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Cher, Feline Specialist
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 20868
Experience:  Feline Healthcare & Behavior Specialist 40+ years Experience
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Why does my cat keep growling and hissing when playing with ...

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Why does my cat keep growling and hissing when playing with fluffy toys? We thought it was associated with catnip but it seems to be with any toy now. He has been aggressive to his sister but the noise does scare here and he tends to run off with the toys. He has recently been neutured but the problems have got worse.

How old is your cat? Is his sister the same age?
Is she spayed?

For how long has he been exhibiting this behavior?

In what ways is he aggressive with his sister, and has he always been like that with her? How does she react when he's aggressive and/or when he growls at the toys and runs off with them?

From where did you get your kitties? A shelter, a friend, etc.?

Thanks for any further detail.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Jessesmom's Post: They are from the same litter and are 5 months old. She hasn't been spayed yet but is due to be spayed in 2 weeks.

Previously this growling and hissing behaviour was only displayed when playing with toys that contained catnip but now it is any furry toy. We've removed all catnip toys from the house as the behaviour was much worse with these. This behaviour started about a month before Christmas. They are currently house cats as we live by a main road so toys are there main source of entertainment and pray. We are moving in a couple of months where they will go outside.

He growls at his sister which appears to be his way of warning her off. She tends to keep her distant and hide under a chair. On occassions we have had to seperate them as we haven't been sure if he would attack. He growls and hisses at us when we approach but will let us take the toys without attacking and the growling instantly stops. He is only aggressive in this way when he has furry toys. They play fight quite often like most kittens without too much fuss but occassionally he makes her yelp.

Last night after some hours of this growling display from our boy kitten his sister eventually decided to approach him and try and take the toy. He continued to growl but he didn't attack. He just ran off growling with the toy. He seems quite possessive over toys at the moment.

The kittens came from a local farm. We saw the mother but not the father.

Hope this helps and we really appreciate you replying to our question. If you need anymore information do not hesitate to contact me again.
Hi again, Clare, and thanks for your additional information.

From your description, it does sound like he's treating the furry toys as prey and 'play hunting', which he would do (and may have done at the farm before you got him) instinctively. Some cats also must have 'loveys', which are like favorite, security objects that they like to carry around and feel very protective of. As you may know, sometimes human babies/toddlers, also have loveys, like a security blanket (or piece thereof), special stuffed toy, pacifier, etc. which they always carry around and it fills a security need.

The fact that your boy recently was neutered and his sister is not yet spayed may have something to do with his aggressive behavior towards her, as some testosterone remains in the male cats system for a while, after neutering.

Since you associate this first strong, aggressive reaction with catnip, I'm glad you removed catnip toys from his collection. I don't see any problem with him trying to be protective of the furry toy(s), as long as he is not lashing out and injuring his sister or any humans in the household. Try to wean him off the furry toy and buy some 'material' (plain cotton) toys and/or cat safe plastic toys like open balls with bells (make sure the bells can't come out), etc.

Also, supply your kittens with scratching posts and pads (scratching pads are made of corrugated cardboard and sit on the floor-you can find them at stores like Petsmart, etc.), a kitty condo, 'crunchy' tunnel, etc., all toys and objects to keep him busy; as you can see, kittens are a bundle of energy. Diverting his attention away from the furry toys by substituting other toys and playthings should help the situation.

Also, try a cat appeasing pheromone called feliway. This comes in a spray and plug in diffuser. The diffuser resembles a plug in air freshener, but has no scent to humans. It can help calm stressed or anxious cats. They sell it in Petsmart and online:

Discuss this with your vet when you bring your girl in to be spayed.

Good luck with your two cuties!

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