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We got a younger sweet cat (now 5!) for company for our older cat (almost 12!) because the older cat is very sweet and loving and loves other cat's company. The younger cat has been the best companion for the older cat. They've been together almost 4 years. They've always played 'rough', and when the older cat was younger he engaged in rough play with other housemates.

However, lately, I notice that our older cat is becoming more and more sensitive to the rough play with the younger cat. When the younger cat chases him and mounts him and bites him on the neck, our older cat starts wailing much more loudly than he used to. This is also consistent with him being louder in general around feeding time; he used to be very quiet.

My question is: should I restrain the younger cat from this rough play when I am around? I know older cats become more sensitive in their joints, etc., but I always thought the exercise and play would be good for him nonetheless. I don't want to be stupid about it though and keep letting the younger cat have his way regardless of the older cat's feelings.

Any thoughts?

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Your situation is why usually the rule of thumb for finding good companion cats is: same gender, same age (more important if they are young) and (more important if they are adults) same character/playstyle/social needs.

In your case, it sounds like they got along fine socially and character-wise, but the age discrepancy was a bit much. That is fine when both cats still have the same activity level, but in the long run it shows as your older cat isn't up for as much rough play (which male cats tend to be into, so that's perfectly normal behavior from the younger cat) as he was before.

There are two possible (very general) causes for this: 1) Your older cat is just that. Older. He is just not that into wrestling anymore and is showing that to his buddy... 2) Medical reasons. At your older cats age (although not ancient), it is not beyond reason that he does have a few aches in his joints. Does he jump less often or high than before? Maybe get a geriatric blood panel and have him x-rayed (to check for arthritis, spondylosis etc.) if you can at all afford it.

In either case, the younger cat will be getting more and more frustrated as he can't get rid of all that energy that he has and therefore may start ignoring the older cats signals of 'hey, thats enough now, I don't want to'. And while they will still generally like each other, this usually leads to their relationship getting worse. While you can step in, by 'just happening' to calmly need to go where the two of them are or making an odd/unknown (not loud) noise (yelling might send the wrong message and increase stress and energy rather than dissolve the situation), obviously that can a) only be done when you are present and quick enough and b) is a band-aid at best.

What I usually suggest in these cases (they are quite common) is to adopt another male that has had the chance to grow up with siblings/is social enough to accept a 'no, not now' from other cats but is the same age of your younger cat (4-6, not younger) and same activity level. With social cats, these situations then resolves quite nicely as the two younger ones roll through the place in a ball of happy fur and the older one can join in if they like - but doesn't have to.

If this is not an option for you at all, the only other solution I would suggest is: give the younger one away and adopt a cat at the older ones age (as he knows and enjoys company in general, he just can't keep up with the younger one anymore). This is HARD, I know. It sucks and you immediately say 'oh gosh no never'. Keep in mind that any other ideas (unless the reason for this issue is health-based!) will be mere temporary fixes.

My advice would be health check first, then third cat. If that's not possible, see above...

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  • There is a third reason why an older cat may dislike playing with a younger cat, but it usually shows up faster than this; as any kitten who has been regularly played with too roughly grows, they will continue to play at the same roughness level (to them) but get stronger. When they become adult they can become holy terrors to anyone they play with. The adult cat may have liked playing with the kitten, but not with an adult cat who uses full strength and claws while playing. I have seen this not only with cats but other animals; a dog I knew would run away from a cat he used to wrestle with. – Mark Ripley Jan 5 '17 at 9:05
  • @MarkRipley Good point! :) That goes back to 'wrong' socialisation thanks to only having access to inappropriate partners. – psycoatde Jan 5 '17 at 11:48
  • Thanks for the insights. I especially like the idea that the younger cat maybe didn't have the companions to socialize him to be gentler. The older cat did have a sister in the wild that disappeared before I domesticated him, so I know he had at least one cat to teach him. The younger one is a stray as well but might have been alone more before we got him; hard to say. – SingularityFuture Jan 5 '17 at 15:57
  • I would also consider play sessions with the younger cat, to tire him out a little. – Stig Tore Jul 6 '17 at 8:22

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