Having a multiple cat household is usually an opportunity to bring in more love in the home for both you and your pets.
But sometimes many cat owners notice less love and more neck grabbing of one cat by the other.
A cat grabbing another cat by the neck is usually because they are playing, lack socialization or they want to assert themselves in resource sharing. Another reason is to polish up on their predatory skills. Unfortunately, the grabbing can be a sign of a medical issue as well.
Let us explore in-depth why a cat engages in this behavior.
1. It Is a Playful Behavior
Kittens engage in neck grabbing, although it may seem rough play to human parents. It is a behavior you can expect to see in your kittens until they are two years old.
Grabbing the neck is absolutely acceptable behavior in a litter, as the kittens do not mean to harm each other.
2. It Polishes Their Predatory Skills
You will notice that kittens tend to go for the lower part of the neck. That is typical of hunting.
As your kitten grows up, it learns to hone its hunting skills even if it is not going out to hunt. This is instinctive behavior.
Cats kill their prey with a strong bite to the neck that is intended to break the victim’s spinal cord. While honing their hunting skills, you will notice the cat lets go of the “victim’s” neck and then almost immediately grabs it again.
The second grab is meant to give the attacker a better grip on their victim’s nape.
3. It Hasn’t Been Socialized Adequately
A cat that hasn’t been properly socialized will engage in this behavior. Their neck grab is more aggressive, and it is highly likely to be painful and hurt the other cat.
A feline that hasn’t received adequate socialization will not be happy to share with other cats.
Socialization of your cat means that you train it to develop a measure of comfort around humans and other animals.
When your cat isn’t comfortable and doesn’t accept feline company, it will react aggressively.
That typically translates to neck grabbing in a bid to eliminate the other cat. It is competing with other cats.
This behavior is more prevalent in cats that have to share resources like food, litter boxes, water, space, toys, and, of course, your attention. They learn very early in life to guard their resources, or else another cat will take over.
So, they will grab another cat that ventures near their resources by the neck to
- Deter them from taking what is not theirs
- Physically remove them from their territory
Unfortunately, this behavior can cause full-on catfights, which result in injuries.
To mitigate this type of neck grabbing, it is best to give each kitty its own stuff and a specific corner in the house. That way, the cats will learn to respect each other’s space and items.
Also, the stronger cat will not become overly dominant and harm the other cats in the house.
4. It Is In Pain
Medical conditions that result in feline aggression can cause your cat to resort to neck grabbing and biting the nearest cat. The other cat may be in the ailing feline’s way, and so the sick cat reacts to the irritation by grabbing at its tormentor’s neck.
Numerous cat illnesses can cause your feline to become uncharacteristically aggressive.
- Dental disease
- Issues with the central nervous system
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Cognitive decline
- Hormonal imbalances
Some of these diseases can be managed with medication which reduces aggression and, by extension, the grabbing behavior.
However, diseases like rabies can be extremely dangerous for you and the other cats and pets around the aggressive animal.
It can be transmitted to the other cat during the neck grabbing behavior, spreading it within the household.
5. It Is Mating Season
The mating season is a time of a delicate dance. The dance involves a lot of yowling, swatting, and yes…neck grabbing.
The aggressor, in this case, is usually the male cat. But don’t worry. There is an explanation.
During mating season, the female cat is usually very aggressive. That is because a male’s phallus has spines that scratch against the wall of the female’s inside area during copulation.
The barbs are present to help stimulate the female cat’s ovulation process since queens do not ovulate before sex with a male.
From the stimulation, the queen can then release the egg to be fertilized.
But the barbs raking against the vagina walls are painful, causing the female to attack the male.
The male, to protect itself, will grab the female by the neck to paralyze its movements. That way, the female cat is not able to hurt its partner during copulation.
Training Your Cat From Grabbing Other Cats by the Neck
The good news is that this behavior can be mitigated once you establish the reason behind it.
Here are some things to do to stop the behavior.
i) Socialize Your Cat Early
Early socialization is critical for the overall behavior of your cat. Socialization means exposing your kittens to other cats, pets, and people to instill proper interaction and etiquette.
Unfortunately, a cat that hasn’t been socialized is likely to show aggression when around other cats and pets.
Kittens are receptive to learning when they are as little as two weeks. Experts believe that between two and seven weeks is the ideal time for socializing your kittens.
But if you get your kitty when it’s a bit older, there is no cause to worry. Cats are fairly easy to teach social behavior up until they get to 14 weeks of age.
That doesn’t mean older cats can’t be trained. They will just take a bit longer.
The following tip will help with the socializing process
- Introduce interactive toys
- Use an enclosed space, preferably small like a closet or bathroom to foster socialization
- Trim the cat’s nails and keep up to date with vaccinations before beginning socialization sessions
- Give the process time and patience it warrants
- Use a quiet, calm voice with deliberately slow movements during the sessions
ii) Slowly Introduce a New Cat
The neck-grabbing behavior of your current feline may be a play at dominance. Your cat may not like to share its space with another cat.
