that you can't easily stop him, then you're morally allowed to respond in equal measure by throwing a pillow (I would aim it in front of him rather than on him).

Even if the pillow doesn't stop him, it still serves a purpose as a signal that you are telling him off. It also has the added benefit that you holding a pillow will eventually become a reminder of what will happen if he misbehaves.

Things get worse when Faith fuels the fire. Whenever she sees Kitty she hisses and tries to scratch at him.

Faith's reaction is understandable. But just like how I said that Alfie's lack of ill intent is irrelevant; so is Faith's justification for hissing. Hissing is unkind, and unkindness does not get tolerated.

You may think that this is unfair on Faith. But keep in mind that you're also teaching Kitty the same lesson at the same time. He sees that other cats get punished for the same misbehavior. This causes him to realize that getting told off isn't something that's unique to Kitty himself.
Again, you are showcasing a pattern (cat acts unkindly => cat gets told off) that the cats will eventually learn to avoid (cat doesn't want to get told off => cat shouldn't act unkindly).

Things get even worse when Pip joins in though. Pip doesn't know what he's doing, he chases her very rarely and i think he only does it because Kitty does it. (Kitty is then ultimate bad role model.)

I think the pattern is starting to be clear. Pip is guilty. Pip gets punished. Kitty is not to blame for being a bad role model. Pip is to blame for following Kitty's example, especially if he has also seen Kitty getting told off for this misbehavior (and should therefore know better).

I've tried everything, clapping, flicking Kitty/Faith (when she starts the fight) on the forehead/nose, nothing works.

I think I'm coming across as a general hard-ass. Keeping that in mind, I'm not a fan of physical punishment such as flicking on the nose. As I see it, only a human is able to flick a cat on the nose, and thus it leaves the possibility for the cat to blame humans for being flicked on the nose.

I push Alfie, because he pushes the other cats. When he bites them (more than just horseplay), I slightly pinch him when I grab him. When he chases them out of their comfy spot, I do the same to him. Although I'm fighting fire with fire, I make sure to always respond in equal measure and not escalate needlessly. I would rather inefficiently push Alfie instead of "play the human card" that will always trump Alfie.

If you respond too strongly, the cat will see you as the aggressor. Instead of learning a lesson, it'll learn to avoid or dislike you. If you never go beyond the cat's own transgressions, they can't blame you for something that they just did themselves.

What I expect from your cats, long-term.

This is just inference from what you've told us. Take this with a grain of salt, I don't know your cats other than what you've told me (and even then I could've misunderstood.

Faith seems to want to be by herself. Whenever Pip or Kitty misbehave, I expect that you'll end up enforcing a peaceful atmosphere for Faith (e.g. by separating the offender temporarily).
Pip seems to have no issue responding to Kitty in equal measure, so you need to defend him less. But when he misbehaves like Kitty, you should punish him like Kitty. He needs to see that the punishment is directed at the behavior and not just at Kitty.

Kitty is going to need the most work. He is going to have to learn how to back off. As a general rule, you can never stop a cat's misbehavior, but you can steer it. You can't stop a cat from scratching things, but you can redirect them to a scratching pole when they target your furniture or couch. The same is true for any other instinctive behavior.
If Kitty's misbehavior comes from playfulness (which Faith does not reciprocate), try playing with Kitty to redirect his energy. Even if he's not trying to play with Faith (but likes playing with you), you can play with him to tire him out and make him less likely to chase Faith.
If Kitty is being aggressive for the sake of aggression, then that needs to be adamantly addressed. Do not put up with that behavior, even in small bursts. Do not allow him to be unkind to the other cats in any way, shape or form. Make sure that doing so leads to an inevitable punishment that he will regret (but don't overreact either).

5. Fair punishments.

In order to not lengthen an already lengthy answer, I'll simply link to an earlier answer I gave on this topic. Chapter 4 specifically addresses the escalation pattern that I use to teach my cats how to steer their own behavior (by making them want to avoid you steering their behavior for them).


