Causes Of Cat Aggression

Cat Aggression, Some Of The Reasons For Aggressive Cat Behavior

Domestic cats make pleasing pets. They are very capable giving you much love, they are fantastic companions, they are clean, often amusing and there is nothing quite like holding a purring cat.

On the other hand it must be remembered that our feline friends have not been domestic pets for that long.

For most of the cat's early relationship with humankind, it was a working arrangement.

Cats hunted rodents in return for basic shelter and the odd scrap. They were not companion animals.

The domestic cat's ancestors were . . . wild things. Highly skilled hunters who had to hunt prey aggressively in order to survive.

They had to vigorously defend themselves against predictors too.

Is it surprising that our much loved pets are capable of displaying aggression on occasion?

Sickness Or Injury And Cat Aggression

Cats can be pretty good at letting us know that there is something wrong. They may not be able to tell us exactly what is bothering them but, one way or another, they bring things to our attention.

When cats are unwell or injured they often become aggressive.

If your normally placid cat starts behaving in a belligerent way to you, other humans or other pets, it could be because they are suffering.

A cat that bites or scratches when picked up or petted, may have an injury that is not obvious.

When faced with aggressive cat behavior you need to consider if it is due to sickness or injury.

Your veterinarian will be able to put your mind at rest or give your pet the treatment that they need.

Redirected Cat Aggression

Redirected cat aggression occurs when a cat directs his or her anger with another animal, or a human, onto a different animal or human.

rival cat seen through window
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A cat looking through a window and seeing a strange cat out in the yard - which is her territory - would be antagonized.

Frustrated because she cannot get outside to defend her territory she redirects her aggressive feelings.

Her anger could be misdirected onto another cat, or other pet, or even a human that she shares her home with.

The redirected aggression may not necessarily be in the form of bites and scratches, but it often is.

It does not have to be the sight of another cat that triggers the aggressive feeling, any smell, sound or object that causes irritation that the cat cannot resolve can trigger aggression.

The cat may have been chased by an belligerent dog.

Unable to defend itself the cat runs home to escape. But the anger is still there and the cat takes it out on another household pet.

If the aggressive cat is higher in the dominance hierarchy then a fight may not take place, the attacked cat may submissively withdraw after posturing has taken place. But if the two cats are of more level status, a fight may well take place.

The cats will need to be separated, but with great care. (See Fighting Cats.)

Unfortunately, these cat to cat aggression disputes can flare up again each time the two cats meet. The victim of the redirected aggression naturally feels aggravated himself and so, on meeting up with his attacker, the fight recommences.

The only thing to do in these circumstances is to keep the pair separated for some time and reintroduce them very slowly.

A cat redirecting aggressive feelings towards a human may not actually attack. The feline may take things out on the human by being in a sulk or behaving unruly. The human is likely to get bitten and scratched if they attempt to pick up a cat that is aggravated.

Watch for signs of cat aggression, Cat Body Language can show how a cat is feeling, and leave the cat alone until it is more relaxed.

Sometimes an aggravated cat will attack a human and the best thing to do is to get out of the way.

When safe to do so, get the cat into a darkened room, you may need to throw a thick blanket over the cat to be able to do this. Avoid being bitten or scratched, a Cat Bite or scratch is not a trivial thing, it can result in serious health issues.

Cats And Kittens Playing Aggressively

We have all seen young kittens at play. They rough and tumble, leap and pounce on one another and they do so very aggressively.

Kittens will also pretend bite at each other, particularly at the throat and stomach.

No real harm is meant, its all preparation for later life when they will need to establish dominance and possibly protect themselves from aggressors. Hunting skills are also honed by play aggression.

kittens play fighting
Kittens rough and tumble, it can get aggressive but it is all play.

The play fighting often lasts until the cats are about two years old if siblings are kept together.

Sometimes the play can get out of hand and the fighting develops into real cat aggression.

When this happens the kittens/young cats should be carefully separated. Using a water squirt on both cats should distract them long enough to get one out of the room.

You should not pick the cat up with your bare hands because its anger could be turned against you.

