10 Signs You Have a Bipolar Cat

Last Updated on April 15, 2020

If you have a cat that is fine one minute and angry or depressed the next, you may have a bipolar cat. This is not as common as people believe. Bipolar in humans is classified as an imbalance of chemicals in the brain causing short-tempered emotions. A typical cat is normally spontaneous when it comes to emotion and play so is often confused with real signs of bipolar. To know the difference between normal cat behavior and a true bipolar complex, you must closely observe your cat’s behavior. Here are 10 of the most common signs of a bipolar cat.

Aggression With Toys

When you play with your cat, they become angry and hiss or snarl at the toy. Their joy is masked with uneasiness and aggression. They appear to be unhappy with you playing with them yet still continue to play. Heavy panting may be present as well.

Aggression With Food

They are easily agitated when you do not feed them when they want. This can be followed by destructive behavior to get your attention. This can also become an issue if more cats are in the house as they may turn this anger into redirected aggression and begin attacking other cats in the home because they are not being fed when they want or did not get a particular food or treat they wanted.

Aggression With Petting

No particular spot triggers this, but rather, random bouts of anger when you are petting them. They will be happy with you one moment and become very mad at you the next. This is also common with feral cats due to improper socialization with humans.

Excessive Jealousy

Mild bouts of jealousy are normal with most cats, but it becomes an issue when they physically and verbally show this. If you notice your cat becoming angry or uneasy at you over giving another cat, pet, or person attention, it may turn into unwarranted attacked on you or the other cat, pet, or person.

Abnormal Sleeping Pattern

Most cats sleep at the same times throughout the day. A Bipolar cat will sleep only some nights or some mornings. They always change when and where they sleep. They tend to not be fans of other pets taking their sleep spots either and may attack them over it.

Over Stimulation After Eating

It is normal for a cat to play after a meal, but with a Bipolar cat, they typically go INSANE after eating. Running around, destroying furniture, hissing at toys or objects, etc. Don’t confuse this with general spikes of energy commonly seen in kittens, young cats, and cats who are generally bored.

Bouts of Sadness/Depression

Your cat will be sad or “down in the dumps” randomly throughout the week. This doesn’t last long and seems to happen after they were very angry, or very excited. They just appear to be emotionless and want to just lay around. Some will turn down food and treats as well. If your cat does turn down food for more than 2 days and is also very lethargic, be sure to take them into a vet ASAP. 

DID YOU KNOW?

White or mostly white male cats are twice as likely to suffer from a bipolar disorder because white fur is a female dominant gene. This is also why only one in every 3,000 calico cats are males. Do you have a white/mostly white male cat? He is incredibly rare!

Loving to Angry to Loving

One minute your cat is very loving, the next they look like they want to kill you. A few minutes pass, and they are loving and content again. This happens without any action on your part. Sometimes they will rub up against you and then start swatting at you or attacking you without you even touching them.

Poor Litter Box Behavior

Your cat may go in and out the box just recovering old waste. They will kick the litter out the box aggressively and sometimes even hiss or growl while using the box. You may even notice feces or urine outside of the box and because this is common with other medical conditions if your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, it is a good idea to take them in to get checked.

Varying Emotions With Other Pets

You will see your cat joyfully playing with another cat or even your dog, then the next minute, they want to fight them. The other pet did nothing aggressive nor did they show signs of dominance. You want to keep a close eye on this to prevent severe injuries. If your cat likes to pick fights, it is a good idea to have a small time out crate you put them in for 10 minutes to give them time to calm down.

Keep in mind, it is common for cats to change their minds or change their emotions often. You have to really pay attention to the degree they actually change. Passive changes, even ones with anger, are often observed as normal cat behavior. There is almost always an underlining cause as to why your cat’s switch flipped. With a Bipolar cat, the reason or cause is not easily identifiable or in extreme cases, non-existent.

TIP! Using Comfort Zone’s Feliway pheromone spray and diffuser isn’t just for spraying, it helps calm down cats naturally. I have used it myself with great results. Spray their favorite places to sleep or use a diffuser in your home.

Do you have a bipolar cat or suspect they may be bipolar? Tell us in the comments below about their behavior and any concerns you have.


