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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,
Recently my 7month old kitten Reese has started growling.
He growls at his first bite of raw food out of the bowl every meal (afraid I will steal it??), growls when we play string toys with him, growls at our 3 year old cat occasionally sometimes over food or toys. Our other cat very rarely starts anything with him--only play once in a while. She is not a fighter whatsoever and I don't understand why he growls at her for seemingly no reason. But they do play wrestle and run around together--I think at the moment they only tolerate each other.
Is this a dominance issue? Aggression? He was the runt in the litter so I understand that he is always worried about getting his fair share of the food. But now that he has started growling at other things I want to make sure it is not aggression.
Is this a major issue or a kitten learning dominance over household territory?
 

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Growling is just noise unless it is coupled to aggressive body language. Are the ears laid back? Fur ruffled? Tail low and tucked? Pupils dilated fully? If none of this than it is just noise. If the body language is aggressive however, then there is something to look into. My feral growled and hissed all the time the first year in the house. It never amounted to anything other than noise. She still hisses at everything but the noise is more reflex than anything else. If you think food is the issue and are bothered by the noise, make sure kitty understands you are the great provider. If she growls, remove the food as soon as she makes the noise. Put it back in 10 minutes and if she repeats, so should you. They are quick studies and will respond properly fairly quickly.
 

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Is he neutered? If not, it would explain his behavior...he's at the age for sexual maturity and that's when they can start to become aggressive and territorial.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
He is neutered. He got neutered about 2 months ago--I wanted him neutered early at 5 months to hopefully prevent any male aggression, dominance, and/or marking.
The only other body language he will do with the growl is flatten his ears. I will definitely start removing and replacing food--this morning I tried to feed him in a separate room from my other cat incase he was growling at her not me. But he still growled at me being in the other room with him. He never acts upon anything more aggressive than that. It is just a growl and flatten ears. Is that something to look into?
I have taken notice today that it is over things that he perceives as his. Such as food, his favorite toys, or if I try to take something from him that he isn't supposed to have such as table scraps that I accidentally drop, shiny pens he loves to steal and hide, etc (he always gives it up nicely after one growl).
 

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It doesn't sound like too big of a problem to me. Some growling about food, especially high value food, isn't abnormal at all. That being said, it could become and issue.

DON'T take the item away!!! He's growling because he's worried his special thing will get taken away - if you prove him right by taking his things away he'll get worse!

Instead you need to teach him that having you near his food means BETTER things will happen. So, approach him while he's eating, be very casual or nonchalant about it, and drop a little piece of something very tasty right next to him, then casually walk away. Use bits of cooked chicken, tiny bites of cheese, etc. The basic idea is for him to see you coming and think "Ooh! I wonder if she has something nice?" Rather than "NO!!!! She's going to take my THINGS!" which leads to bigger issues.

Do this maneuver 3-4 times during the course of his meal, it shouldn't take long for him to have a very different attitude. Once he's not growling you can try to offer a trade. Approach him, and let him sniff the yummy treat, then toss or set it 3-4 feet away and wait. If he chooses to leave the food and go to the treat that's perfect. In that case, once he eats the treat give him back his food and offer another treat as well. This will teach him that giving up his goodies means things get WAY better.

You may always need to feed him away from your other cat, but TBH it's best to feed them separately anyways in case you ever need to medicate one, or if one kitty starts showing signs of illness you'll be able to catch it right away.

*sidenote: when you have any animal that is resource guarding, especially in the stage the OPs cat is in, the absolute WORST thing you could do is take away the resource. That will encourage them to guard more strongly and you will end up creating a serious problem, rather than fixing it.

I've worked with many many dogs (dog trainer) where the owners took this tack...if they refused to change their methods it ended up in a bite about 50% of the time, sometimes to the kids in the house (usually teens or unfamiliar older children who pushed the boundaries too far). Luckily a warning bite was usually enough to convince them to change their ways, but not always. Resource guarding animals are especially dangerous to young kids, so this just isn't something to mess around with.
 

