How to Stop Humping in Neutered Cats

Causes and Solutions for Aggressive Mounting

Photo of Cat Mounting Female Cat
Getty Images/Jane Burton

You may notice that your neutered male cat is stalking, attacking, mounting, and humping your female cat. This can result in the female running away and hiding, leaving the male to enjoy time with you or access to food or whatever he really wanted. If this has been going on for some time, there are a few ways to find out what might be going on inside that kitty brain.

Why Do Neutered Cats Hump?

Just as in dogs, neutering does not automatically stop males from the desire to mount (grasping with forepaws, gripping the neck with teeth, and thrusting) and hump females. The behavior may be due to any number of factors, including health issues and your cats' social hierarchy.

While you may not be able to stop it entirely, you can use the H.I.S.S. test (health, instinct, stress, and symptom) to try and alleviate the issue. The process simply works through all the possible causes, eliminating them one at a time, so you can develop a plan to address it.

Health-Related Causes

Humping behavior is normal for whole (sexually intact) male cats. Even after neuter surgery, it takes time for the hormones to leave the body. It's not unusual for mounting to continue for a few weeks.

After that post-operation period, the top health cause of cat aggression is hyperthyroidism. This most often affects middle-aged or older cats.

It’s always best to have your veterinarian rule out hidden health issues in both cats. When they receive a clean bill of health, and if the stalking-and-humping behavior has been consistent throughout the time you’ve had the cats, it is likely a behavioral issue.

Behavior-Related Causes

Neutered kitties sometimes continue this behavior. They may target other cats and it doesn’t seem to matter if the partner is neutered or spayed. Some cats also find a “special friend” in a certain pillow or stuffed toy. Although the hormones are gone, these cats continue to masturbate and that’s well within the range of normal behaviors. Usually, the activity upsets owners more than it does the other pets.

However, cats also use mounting behavior as a way to reinforce social ranking. Cats reach social maturity between the ages of 2 and 4 years. Prior to that time, they may get along famously, and then suddenly the cats’ social ranking starts to matter. Your male's stalking, mounting, and chasing a smaller female away from important resources can reflect territorial issues and pushy behavior.

Stress

The way the female kitty reacts also impacts the male's attitude. Lower-ranking cats can behave as though they wear a “kick me” sign, and that invites the top cat to repeat the lesson over and over.

How to Stop the Humping

You may be frustrated with your male and want the two cats to get along. If a medical cause is found, treatment for that will be your first step. Behavioral causes are a little more difficult and will take time, patience, and understanding of how the cat world works.

While it may seem logical to not play favorites and treat two cats the same way, the human sense of right and wrong and fair play sometimes gets in the way of cat interactions. Cats are not people. They have no sense of democracy, equal treatment, or what’s fair. To the cat, the “top cat” deserves special treatment simply because he is the top cat. Even the female understands this, and she’s not arguing the case. In fact, she’s acting in the kitty-correct manner by deferring to the male, running away, and giving up the preferred resource.

When you refuse to acknowledge the male as the kitty-in-charge, or even give the female preferential treatment, it can backfire. Instead of the male “understanding” and deferring to your will, he redoubles his effort to put the female in her place. It doesn’t seem “fair” but it’s “truth” for cats; humans must, at times meet, cats on their own terms.

To calm things down in your home, this is one possible solution. When the cats are in the same room with you, they may compete for your attention. It’s a normal cat thing for them to time-share important resources, with the lower-ranking female cat deferring to the higher-ranking boy when he demands it. Your role is to respect the cats’ social standing. While you don’t want him beating up on her, in the short term, demonstrating to both cats that you accept and reinforce the male's social standing should relieve his need to hammer the point home. Take these steps:

  1. Give your male top priority: feed the boy first, give him attention first, let him sit on your lap first. It may be that once this becomes the “norm,” he won’t need to pester her constantly, will relax overall, and be more willing to share. 
  2. Find ways to reward his good behavior. This is much more effective than discipline such as squirting him with water to stop the bad behavior. If he's intent on continuing the humping activity, offer him a stuffed toy so he'll leave your female alone. If he tries to grasp her neck, you might try painting a bit of bitter apple on her fur so it tastes bad—make sure she can't reach so it won't bother her.
  3. Meanwhile, find time to spend one-on-one attention with your female cat separately. That way she doesn’t have to compete for your attention.