Cats sometimes seem to mirror human behavior — for better and for worse. Both male and female cats can act as bullies, picking on other cats. At its root, aggression is a survival tool, used for things like hunting, mating, and protecting territory. Female cats can also display maternal aggression, which helps them safeguard their kittens.

If you’re noticing bully-like behavior, your female could be acting out simply because she can. Perhaps the male is timid and she has a reward to gain, such as food or coveted space, by pushing him back. The more likely reason is that she feels threatened by the male and is ultra-defensive with him.

Pam Johnson-Bennett’s book Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat — Not a Sour Puss has some great tips on how to curb inter-cat aggression. They include the following:

  • Try to determine the underlying reason(s) for the aggression. Carefully observe the feeding and sleeping areas. Does each cat have enough space? How about the litter box area? Do you have a separate box for each cat?
  • Separate and then reintroduce the cats slowly, as though you had just brought home a new pet. This can help to reprogram the cat’s mind that the other cat is a familiar friend and not a foe.
  • Put a collar with a bell on the cat’s neck. This will at least let your male cat know she’s coming.
  • Try clicker training. Use a clicker, combined with a small food treat, to reward positive, nonaggressive behavior.
  • Make sure your cats are in good health. Sometimes an illness can make a cat cranky. The female should also be spayed and the male neutered.