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Things I missed the first read-through, lol

I have taken notice today that it is over things that he perceives as his. Such as food, his favorite toys, or if I try to take something from him that he isn't supposed to have such as table scraps that I accidentally drop, shiny pens he loves to steal and hide, etc (he always gives it up nicely after one growl).
When he's taking things you don't want him to have the best way to manage it is to offer a trade. You see him with a pen grab a kitty treat, stuff it directly under his nose (so he can't possibly miss it), then toss it a few feet away. The combination of yummy food and movement should encourage him to go for the goodies and give up his treasure. Then you can remove the no-no item and praise him for being a good boy...and hide your pens better in the future ;)

Animals do not share naturally, in fact sharing is a very bad idea 'in the wild' in general since it gives a competitor and advantage. While our cats aren't exactly wild they were naturally selected for 'possessiveness' over millions of generations and it isn't switched off that easily. The best way to work around this instinct is to teach them that giving you things is MORE advantageous to them than keeping those things for themselves.

As a side note...you might get a cat who fetches out of it ;) Playing the trade game was a bit factor in my Muffin learning to fetch. Since he liked me taking things away from him so much he started finding stuff to bring me. Tada! A cat who fetches! No promises on that though ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ok, I'll try that with the food. That all makes a lot of sense! Thanks
As of now they get some wet food and some raw bites mixed together. So i'll withhold a piece or two of his raw bites and drop them nearby while he eats or an extra piece or two. ;)
He is a "teenager" right now lol...tall, lanky, and pushing the boundaries.

Things I missed the first read-through, lol

As a side note...you might get a cat who fetches out of it ;) Playing the trade game was a bit factor in my Muffin learning to fetch. Since he liked me taking things away from him so much he started finding stuff to bring me. Tada! A cat who fetches! No promises on that though ;)
The funny thing is that he already does fetch! He mostly does it for my fiancé but he will fetch his two favorite toys until he is exhausted :) It is pretty darn cute. I guess I could use this to my advantage and throw one of those toys when I want him to drop something else. He's a unique little guy that learned to sit, high five, sit pretty, and fetch by the time he was 6 months old.
 

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all our kittens have growled at the dinner plate... but they all out grew it. They growl at me handing them a piece of chicken i just think it was playful banter at the table.
 

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Oh he is gorgeous!!!

There have been some other posts on here about growling and they seem normal. One of our boys (we have 2 brothers from same litter) growls with raw food only. He did it once to me while I was moving the chicken to his mat so he didn't smear it everywhere. Every other time he just growls while he is eating to warn his brother away. He has hissed at him before and they've had a bit of a toussle at the bowl. Brother learned his lesson. He also growls with a random bit of nylon stuff he found. It's like his prize and his brother isn't allowed to play with it.

It seems like just a "this is mine, back off" thing that seems to get the message across but is pretty harmless :)
 

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I'm sorry but I absolutely disagree with the advice of bribing the animal with good things will happen. You are the alpha in the house, not your cat, not your dog, not your kids. You decide on the appropriate behaviors, not the dog, not the cat, not the kids. Behave badly, no more item. Behave better, good things happen. If I had to resort to a form of negotiation with an animal then I would be better off without that animal. Bad behavior is just that, you either define the standards or have them defined for you.
 

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fanwoodguy The cat doesn't give two figs about 'dominance'. Cats aren't a species that naturally lives in a group, so it has a very different social structure than the one you're basing your opinion on.

In any case, dominance is an outdated and disproven theory in dogs anyways.

Articles, written by people who have degrees in this sort of thing (as opposed to some random guy on TV with no credentials):

American Society for the Protection of Animals
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/your-dog-dominant

Association of Professional Dog Trainers
https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/dominance/

Dr. Sophia Yin (a vet AND behaviorist)
The Dominance Controversy | Philosophy | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

Pat Miller (Certified Dog Trainer)
De-Bunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory - Whole Dog Journal Article

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
http://behavior.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/local-assets/pdfs/AVSAB_Dominance_Statement.pdf

Patricia McConnell (Behaviorist)
Dominance is a dog training philosophy | Patricia McConnell | McConnell Publishing Inc.

There are many many more examples, but suffice it to say that you don't need to bite your cat's ear and growl at it. That won't get you more than a confused cat and a possible bite/scratch.

By rewarding the cat when you are nearby you will teach him that you're trustworthy and won't steal his things. That will only do good things for your relationship and you can continue working towards him being a very well behaved (and quite handsome ;) ) adult cat.
 
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