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I just moved in to a new place with my girlfriend, and we moved our cats in together. They both like to occasionally play, whether with us or with toys.

The bigger, older cat really likes to play with other cats, but when he pounces on or chases the younger, smaller cat, she hisses, yowls, and gets very aggressive body language.

They've never seriously hurt each other, and are completely comfortable around each other when the order cat is not excited.

Is there anything besides time that may make the younger cat realize that the older cat is just trying to play?

  • How did you introduce your cats to each other? Were they essentially "dropped" into a common area of the dwelling together or was there a gradual introduction over time? The issue may be compounded by not having a safe introduction period for the two of them. – Jenothy Jun 10 '14 at 2:09
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Give the female safe places to watch the other cat (usually from above) and keep the other cat interested in other toys than her by scheduled play times to tire him out. Once he stops initiating contact she may relax with him and accept some playtime.

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To be honest, I think you're asking the wrong question. The solution isn't to get the younger cat to accept the older cat's play drive. The older cat needs more play than the younger cat is willing to participate in, and that won't change through time or anything that you can do.

What you can do is play with the older cat yourself so that he is less likely to have the energy to harass the younger cat. I recommend interactive toys like Da Bird and DAILY play time until the older cat is tired out (usually 15-45 minutes, depending on your cat's energy levels). This is a good bonding time between you and your cat as well as fulfilling your cat's hunting instincts (so he doesn't hunt the younger cat).

If you have this playtime, then immediately go into dinnertime, then you will activate his hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle, which will also help ensure that he doesn't harass the younger cat (he'll be too busy eating/grooming/sleeping to want to play again).

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Sadly, you can't communicate to the female "hey its only play... he actually likes you".

'Oldcat's suggestion is one of the better ones (enable the one who is not comfortable to be around the other one but be able to "withdraw").

I have the same dynamics with my 'grrrls'. The main other thing I do is to break up play gone wrong and do some finger wagging at the one who is too rambunctious (it is always the same cat, playing too rough with the cat who takes her too seriously). The other thing is I try to be around to be with both of them and hope that the one who takes it too seriously will start to realize "Hey, if she were trying to kill me I'd already be dead... it must just be play".

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