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38 thoughts on “10 Signs You Have a Bipolar Cat”

  1. My cat, Webber, is around 6-7 months old. He is neutered, which i thought would calm him down a bit. It hasn’t helped at all. Ever since i got him at around 6 weeks i haven’t worked. We bonded very well doing everything together. I even took him with me when i ran errands and visiting with friends. He is so aggressive and bites me. I have wounds on my feet, legs, hands, and arms constantly. Some have even asked me what happened. It’s quite embarrassing to say, “my cat bites.” I’ve tried tapping him on the nose with my finger and saying “NO!” I’ve tried a squirt bottle with water when he bites. Neither one has helped. Im literal scared of him sometimes. What can i do? I love him so much but he does return the love.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Lenita. Using a finger or a squirt bottle will not work with cats like this, it is likely to only make things worse. Cats that have bipolar disorder have a very sensitive stress response. I recommend giving Feliway Spray (https://amzn.to/3jTRwaF) a try. If that is not an option or you have tried it and it has not worked, focused on enriching his life with toys to play with and a cat tree to climb. If cats are bored, especially bipolar cats, they tend to be more frustrated and likely to act out in a bad way.

      Reply
  2. I have a male (neutered) black & white tuxedo cat named Bandit. He’s 10 years old and every year that goes by, it seems his demeanor intensifies. He was fine as a kitten with his worst offenses being that he liked to steal things (that’s what I get for the name Bandit, I guess) like water bottle caps, q-tips, hairspray caps, keys, etc. The past several years, he has definitely shown an Alpha Male quality. We have two other neutered males and he doesn’t hesitate to exert his dominance over them. He will (unprovoked) swat at them when they walk by, shove them out of the way from their food dishes (even though he has the exact same food), push them off the table, etc. When it comes to human interaction, he appears to be very loving & wanting attention & affection, but then will turn on a dime and bite the hand that’s petting him. Occasionally, he will lash out with no prior interaction, as you walk by him. He tolerates being held for about 30 seconds, then he will growl, hiss & scratch to get away. He will nudge my husband’s hand for him to pet him, but then swat at him and draw blood. He has been pooping all around the house, rather than in the cat box like he always used to. That will go on for a day or two & then stop for a week, then start back up. It’s almost a guarantee that if you do something he doesn’t like (squirt him with a water bottle to get off the counter) he will exact revenge via pooping randomly outside of the litter box. He also has been having episodes of heavy panting. We have joked for years that he’s bipolar…now, I’m thinking it’s no joke. The vet finds nothing drastically wrong with his health. Any words of advice?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Kathryn. Bipolar cats have a very sensitive response to stress in that any change can provoke them to be quite upset. They also have a habit of redirecting their aggression where they see fit and this is often directed at other animals in the house. So if you do something that upsets him, he is more likely to take it out on the other cats. Spraying him with water will only make things worse as you have noticed. I find the best method of “punishment” is to have a timeout cage. You put him in there when he does something bad. Don’t yell at him, don’t spray him. Just pick him up, say no in a firm voice and put him in the cage. In most cases, 10 to 20 minutes is often enough time for them to calm down without stressing them out more. I like to use Feliway spray in the cage before putting mine in timeout. Outside of this, make sure he is getting enough attention through pets, play, and food. If he is bored, he is more likely to act out and this is the case for most cats. It has also been observed that some male cats have a preference to female cats so having two other males in the house could be causing him to feel the need to compete for food, attention, and territory. Some cats simply don’t like the company of other cats as well. It is important he has his own space to go to where the other cats don’t go. Bipolar cats can be hard to work with, understand, and correct bad behaviors in which is why more and more vets recommend behavioral sessions with an expert. It might be worth finding a behavioral therapist for cats in your area to help Bandit out.

      Reply
  3. My loving boy Huey, who always shows such affection and sleeps in bed with me in my arms has had a radical change in his behaviour for about 6 months, when I pick him up most times he starts hissing and growling when a minute before he was giving me kisses and head bumps, I’ve had him from when he was born and he has always been my snuggle bug but he has become mr grumpy far too often and he even attacks the other cats after I put him down when he is being grumpy, I suffer with bi polar and I’m convinced he has developed the disorder, I really don’t know what to do about it

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Tina. Have you taken Huey in for a check-up lately? Often times sudden changes in temperate with cats can be down to pain or medical distress. It is best to rule that out first to make sure nothing else is wrong with him.