So, if you are bringing a new cat tenant into your space, you have to accord the old cat tenant some time to get used to the newcomer.
That introduction will lay the groundwork for their future relationship. It may foster aggression or companionship.
Take it seriously.
To introduce the new cat, provide both cats with their own litter boxes, food and water bowls, sleeping space, places to perch, and toys.
Remember the existing cat may feel its territory is being taken over. It will grab the newcomer’s neck at every opportunity to assert dominance.
And the new cat is scared because everything is unfamiliar, from the scent to the sounds. If the newcomer feels unsafe, it may resort to neck grabbing the existing cat to regain control.
Your job is to make both cats feel secure in their environment by eliminating needless competition for resources.
If the cats cannot get along, you may have to consider only keeping one.
iii) Identify Triggers That Upset Your Cat
The neck grabbing is typically a reaction to something that the cat likes or doesn’t like. At playtime, it is a reaction to the affection towards siblings.
In dominance, it is in reaction to the entrance of a competing force like another cat. In other cases, it manifests as redirected aggression and in others, it is simply a lack of predatory outlets.
Finding the trigger is key to finding the solution to this behavior.
If the cat is triggered by their overstimulation from their environment that causes redirected aggression, consider altering aspects of their environment.
For example, the trigger could be seeing an outdoor cat outside the window. Your cat may become agitated, thinking the strange cat is about to invade its territory. As a result, your kitty becomes aggressive and acts out by attacking the other friendly cat in the house.
If your cat is looking for a predatory outlet, consider enriching their environment with feline activities that help it hone those skills. That will provide a natural coping outlet for the cat.
For example, if you have multiple cats consider building multiple perches for the cats or have interactive toys and treat puzzles to keep the felines engaged.
The cats will be too busy playing or otherwise engaged to indulge in predatory attacks on each other.
This point is critical:
Ensure that you separate the cats if you are leaving the house, even for a short period of time.
After all, the trigger may be the mere presence of the other cat.
To keep each kitty safe, you must separate them.
It is essential to keep an eye on your cat(s) for any signs of aggression like stalking or bullying.
These are behaviors that quickly escalate to neck grabbing of other felines and other negative actions.
Remember, do not punish the aggressive cat with actions like scolding, shouting, or hitting. The aggressive cat will begin to associate punishment with its interactions with the other feline. As a result, it will show even more aggression towards the “offending” feline.
Punish by withholding treats when the cat acts out or removing it and separating it from the other cat.
When the cats get along, offer treats and praise to let the cats know that you like it when they play nice with each other.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about neck grabbing and biting when the cats are mating. This is a behavior that happens with all species of cats.
Suggested Ways to Correct Cat Grabbing Other Cats by the Neck Behavior: The Good and the Bad
i) Use Remote Correction
A cat doesn’t understand verbal correction. Also, physical correction doesn’t change the
cat’s behavior because your feline doesn’t understand the reasoning behind the bodily hitting.
So, use a remote technique. That means using a cat training collar that you can control remotely to deter the cat when it engages in neck grabbing behavior.
The best part about using remote correction is that your cat won’t associate you with the correction.
And the technique can be used on other bad behaviors like scratching furniture, sneaking out of the house, or excessive meowing. That way, the cat will not only associate the remotely induced deterrent with grabbing the other cat’s neck.
It will just associate it with all prohibited behavior.
Now, you may be concerned about the safety of these remote correction products. That is because a lot of animal experts believe there are better ways to get your feline under control.
And also, the fact that misuse can result in severe injuries to the cat. Multiple vets have reported injuries to pets, canines and felines, when the remote control for the collar falls into the hands of a child, or the pet owner hasn’t figured out how to use it yet.
So, if you choose to use this method, consult with your vet first.
A typical shock collar should have several settings and modes, including a beep, vibration, or shock mode.
Using the vibration mode is the safest, and it will deter the cat without causing any pain. The most you can expect is that the cat will be startled into stopping what it is doing.
ii) An Elizabethan Collar
The primary use of the Elizabethan collar is to prevent your cat from scratching or licking injuries on its body, especially after surgery. Using it on your cat continuously to stop your cat grabbing another cat’s neck is not advisable. And you must talk to a vet before using it.
But sometimes, some owners may use “the cone of shame” to prevent their cat from indulging in bad behaviors like over-grooming or clawing and scratching their faces. By extension, it can also be used to deter grabbing the other cat by the neck.
The plastic cone limits the cat’s vision impacting its ability to stalk the other cat.
Now, this is usually a homemade solution (one I saw during my cat Sophia’s playdate with one of my close friends).
I asked my vet about it a few weeks later, and she admitted it is unconventional and is likely very stressful for the cat in question.
