Question: "How can I stop bully behavior?"
Stormy is a spayed/front declawed four-year-old cat that lives with two cats, a dog, and five adult humans, with Raeann and Deb as primary care givers. Stormy tolerates nine-year-old neutered cat Moocow and Johnny the dog, but has had issues with seven-year-old spayed cat Prissy for about two years.
Raeann writes, "Prissy used to love being in the basement to run around, and we loved it too because she will NOT let anyone touch her hind feet and being in the basement would wear down her claws from the cement. Now Stormy chases Prissy around the house and they hiss at each other every time. This issue traumatizes Prissy and she will hide under the bed in my parents' room, and urinate on rugs and towels. We tried to help this issue by buying the small litter box and putting it in my parents' bathroom. Currently, we have Stormy locked in the basement with food, water, and a litterbox."
Cat aggression and bully behavior can be can be caused by health or environmental factors. Veterinarians and behavior specialists look at the cat's physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct to help figure out what's going on and find solutions. Think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.
You mentioned that the last veterinary exam for Stormy was 3 ½ years ago for spay and declaw surgery. That also makes me wonder how long it's been since Prissy's last exam. Physical health and how the cat feels often influence not only the cat's behavior, but interactions with other pets.
Cats use urine to comfort themselves when they feel stress. The self-scent can make them feel more secure when they're upset. So Prissy may be urinating on rugs and towels in your parent's room, because the location (and your parents' presence) makes her feel most secure. Read more about common litter box problems here.
The stress of Stormy chasing certainly can put Prissy's tail in a twist. You also mention that a family member's fiancé moved into the house about 18 months ago, another family member has been in and out, that the dog is a relative newcomer, and that a couple of family members routinely act upset. Whew! I'd be surprised if the animals had not acted out!
S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions
There really is a great deal going on in the household, with people coming and going, upset humans, and pets that have not been vetted in some time. Before anything else, I urge you to have both Prissy and Stormy examined by the veterinarian. It actually could be a situation where Prissy has underlying illness and Stormy reacts to that. When a cat feels bad, she might as well be wearing a "kick me" sign and acts frightened.
Keeping the cats separated can be a good way to manage aggressive cats. It's difficult to know exactly what the cause or type of aggression might be. It may certainly be a challenge to assert social position in the household.
Good for you that three litter boxes are provided-in the basement (with Stormy), in the living room, and near the bathroom/bedroom. I'm not clear if a fourth one is situated in your parent's bedroom or not. I'd also encourage you to increase other "cat territory" to reduce the stress. For instance, provide more cat trees or other areas (empty shelves, boxes, and such) for the cats to have hiding spots and alternative resting spots. Good luck!