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I have a 4 month old male kitten born with us, he’s already been neutered but as a kitten he’s still pretty rambunctious. He doesn’t have siblings, my other resident cats are his mom and my other cat that’s a 3 y/o female.

This other cat is a very calm cat, she never really went through a hyper phase with me. She just doesn’t have the personality of a playful cat, and doesn’t like a lot of rough contact. In fact, she is closest to me because I’m just generally gentle with all the pets.

I’ve fostered for 14 years and stopped last year since we’re moving. Many of the kittens don’t stay long enough to rile her up, and the mom prefers to play with toys than other cats. They get along peacefully, and when they play it’s normal play behavior.

This kitten is very playful and very rough, so at first I thought he’d eventually learn to find her cues and let her be cause she hisses at him and is generally establishing boundaries like normal in multi cat households. So I tend to observe them when they’re together and it seems like it starts out with him wanting to initiate play, her hissing, and then him darting off. As he grew, he has gotten closer and closer and even pouncing on her. She hisses and spits, but he runs off immediately after so I rarely need to do distractions. I really thought it was him unsolicitedly going after her and getting a lesson of boundaries that doesn’t seem to be working, when that isn’t the case! I realized that she often baits him. Like her eyes dilate, then she snappily turns around and flicks her tail. When he comes to her, she does a 180 and hisses at him then he runs off. This is 100% what goes on every time, they don’t play like she does with his mom.

He also usually plays with his mom, with the other cat sitting at the tree or beside me for affection. When the kitten comes near her and they’re not in play mode, she grooms him. When they sleep, they’re sometimes beside each other comfortably. She also grooms him all the time, even more so than his mom.

I don’t know if this is play or aggression. My years of caring for cats and even having 12 at one time, this behavior literally stumped me that googling results seem to give me the same old responses to things I already know and manage. I don’t know if this is a specific situation to me because I don’t know what keywords to plug in to google about other’s experiences and if I should start throwing a toy off to distract him so it doesn’t end up into an actual cat fight.

We recently moved but this behavior is something I’ve been observing since before I moved. I don’t think it’s a new place thing, since it’s been happening before.

Other than the playing, she hasn’t shown any atypical behavior. She doesn’t pee outside the litter, she doesn’t spray, she doesn’t need more affection from me. In fact, when he came her appetite went up, which was a BIG problem we had with her vets and we’ve switched to many different appetizer enhancing vitamins that didn’t work. She had been consistently underweight until he came. She’s also a lot more relaxed and social with visitors, which she wasn’t and used to hide under the bed/couch/tree for a few minutes before introducing herself if she sees the mom of the kitten interact with the visitors. Now she just walks out and greets people, sometimes she’s the first one to say hi, and the only change was the kitten.

There are positives but I also don’t want to encourage this behavior especially since I’m still planning on fostering cats. I just want to know other cat people’s take on this situation and adjust myself accordingly.

Thanks for reading all of this!
 

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It sounds like they're both testing boundaries. I wouldn't worry, there's no contact, no chasing or attacking. I've dealt with cats that hated each other. The fact that she grooms him is a good sign, too.
 

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I see it that he's starting to get into his rambunctious, bratty "terrible teen" stage (usually from 5 to 13 mos.) or so, where he's testing the boundaries, so yes it's both play and aggression! The female is trying to discipline him by hissing at him as she senses he's a bolder kitten and his behavior is likely to escalate and he may be really bratty by 9 mos. or so. As you've likely observed over your many years of fostering, he'll likely settle down from his terrible teens by the time he's a 2 year old. As long as this young female is relatively happy with his behavior, I don't see the need to "redirect" him, but if the time comes where he is very dominant to the point he is attacking her regularly and she either can't stand up to him or is intimidated by him to the point she is hiding, avoiding being near you, or not eating as well, then yes, you'll have to redirect him or even more.
 
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