      Reply
  4. I have a male cat. He’s a one man cat and only allows me near him, but out of the blue he will swipe me with his paw when I’m petting him. I’ve got to know when he’s about to do it now by the look on his face. He also hates my partner when he walks into the room. He cowers and hisses at him or runs out the house, but if he sits down, the cat then starts rubbing him coz he wants food. Everything has to be on the cats terms. He constantly hunts and stalks my other cat and attacks him for no reason. He spends hours sitting by the cat flap waiting for him or other cats to fight with. I have tried feliway and feliway friends with no success.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Linda. It sounds like his outbursts may be due to pain or redirected aggression. How old is he? As cats get older, they can develop “hot spots” where nerves can be bothering them and if you pet them there, they will let you know they don’t like it. This can be brought on by an accidental fall, something hitting them on or around the spine, arthritis, or general joint injuries. If he is not old and in good health, it could be a case of redirected aggression. You can read more about that HERE.

      Reply
  5. Loling at all these people thinking their cat is bipolar. I have an all white, dual colored eyes, male. When he was younger he used to randomly become vicious at us biting our ankles and would get poofy and very angry out of nowhere. We never figured out a reason as to why this was happening. Our friend said to get another cat so we did. Now he gets randomly angry at our other cat who just loves his big bro and gets to the point where the other cat is yelling because white cat is biting and kicking so hard. If we intervene he turns his aggression on us. But mind you they cuddle and play normal all the time. He also is very aggressive with toys on and off. He kicks and rolls in his litter sometimes. Just today I had to intervene with the cats and one minute my arm is all cut up to the next he’s rubbing all over me giving me love. That people is a bipolar cat.

    Reply
  6. I have been dealing with this for a while now — and it’s really becoming frustrating. The ups and downs have become so unpredictable. A few examples.

    For the last two days, my kitty, a male, has been hiding almost all the time. On occasion, he will come out, and when he does, he will play with me, nudge, let me pet him for a long period of time. Then, out of nowhere, he will take a sniff of my hand (turned upside down) and run and hide and not come out for hours again.

    He goes from being a most affectionate cat — to angry and frightened in a matter of seconds.

    I don’t do anything differently in scenarios when he’s happy or ticked. No routines have changed. No change of furniture … none of the things that I have read that can cause a cat anxiety.

    He only has one eye — so I am starting to wonder if perhaps his vision might be affected. It’s like I go from being a normal part of his life to this threatening giant in a matter of seconds.

    When he hides I just go about my routine, though it’s consumed me wondering what is wrong.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Kevin. It can be something having to do with his background. Did you adopt this cat after he had his eye removed? Was he a stray you took in, possibly mildly feral? I would imagine something happened to him prior to being in your care to make him act this way if there is indeed a cause. There is a chance him having one eye is playing up with him and your interactions with him but cats associate us mostly by scent and sound, not sight.

      Reply
  7. Hello I am having problems with my one cat. I got him and his sister over 2 years ago as kittens and they were very shy bit super sweet. I’ve been noticing over the last year that the mail has been acting crazy every time someone new visit my house. It’s so hard to figure out because his sister will be perfectly fine let the new person pet her whatever then he gets upset abd then they both and hissing and I have to put them in another room. And the male he doesn’t just Grill in his he makes his horrible screaming noise like he’s being attacked even when it’s just me trying to pick him up because he’s growing at a new person. I feel like we’ve failed as cat parents cuz he acts like a Farrel cat when I have company. I feel like I don’t know what to do because if it’s just me and my husband or a few regular people he is the sweetest happiest cat. any ideas would greatly help, thank you

    Reply
  8. Hello, I need help with my KittyG. She is Approximately 4 years old, Tortise shell Female. Youngest of my Three cats , she has always showed dominance over the others. She too would become tired of me petting her, then scratch me. Most of the Time she would show me affection on her own time,but as of late, she has secluded herself outside, doesn’t come when I call her,acts very skiddish, goes one way and then another,and doesn’t have much of an appetite. This had happened one time before, where she just disappeared, which was very strange as she is a Homebody. What can I do ?Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Michael. As what your other comment suggests on “6 Signs of Depression in Cats”, I think it is a good idea to take your little girl in to see a vet. Bipolar issues don’t happen overnight. I would make sure she stays strictly indoors as well. There are a lot of dangers outside such as poison, disease, cars, other animals, and even careless people. It just is not worth the risk and given her behavior, it is for her own good. If you want to still allow her to enjoy the outdoors but be protected, getting an outdoor enclosure is an option you can look in to. I hope she feels better soon!

