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Mother Cat Has Turned On Son - Need Advice

March 5th, 2010, 12:03 AM
This is an enormous post but I'm hoping someone with experience may be able to help:

I adopted Martha and Madison about five years ago. Martha was about a year old and had just been spayed and Madison was about six months. When we adopted them we were led to believe that Madison was a girl, but, surprise, we took her to the vet and she was a he who we renamed Bruce. We had him neutered the next month. For about three years they got along totally fine and then last year Martha started attacking Bruce. Blood has never been drawn but there is a lot of low growling, hissing, posturing and eventually they jump at each other. We are usually able to break them up and separate them. I have kept them apart for week long stretches and then reintroduced them to each other about three times. They will be fine for about a month or two and then the fighting starts again. I have taken the cats to the vet twice on the matter and each time I get the "we don't know much about cat behavior, cats will fight" speech.

Last week we had a terrifying incident. The cats had not fought for at least two months. I was doing the dishes and my husband was watching T.V. when all of a sudden the cats ran into the living room hissing and screaming. Martha pounced on Bruce and she was absolutely relentless, biting his neck and digging her claws into his back. My husband threw cushions at them, I sprayed water but she would not get off him. After about a minute of this, (which felt like an eternity), Martha eventually relented but Bruce was foaming at the mouth. We swooped up Martha and put her in our den in order to separate the cats. We tried to approach Bruce but he kept hissing so we gave him his space. After about a minute, he got up and drank some water. After about five minutes he seemed his old self. We took him to the vet the next day and they said he was fine but both my husband and I are completely shaken by the event, I was honestly surprised that Martha was not able to draw blood.

Since this incident we have kept the cats completely separated. We have also taken Martha to the vet where they said she was fine. My vet seemed genuinely perplexed by the incident and could offer no behavioral advice.

I have scoured the internet and the library for any information that might help and all I found was this from

It describes a type of female cat aggression where she turns on her son as a sort of 'get out of the nest' aggression. The site goes on to say that this is common in lions, "where a pride of lions will chase off the adolescent males, forcing them to move on elsewhere, to establish their own prides". This leads me to believe that there may be no hope.

Another strange tidbit, Bruce still suckles. Although Martha is not producing milk he still will suck at her tit! The vet told us that we did not need to ween him and that she would just push him away when she felt like it but this never happened.

I love my cats more than anything else in the world, (don't tell my husband :) ) but I am at my wits end. Bruce is a very fragile sort of cat. He has never stood up for himself and I fear that he is going to get seriously hurt. Has ANYONE had experience with this sort of thing? Do I need to find a good home for one of them, heaven forbid, or is this a salvageable situation?

April 12th, 2010, 11:36 AM
I just noticed your post this morning and was surprised no one has replied.

I think your situation is salvageable. The link you provided gives some good suggestions for breaking up a fight (water pistol is a good one or throwing a toy or pillow to redirect attention). It's not a good idea to intervene and break up a fight. Too much of a risk of injury to yourself if cat turns on you. I don't like the idea mentioned in the link of "scruffing"---grabbing by the neck and gently holding cat down. For some cats this doesn't work and only infuriates the cat further and then you're the target rather the other cat.

The fact that Bruce still wants to nurse on Madison could be a factor in her attacks. I would discourage him and remove him from her if you see him doing it. On the other hand I have had some females that encouraged and enjoyed it! but it really depends on the individual cat.

The fact that Madison has not drawn blood or broken skin or really injured Bruce sounds to me that she's really just disciplining him...maybe she really is fed up with his nursing after 3 yrs.

Try on getting your cats' attention focused on you. If they do not come to you when you call then, start by teaching them "to come" by offering treats. After they're coming consistently to you, you don't always have to offer a treat, but can reward with lots of "good boy" or "good girl" or chin scratches and caresses/tummy rubs whatever the cat really likes, or offer a catnip toy. Whenever it looks like Madison is going to attack, call her to come. If she attacks 'out of the blue' use a water pistol or some other distraction and say a loud "No! bad girl!" Walk toward her by stamping your feet. Most cats don't like that. Any positive behaviour you see between the cats, e.g. sitting close together, praise them with a "good boy"/"good girl". You want them to be clear on what behaviour you approve of and what you don't.

Hope these tips help out, :fingerscr and an update would be nice. :cat:

April 12th, 2010, 12:47 PM
Mmm, very strange. I have never seen this thread before. :shrug: Weird. Now I hope she is still checking in.

Here is another thread basically with the same problem. Not mom and son but two cats. Although this one has turned on it's owner as well. May give you some ideas.

Also strange it had 70 views and not one reply. What happened?

April 12th, 2010, 07:19 PM
I mainly haven't replied because I'm not really sure what to say :shrug:

It seems like they've done pretty much whatever I'd think of. The only time I've had this happen the 2 cats never did end up getting along. It was just a case of they absolutely hated each other, and neither one was the main instigator.

As far as scruffing, I do agree that it's probably not a good idea. When a cat that doesn't take kindly to this is scruffed by the neck they will stiffen up and can get out of your hand and maul you. Scruffing will calm SOME animals down but not all, it really depends on the personality and how they've been raised and handled. Also, I've seen many people that aren't experienced with cats get mauled trying to grab them by the back of the neck.

Heck, even if you're nearby to a catfight you can get mauled. I've had this happen when 2 cats were in a really heated fight before. They slash at anything and aggression can also be misplaced to anything nearby, so I wouldn't suggest getting close to them while they're in that state anyway.