There isn't really a "one-size fits all" answer to this sort of situation but there are a couple of things you could try, and which I'd go for depends on whether Kitty is behaving purely out of "fun" from his point of view or whether there is any stress in there.

If it's not just Kitty being a bit too exuberant in his play you could try a "Feliway Friends" diffuser. These work like a plug-in air freshener but instead of a faux pine scent they instead put out out a synthetic version of the hormone mother cats release after giving birth which has a calming effect on the cats in the house. I've used them before to help keep my Bengal calm during fireworks and I've seen good results.

There are a couple of gotchas though - if I'm understanding your question correctly your cats are allowed out? If so that will reduce the effectiveness of such a device as they will obviously be spending less time under it's influence as it were.

Likewise if you have a big house you would need multiple diffusers spread throughout the house to ensure good coverage.

If it is all down to Kitty just having too much playful energy and drive then I'd recommend giving him some regular one-on-one play time with you, ideally at roughly the same time every day (before food is best as it fits with the hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle) and with some toys that he can really go to town on and interact with. This should give him an outlet for his play that isn't poor old Faith and hopefully if that's more fun for him he'll bother the others less.


Okay, you said giving up one of them is not an option and neither is letting them duel it out. I definitely agree with the latter, but there might be another possible solution rather than the former. :) Note that if this has been going on for a long time already both Kitty and Faith will have learned and accepted this behavior as the norm and things will be hard to change.

So Faith is about 7-9 which makes her a fully grown adult lady and Kitty is a young male in his prime, about 3 years. Their interests are simply not the same and Kitty seems very intent on wrestling to his heart's content. Additionally, it seems that (judging by what you wrote) Faith is not up to the task of showing Kitty that she isn't into that kind of play (typically, female cats aren't) and instead runs away... Which is great fun for Kitty and he doesn't get that what he is doing is wrong. To him, he is just playing.

Essentially, Faith doesn't have the confidence to stand up to Kitty who in turn is getting more and more frustrated. Even if she was the correct gender and/or loved to wrestle, she probably wouldn't be active enough for Kitty. So what to do?

It's risky in this specific situation as Faith isn't a confident cat, but a solution in many bad 'male cat wants to wrestle with female cat' cases is to get another male of about the same age and activity level as the other male. This is because cats don't usually -want- to terrify other cats for long periods of time, they want to play with someone who reciprocates as that is a lot more fun for both cats. The important bit is that the new arrival has to be properly socialised (grew up with other kittens, accepts hisses or rejection) as otherwise there really could be a scenario where Faith gets chased by two males instead of one.

Again, it's risky, but you said you don't want to give any cat away, so this is the only other solution I can see.

Apart from that, I wouldn't physically punish Kitty for what he is doing - you are basically telling a young adult that he shouldn't play, he doesn't get it. What you can do is:

  • Casually walk between the two cats whenever Kitty looks like he is going to jump Faith. Block his path, interrupt the situation peacefully. You can also use a neutral, unknown sound for this (doesn't have to be loud, just distract Kitty for a moment).
  • Reward good behaviour so the relationship still remains positive otherwise (if it is). Any positive interaction should be rewarded here :)
  • Build Faiths confidence. Clicker-training is good for this if she is up for that, but also solo play sessions where she gets to have the 'prey' for a little while before it flys off for another round of merry hunting. No laserpointers in this case, they have no built-in reward and can be frustrating.
  • For whatever it isn't worth: My two are the same age, and the boy is a lot more assertive about both playing and grooming. But I stopped worrying about it after seeing the girl instigate a few times. And they spend enough time cuddling with each other that I'm not really worried about the relationship.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 17:01
  • Thats great, they seem an ok fit then :) Its really only an issue when one cat can't assert themself or the other doesn't take 'no'/hissing for an answer.
    – psycoatde
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 19:36
  • I'm not sure if adding another cat is a good thing for this situation, and some cats don't react well to physical punishment...Hmm, risky indeed. This is sticky and complicated, a thinker for sure
    – Christy B.
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:53

I'm dealing with this right now. I have a cat I recently rescued, and he and my cat I've had for over a year aren't really getting along. They like to stalk each other. If one of them takes off running, the other will chase.