I did some research on my own and found that the quality of life of the cat wearing the cone is severely impacted.
Most vets only use the Elizabethan cone for as short a period as they can.
I can see why my friend would use it on her cat because it is relatively painless. Also, she used it for a few days and only when the cat grabbed her other cat’s neck.
I am on the fence about it because of the distress to the cat.
iii) Use Crates
This method is similar to a time-out. The misbehaving cat gets a time out into the crate when it engages in neck grabbing behavior.
Do not use the crate for anything else except as a time-out space when the cat indulges any bad behavior.
It is best to provide water and food inside the crate during the punishment. Also, keep the stay in the crate as short as possible.
The crate helps to separate the cats and communicates to the offending cat that their behavior is unacceptable. It is safe and allows the agitated cat to calm down.
Cat Species Most Prone to Grab Other Cats by the Neck
I have highlighted these four breeds because they show a higher tendency toward the behavior either because of a high prey drive, playfulness, or competition for attention and territory.
However, cats of all breeds engage in neck grabbing from time to time.
Bengal cats are descendants of the Asian leopard wildcat. You may have observed that in the wild, cats tend to carry their little ones by the neck, show aggression by grabbing and biting each other’s necks and kill their prey by neck biting.
This behavior remains instinctive in Bengal cats. They show a high prevalence of this behavior, especially if they are not socialized to be around other cats.
The breed is also very playful, so you may notice a lot of neck-grabbing with kittens from the same litter.
Also, they have a high prey drive, so they may indulge their predatory instinct by neck grabbing other cats.
This is another breed directly descended from the wild cat. The savannah is a cross between a domesticated cat and a medium-sized serval, large-eared African wild cat.
Instinctively, it retained some of the dominant habits of its wild descendant like a high prey drive. Its high prey drive means that the cat needs a predatory outlet, or else it will turn the other cats in the house into prey.
Find interactive toys that allow the cat to act out its hunting skills without having to grab the necks of other cats in the home.
Considering the fact that this breed is sizeable, its weight gives it an unfair advantage over the other cat receiving the neck-grabbing behavior.
Unfortunately, this behavior manifests more if the cat is not socialized and also when the cat is bored.
c) Egyptian Mau
Neck grabbing of another cat by the Egyptian Mau cat may primarily be because it is reserved, territorial, and extremely loyal to human parents.
It may see the other cat as competition for your affections and deem it a threat.
The neck grabbing is a deterrent to the other cat to leave you “the Mau’s territory” alone.
Introducing the other cat will usually help with this situation because this cat breed can also be very sociable and playful with other pets.
It just doesn’t like to share you.
Sphinx cats are extremely territorial. That means that they are likely to see a new cat in their environment as competition for their resources.
Plus, they like to have your undivided attention.
Although this breed is rarely aggressive according to most Sphinx owners, another cat taking your attention away may face its wrath.
And one of the ways it marks its territory is to dominate with among other things, the neck grab.
Sharing time with both cats will calm your sphinx and show the cat that there is nothing to get agitated about.
You Shouldn’t Hold Your Cat by the Neck
The cat on the receiving end of the neck grab doesn’t enjoy the sensation of teeth sinking into its scruff. In the same way, felines do not like it when human parents grab them by the neck to carry or restrain them.
That is known as scruffing, and it is a terrible way to interact with your cat. Just because you saw the mother cat pick up her kittens by the neck doesn’t mean it is okay for you to do the same.
Here are four reasons not to
1) It Is Uncomfortable
To be fair, your hand grip is much stronger than the queen’s mouth grip. That means you are causing the cat a lot of discomfort.
You see, a mother cat knows just how much pressure to use when grabbing their kittens by the neck. Plus, the queen only does this for the first few weeks of the kitten’s life when it is still blind and may stray away from mom’s comfortable fold.
2) It Communicates Aggression
Cats associate neck grabbing with being attacked by an aggressor, mating, or fighting. None of these things are really a happy scenario for your cat.
These are very stressful situations for your cat, and it may react with aggression in return.
- It Makes the Cat Anxious
When a human grabs the cat’s neck, it removes the feline’s option for retreat because you are bigger and stronger. Also, the cat loses control because it is suspended in the air, which is not very fair.
That is why the cat freezes up and becomes anxious. It is not sure what is coming next, and it has no control over its own body.
A cat grabbing another cat by the neck can be a source of alarm, especially if the misbehaving cat has not shown any type of aggression in the past.
However, kitty parents must always remember that their cats have feelings about everything.
They have feelings for you, their territory, for littermates, and their bodies also go through the pain humans experience.
If you see this behavior, don’t put it down to kitty being mischievous. Identify the triggers, and you will find an efficient way to mitigate them.
Finally, before you use any methods to correct the cat’s behavior, consult with your veterinary to find the best solution. The advice of the vet could save you and your kitty a lot of pain and distress.
Writer: Mercy Nandika Amatieku