      Reply
  9. I am starting to think my six month old male cat is Bipolar. He is displaying almost all of these ten things. He bites both my boyfriend and me all the time. He doesn’t like to be petted for even a few minutes. He chases me through the house and attacks my legs. I just want him to calm down and stop biting and scratching us.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Ruth. Being that he is still young, it might be behavior he grows out of. Did you take him in from outdoors or adopt him from a shelter? Also, if he is not already neutered, getting that done might help with his temperament. When he does something you do not like, ignore him. Don’t raise your voice or react, just walk away. When he does something you approve of, reward him. This will establish behavior for him that you find acceptable. Work with him like this for a few months and see if things change.

      Reply
  10. “Bipolar in humans is classified as an imbalance of chemicals in the brain causing short-tempered emotions.”

    This is not exactly correct. Although classified as a mood disorder, Bipolar disorder is connected to the nervous system and is often incorrectly treated (in humans and animals) as a chemical imbalance. Medical treatments include those also use for epilepsy.

    Bipolar disorder, like any mental illnes, requires a healthy environment, regular routines, proper diet and exercise, and appropriate medication to reducing challenges for pets and owners. Understanding the physiology behind the songs along the mood spectrum–from depressed to manic–helps you to see your loved one in a new light.

    I encourage readers to do some research on human bipolar to better understand your companion animal’s.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Steven. A “chemical imbalance” is brought on by several different factors such as birth trauma, deficiencies, activity level, diet, and stress. Medication that is used to treat mental issues in animals as well as humans doesn’t help but actually hinders the body’s ability to overcome the imbalance. Many of these medications block serotonin which is a huge key factor in healing the mind and body from stressors.

      I agree with you that people should do their own research. Read scientific studies, medical studies, and so on. A lot of what doctors are taught today goes against the body’s natural ability to heal, repair, and overcome. This is both true for humans as it is for our pets.

      Reply
  11. Good morning,
    I’ve been debating on if my cat was bipolar or not for years. I’ve never done the research and after reading this article it is confirmed. My cat Tiger, does 6 out of your 10 examples with no questions asked. We can never understand why so randomly he gets so angry and goes to “kill” mode and within 10 minutes he’s in your lap trying to love you and doesn’t realize that he just tried to drawl blood from you. He even attacks our dog very randomly. You’ll see Tiger purring and head bunting on our dog giving him love, within 2 minutes Tiger turns and goes for our dog in the neck trying to seriously hurt him. How do you treat bipolar disorder in cats? I love Tiger very much and want to help him get better. My husband and my family are about fed up with his behaviors.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Rebecca. Bipolar issues in cats (just like in humans) is usually down to a chemical imbalance. This can be hard to “treat” when you don’t know what is causing the imbalance or if the cat was indeed born with it. A lot of times balancing out hormones by reducing stress makes a difference. I recommend trying Feliway first and seeing if that helps. That is the cheapest and easiest approach to calming a cat down and reducing stress. It uses natural pheromones as well so it is safe and effective. You also want to make sure your cat is getting the exercise he needs. Cats who become bored are more likely to act out in negative ways. Find a wand or toy you can interact with him with and do this daily. Play with him 10 to 20 minutes here and there throughout the day.

      Reply
  12. my female Russian blue cat is 6 going on 7 years old. one minute she is all loving and the next she is hissing at me or my fiancé. all we are doing at the time is petting here. we can’t have guests over for long cuz she hisses and growls at them. we went through 4 couches in two years cuz of her being aggressive with the couches. can’t have any other pets in the house cuz she’s aggressive with them. she’s destroyed all her toys. she’s been like this since she was about 3-4 months old. the only time she’s not aggressive towards anyone or anything is when she’s in heat. also she barely sleeps. when she does sleep it’s never in the same place or at the same time.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Beatrice. You mentioned you cat being in heat… Is she not spayed? If she isn’t, her aggression is down to hormonal shifts. She wants to likely go outside and mate. Cats go into heat all year round, they are not like some other mammals who only do it seasonally. They go into heat every 2 to 3 weeks unless they are spayed.