I have been using the pillow method. If one of them starts to go after the other, I insert a pillow between them and shake it at the aggressor. This seems to be working. I also hiss at him/her.

I'm trying to train my female cat not to run after she walks past the rescue, because he will always always chase her if she runs.

It's pretty stressful, but until they understand from all this reinforcement that lunging at each other is not appropriate, I can't really leave them in the same room unsupervised. It's tough.

  1. Put up baby gates in doorways, this creates an obstacle so the chased cat can get away unharmed. Put boxes, storage containers under beds to give them a safe space. My 'murder cat' loves our garage because we have stacked containers with a pillow on top for her.

  2. Give high spaces for them to travel along, book cases, shelves, clear the top of frig, cat trees, etc.

  3. Keep a spray bottle handy. A spray bottle that has a distinct sound when spraying. I use a Dawn Power wash bottle. I've only had to spray a few times, and missed. But now when murder cat sees me with that particular bottle, she settles down in another room.

  4. Keep feeding dishes separate if you can, at least for awhile. Cats are territorial over the food.

Your first cat 'owns' your property and you. At least in their minds. Extra special loving for your murder cat, she needs to know she is still the most important feline. After all, you're her most important human.

The newest cat must become submissive to the older family member, they've earned that respect and demand it.

Supervision with a spray bottle, obstacles to aid an escape, high places so they can safely explore, and safe spaces.

The rest is up to them.


I had a similar situation and decided to consult with a veterinary behavioral specialist. I was able to do it virtually (phone, computer/Zoom). I believe is was $250 but it was the best money ever spent! I would have gone without food or anything else if needed, as it fixed the problem. I thought I knew a lot about behavior modification (I have a graduate degree in psychology) but one cannot apply human reason (or even canine reason) to cats - they are entirely different! I learned that some of the things I was doing (which others suggested here) were actually making the situation WORSE. Every cat is different and you have three, so a behavioral specialist can figure out what may be unique to your cats and situation to help truly resolve the issues.

Some general guidance:

  1. NEVER “punish” a cat. Of course nothing physical (not even a flick on the nose), but also no spray bottles, yelling, etc. This only increases their stress or anxiousness which is often the cause of their attacks, so it can actually escalate things. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work with cats. It just makes them more anxious, aggressive, and/or fearful, and it weakens your bond with them.
  2. Use positive reinforcement. If the aggressor is simply sitting in the presence of the victim and is ignoring him/her, give the aggressor praise and pets. Get aggressor kitty to associate good things (extra attention, treats, etc.) with victim kitty. Reward the lack of bad/aggressive behavior.
  3. Use distraction methods. If there are times when you feel the aggressor is likely to act up, find a way to distract him (e.g., play with a favorite toy).
  4. Consider aids like Feliway multicat. If behavioral methods aren’t enough, consult your vet about medications. “Bad” behavior is often a result of anxiety or other negative emotional states. There are meds that can help in combination with behavioral training. Sometimes it’s actually the victim cat that benefits most from medication (reducing their fear and increasing their self-confidence makes them less desirable to the bully cat).
  5. Enhance the environment with lots of high places (use vertical space if/when the house is not large), perches to view the outdoors, interactive toys, etc. Be sure to give each kitty plenty of play time, especially the aggressor.
  6. If you’re not able to consult with a veterinary behavioral specialist, talk to your vet. Be careful about taking advice from people on the Internet. Mine comes from a trained professional, but you should still run it by your vet. As I said, some of the advice I saw above can actually be harmful to your cat’s wellbeing and can make the situation worse.

Good luck!

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