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I have 2 cat's, one is young (8 months) and the other is 1.5 years old. During play, the older cat always takes the role of the chaser and the younger cat always runs away. I had read somewhere that during play, cats should switch off who is chasing and who is being chased. The younger cat provokes the older cat into chasing her by batting at him when he is close and generally being a provoking younger sibling.

The issue that arises is that after the chase has concluded, the older cat puts the younger cat in the equivalent of a chokehold, which often results in the younger cat resorting to hissing at the older cat, indicating that the older cat has taken it a step too far.

My question is, is this type of behavior normal? Does the older cat normally take the role of the aggressor constantly and always chase the younger cat, or is this some type of dominance play?

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    You may be assuming "play" here... The older cat might just be irritated at the younger one as it may feel no obligation to teach hunting technique to it. – John Cavan Oct 10 '13 at 2:07
  • It starts out as play usually, but the younger one ends up hissing at the older cat, hence the concern about the behavior. The older cat always chases the younger and it gets out of control quickly. – Dennis Graves Oct 10 '13 at 2:26
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    Your last sentence is why I suggest that it may only appear to be play. – John Cavan Oct 10 '13 at 2:47
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Unless there is real physical harm resulting from the play, it sounds like it is part of the normal cat play. Cats are natural hunters and like to practice stalking moving objects. They also enjoy playing with each other.

This article by the ASPCA discusses aggression between domestic cats.

Play Aggression

It’s common for kittens and young cats to engage in rough, active play because all feline play consists of mock aggression. Cats stalk, chase, sneak, pounce, swat, kick, scratch, ambush, attack and bite each other—all in good fun. If they’re playing, it’s reciprocal. They change roles frequently. Their ears are typically forward in play, their claws may be out but they don’t cause damage, and their bodies lean forward not back.

This article on feline aggression by the RSPCA Victoria, gives a good way to assess your cat's aggressive behaviour.

Play aggression: young cats commonly show play aggression towards people or other pets. Behaviours commonly seen with this type of aggression are stalking, pouncing, nipping or biting of people or their clothing.

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    My concern is that there is hissing involved during the "play", which I have always assumed was the cat's way of telling the other cat to "Get Lost" (except in not as nice terms). If there was no hissing, it would just be normal play between cats. – Dennis Graves Oct 10 '13 at 14:19
  • The measure is what happens after the hiss. If the older cat does back off some, or let the younger one go, then things are fine. If he totally ignores it, then you might have to reinforce the hiss with action of your own. – Oldcat Jan 10 '14 at 23:17
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I'm not fond of kittens and tend to get rescue kitties who are adults, so my advice is going to be based on my experience of mature, adult cats. I'm not sure if their young age would affect anything here, but I just wanted to point that out ahead of time.

Your cats may have different play drives. The older cat wants to end the play session (thus, the chokehold) while the younger cat doesn't accept the signs that the older cat wants to quit until the older cat uses the chokehold.

Some of this is likely normal until the younger cat learns the proper language signs for "I'm done" from the older cat. Or the older cat (who is still really young IMO) hasn't learned yet how to communicate that he's done except with the chokehold.

What you can do is have your own play sessions with each cat to ensure that the youngest cat is getting enough play without having to harass the older cat for more play. Interactive toys (like wand/string toys) are generally best for this.

To give you an idea of how much play is necessary, my two boys take about an hour to get tired and done playing. The boys are 9 and 4 (the girls don't like play time nearly as much for some reason).

The youngest boy spent a lot of time harassing the other cats (especially the oldest girl), but since I've made sure to give him enough play time and wear him out, they've actually become quite friendly and she tolerates him (she wouldn't let him get within several feet of her before). It does definitely help!

We also belled our harasser so that everyone else could avoid him if they wanted.

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