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Is Your Cat a Bully?

Is Your Cat a Bully?

The truth about cats and dogs is that dogs are not always the bullies–many cats stealthily torment their canine roommates. It isn’t about physical size; it’s all about attitude. Bully cats want to control practically every situation. They may even attempt to push their people around, too, by demanding meals when they want them and nipping hands when they have decided they have received enough petting.

If your cat is a threat to your dog; there’s help. According to Arden Moore in The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007), bully cats do not accept punishment or corrections, but they do have a weak spot–they want attention. Use that to your advantage. Retraining a bossy feline is much like training a dominant dog. Start by exercising your cat more frequently to expend some of his excessive energy and turn his attention to you instead of your poor dog. Protect your hands by engaging him in games with a fishing pole toy or cat teaser (a coiled wire with a small bundle of lightweight wood on one end that moves erratically, imitating the movement of a butterfly).

With regard to protecting your dog, the first step is to stop the attack. Look for early warning signs and stop a fight before it starts. Right before an attack, a cat will typically dip his head, arch his back end, and shimmy a bit. If you see this, try to remain calm. Scolding and high-pitched shrieks may only serve to fuel any aggression. Instead, step in and try distracting with food treats, a favorite toy, or spend a moment rubbing under his chin. Cats can’t be happy and mad a the same time.

Separate the two when you cannot be around to supervise them. Avoid having them together during high-energy times, like at mealtimes and when you arrive home. Reintroduce them when they are both tired–for instance, after you have played with your cat and taken your dog for a brisk walk. When you do reintroduce them, keep your dog on a leash and let him learn your cat’s signals. Do this until you see that both pets are calm. Then unleash your pup. Finally, make sure your cat’s claws are trimmed to avoid any injuries.

Do you have dog versus cat in your home? Does your cat wear the pants in the family? Share stories of your bully cat in the comments…

Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Dogs, Pets, , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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2:24AM PST on Feb 20, 2015

My cat sits in the threshold to block the dog from leaving the room. Every time he tries she attacks him. Poor guy :(

4:07AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

My dog is more of a bully to cats, I think he's spoiled :). You can really see how jealous he is when somebody pets a cat instead of him... He starts pushing you with his nose, pretending that he's just stretching his neck :), just to get some attention. Or, when somebody comes home, he immediately attacks the cat so that he gets the attention first, while the cat is running to hide somewhere. I think the cats are already trained to run when they hear someone coming :).

7:51AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

I haven't , But I love them . Thanks .

1:34PM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

I have a Bully Cat name is Scilla full name Priscilla after Elvis's wife she wuz there 1st and is adamant about sharin' her territory she's 15 yrs old & hasn't had the house 2 herself 4 over 10 yrs she NEEDS 2 GET OVER IT!!! Every time another cat we have 3 others passes by her she goes into attack mode.

3:31PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012


2:03AM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

Interesting article.

2:57AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

no, they just stick their ass in the air, shake their tail and chase each other all round my house. its sometimes fun to watch until they start knocking stuff over.

12:44AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

I have a wonderful cat, very "talkative". But when around other cats(male) he is a complete ully. He's neutered, I really don't understand this behavior.

5:23PM PDT on Jul 8, 2012

Reminds me of one of my best friend's cats, Bella, the meanest cat in the world. She was worse than Michele Bachmann and Phyllis Schlafly combined!

11:13AM PDT on Jul 8, 2012

Years ago, my Aunt had a petite rescued siamese that tormented their labradors! She knew the dogs weren't allowed in the livingroom or bedrooms. The dogs could be in the large kitchen and family room only. She would stand on the livingroom carpet just outside their reach and paw at them knowing if they crossed the line THEY would be put outside. She was a little monster. Funny!

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