Ask the Veterinarian/Growling cat


QUESTION: I have a cat that I adopted from a friend of mine, he came from a very noisy chaotic home to a quiet one and seemed to settle in fine other than he has this extremely annoying habit of getting underfoot and then growls at you if you bump him or step in front of him. Almost like he wants to instigate a fight. Whenever I go anywhere or do anything he follows, purposely getting underfoot, and gets right in the way of anything I try to do. Example: Open a window -  cat jumps into window -try to make the bed -cat jumps on bed- try to get to the bathroom - cat races me there and sits right in front of the toilet- you get my point. He also has this habit of sleeping right on top of me when im in bed, even if im laying on my side. All this strikes me as dominant behavior like he is trying to rule me. I already disciplined him over it but these annoying habits just seem to keep resurfacing. He's a great cat in every other way, I just wish he'd stop with this dominance thing or whatever it patience is wearing thin. Any advice?

ANSWER: Your kitty is just trying to bond with you plus most of this behavior is normal for cats, especially young cats.

I have one that is almost three who can be the biggest pain in the rear. She does all the above and even loves to jump on me from the window onto my belly instead of the bed.

Punishing cats is like herding cats. You cannot get anywhere doing it except to make him afraid of you and/or mean.

Patience is needed here. He came from a "very noisy chaotic home to a quiet one" so he is not used to the quiet, nor is he used to being important to anyone. Chaotic households don't lend themselves to one on one time for the pets, so he is adjusting (with glee I might add) to being able to have you to himself.

When you bump him, he is doing the only thing he could acceptably do in this other household- warn you that you are about to squish him or hurt him. ANY cat will do that if they feel frightened or are provoked.

What I've learned is that the more gentle and loving you are with a cat, the more they mimic that behavior.
I know that sounds odd but I know it to be true.

Learn to relax and enjoy him. Learn to love his quirks and thank him for laying on you. That's more a form of protection and acceptance from him than dominance.

Cats don't normally have "dominance" issues like dogs do as cats are not pack animals. There are aggressive cats but from what you described he doesn't sound like one.

If you feel he isn't a good fit for you find him another quiet home. But truly, an adjustment in thinking on your part will go a long, long way toward his behavior and his reflection of your treatment of him.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Tonight I came home and again he zooms in front of me right when i go to take a step so of course I bumped him so he growled and bit me. So should I just ignore it? Because I find if I don't scold or discipline he gets worse with it to the point I can't walk across my apartment because I know I will bump into him. It seems to me like he's instigating a fight for whatever reason. If I stand there and stay still he will go lay down and then as soon as I start to walk he's right back underfoot. I understand his need to adjust and bond but please understand I need to be able to walk around my apartment too lol

Sorry for the late reply Melissa but somehow this got buried in my e-mail.
I do understand that you need to walk around, so when you first get into the house start throwing some cat toys (that you conveniently put by the door the night before) around to distract him.

Get a whole bunch of catnip toys for him and ones with bells. Feathers are good as well. If in doubt about all of this talk to your vet about getting him on some Xanax for a few months while he settles down.

The biting issue is not good so and I would nip that in the bud right away. Call you vet and ask them about the drug for anxiety.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 35 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.

Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 550 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

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Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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