Humping Behavior in a Neutered Male Cat

Causes and Solutions for Aggressive Mounting

Photo of Cat Mounting Female Cat
Red Cat Mounting Gray Female Cat. Getty Images/Jane Burton

You may note 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 other resources. If this has been going on for some time, use the H.I.S.S. Test to analyze just what might be going on inside that kitty brain.

Health-Related Causes

The top health cause of cat aggression is hyperthyroidism—but this most typically 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 likely is a behavioral issue.

Behavior-Related Causes

Humping behavior (mounting) is normal for the whole (sexually intact) male cats. Even after neuter surgery, hormones take the time to leave the body and mounting (grasping with forepaws, gripping the neck with teeth, and thrusting) can prompt the behavior to continue for a few weeks.

Neutered kitties sometimes continue this behavior. They may target other cats—it doesn’t seem to matter if the partner is neutered or spayed—and sometimes cats simply become “special friends” with 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 standing starts to matter. Your boy’s stalking and mounting, and then chasing the smaller girl cat away from important resources can reflect territorial issues and pushy behavior.

Stress

The way the girl kitty reacts also impacts the boy’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.

Symptoms, Signs, and Solutions

You may be frustrated with the boy kitty and want the two cats to get along. While it may seem logical to treat the cats the same way—and not play favorites—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 girl kitty understands this, and she’s not arguing the case. In fact, she’s acting in the kitty-correct manner and deferring to the boy and running away, giving up the preferred resource.

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

What You Can Do

Here is a suggested 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 girl cat deferring to the higher-ranking boy when he demands this. Respect the cat’s social standing. No, you don’t want him beating up on the girl kitty, but in the short term, demonstrating to both cats that you accept and reinforce the boy’s social standing should relieve his need to hammer the point home.

In other words, 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 constantly and will relax and be more willing to share. 

Find ways to reward his good behavior, rather than discipline such as squirting him with water to stop his bad behaviors. If he's intent on continuing the humping activity, offer him a stuffed toy so he'll leave the girl kitty alone. If he tries to grasp her neck, you might try painting a bit of bitter apple on her fur so it tastes bad (but she can't reach so it won't bother her).

Meanwhile, find times to spend one-on-one attention with the girl kitty separately. That way she doesn’t have to compete for your attention.