      Reply
  13. Hi I have a 15month old female cat. Got her at 5 months old from a woman who said her daughter was allergic. I really have no other information about her. Me and my flat mate got shadow (my cat) and Charlie (my flat mates female 2 months older cat) around the same time and given a week they became the very best friends becoming inseparable. Shadow was never a very affectionate cat towards anyone and would tolerate a clap for a moment or 2. 3 months after getting them me and my flatmate had a argument and decided to go our separate ways she took Charlie too and shadow was distraught for ages. She would rip up the house, wouldn’t sleep on her own me and my partner slept in separate rooms. She was very needy ‘s we decided to get her a friend Jessie a few weeks later. Shadow went and got spayed too. Now she loves Jessie and isn’t dominating to her but she likes a rough play. Shadow is quite a bad car around the house she does stuff she’s been told not to do 1million times when she is given in to trouble for something she turns on Jessie and lashes out at her. She’s very moody all the time. We live in a upstairs flat so they only get out when I’m in the house once a day for hours so shadow is always at the door and if she doesn’t get out she attacks to the stage she is now attacking my guest’s. I am covered all down my arms with her scratches and it’s like walking in egg shells with her. She will come to you to be clapped and everything will be fine she’s rolling about showing her belly loving it then the next moment she will be attached to your arm kicking hissing biting meawing really loudly and aggressively and it’s not even where you pat her it’s like a switch goes off? I dunno what to do? I will not give up on her never but I can’t continue like this she’s a big cat and powerful now and she’s only gonna get bigger. Sorry about the ling story just thought it would be best to give it you all info first thanks in advanced.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I want to start off by saying female cats tend to be less affectionate compared to males. Not many people are aware of this, they are also typically more territorial. Females who start off this way tend to be made worse after spaying. Did you and your ex flat mate fight often or get into small arguments weekly where you both would be loud? A lot of times cats will mimic their environment. In calm environments that are quiet, they tend to be more calm and quiet. In loud environments they tend to be more jumpy and reactive in a sort of destructive way. As for the rough play, it is actually normal between cats so unless Jessie is getting hurt there is nothing to worry about. How old was she when she got spayed and did she go outside before being spayed at all?

      Reply
      • No me and my flat mate had a very good relationship and are still friends now. The house has always been fine and no reason for the cats to be aggressive. No she was never outside before she got spayed as there is lots of cats around so scared she got caught. Sometimes the play fights get quite out of hand and she bites Jessie around her neck sometimes. We stop the fight immediately. My partner is in the house most of the time so they are monitored. I’m just so worried there is underlying issues with her?

      • It could be that she is bipolar. It is very hard to determine this as mentioned, most cats are very erratic with emotions and behaviors naturally. What you can do is try Feliway: http://www.feliway.com/uk It is marketed mainly for spraying issues but as a natural pheromone it helps with stress as well. I am not sure what the price runs in the UK but I know it is available there. I have used this for many different reasons with my cats and it actually does help calm my bipolar cat. Lavender oil is another option. You can’t directly use the oil on your cat’s skin or by her face but you can use room sprays that have natural lavender oil in them or use an electric oil difuser.

        How is her diet? Does she eat well and have no issues there?

      • Yeah I’m gonna try them diffusers first I don’t really want her to be medicated as it can be expensive too with the vets just not a route I really want for her as she’s so young. She eats really well never a moment without food she’s not even aggressive around food time. She just likes her food. Hoping that a diffuser will work around the house.

      • I never recommend medicating cats for this. It is always best to take a natural approach. If you work with her and her needs, I am sure you will see improvement. I have with mine.

  14. My five year old became very angry and turned on me and my other two cats. She stalked me and then jumped and bit my knee so hard she tore my pants. She has always been very sweet and loving. But now she hisses and growls. I can’t go upstairs cause she will follow me growling. Do I have to get mess for her or do I have to put her down?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Estela. Cats who are bipolar had these traits their whole lives. What you are explaining can be something more severe. Putting her down at the age of 5 because she is suddenly angry shouldn’t be the go-to option. I was take her in to get checked up by a vet. Usually when something like this happens, it is down to breaking trust. You could have done something or changed something that put her off without realizing it. As mentioned, taking her to a vet to make sure there is no underlining medical issue should be step one. You can also try relaxing pheromones. I have used this before myself : http://amzn.to/2qvkSAE It makes a huge difference. It isn’t just for spraying/marking. It helps calm cats and relax them. Don’t give up on her.

      Reply
  15. My cat is franky and she is cranky doesnt like to be cuddled except by my son and if i get to pat her head 2x she says thats enough and will try to swipe at me with her nails. Ive been cut many times trying to get a pat in.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Gloria. Some cats do bond with only one person. This doesn’t mean she is bipolar, she may just be picky. There can also be a trust issue she has with you from something you could have done that may have scared her in the past. Some cats just only like one sex as well. Some cats prefer male humans over female ones and vice versa. They are complex creatures to say the least!

      Reply

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