Young cats will also practice their hunting skills on just about anything that moves. And what better prey can there be than a moving human foot, particularly if that foot is shoeless.

Nothing is out of bounds to a playful cat. The tail of the family dog, an arm hanging over the side of a chair or a moving hand. It is play and not spiteful aggression, usually the bites do not draw blood. But, as with kittens play fighting, accidents happen and the play can become too rough.

If a kitten has been taken from its mother and siblings too soon, it may not have learned how to control playful attacks.

This can mean that, as a young adult, the cat gives nasty nips and bites. This should be discouraged, especially if there are young children in the home.

This aggressive cat behavior can be deterred by immediately leaving the room and leaving the cat alone. Hopefully the cat will learn that the outcome of these attacks means not having company or attention.

You can also discourage the cat's aggression by use of the water squirt or air horn or even hissing at him. The aim is to distract and to end the behavior, not to punish.

It is never wise to allow a kitten to play with your hands, the kitten will grow into a cat that thinks it is alright to bite hands.

Petting Induced Aggressive Cat Behavior

Some cats will happily allow you to pet or stroke them for a limited amount of time. Then, when they have had enough, they suddenly bite you. You can learn a little about this form of cat aggression here - Why Does My Cat Bite My Hand When I Stroke Her?

Territorial Cat Aggression

Cats are territorial by nature. Both male and female cats have defined areas they 'own', although male cats tend to have territories substantially larger than females. Territories get defended aggressively.

If allowed out of the home a cat will establish his or her territorial space. This may be confined to the back yard, or a larger space depending on other felines in the area, and the cat's ability to defend it.

territory
This chair is my territory. I will defend it aggressivly.

Should another cat intrude into their territory the defending cat will employ a number of stages of cat aggression to persuade the invader to leave.

This could start with threatening body postures, hissing, growling and spiting, and if that fails, an all out frenzied attack.

Cats that share a home together will establish territories within that home. The dominant cat will have the pick of the best and the other cats will have their defined spaces according to the hierarchy.

These internal territorial spaces need not be mutually exclusive. The dominant cat may have a favorite perch that she permits the next cat in the pecking order to use when she is not interested in it, but not the lower ranking cats.

Sometimes indoor cats have an 'agreement' to share, perhaps a room or a chair, with each cat having their own time of day when that 'territory' is theirs.

Usually once these hierarchy and dominance issues are established feline life goes on without too many disputes. Unless . . . something changes.

If a new cat is introduced into the home, the status quo is upset and cat aggression is likely.

It is not a good idea to bring home a new cat and expect your cat family to accept the new addition just like that. Introduction must be made gradually.

Confine your new cat to one room, with none of your other felines, for about a week. Take a towel and rub it gently over your new cat and take it to your other cats and let them smell the scent.

Do the same with your established cats and let your new pet smell their scent. This will help reduce animosity when the cats do meet.

When you do let your cat family meet the new addition, make it a short introduction. Do this for the first several meetings and stay with the cats, don't leave them on their own until you are sure they will not be aggressive to one another.

Territorial disputes can arise simply because you change something in your home. Aside from territorial issues, change causes Cats Stress.

Add the stress of change to say, an item of furniture moved to a different place causing an upset in territory boundaries . . . and aggression can result.

Fear Induced Cat Aggression

Some cats are more fearful than others and some cats react aggressively to what they perceive as fearful situations.

Cats who have been mistreated at sometime, or who, as kittens, were taken from their mother at too young an age, or were not exposed to socialization when young, may display fear induced cat aggression. Some feline authorities believe some cats are genetically more inclined to be fearful.

Some kittens that are shy and withdrawn compared to their litter mates, may grow to be fearfully aggressive cats. However many shy kittens mature into perfectly well adjusted felines.

If you cat is displaying fear aggression it is best to keep out of her way, if possible.

When she has calmed down offer her a healthy treat. But be sure to reward her for being calm, not for the aggression.

You may be able to help your cat overcome her fears. If your cat is afraid of another of your pets for example, you can help by only allowing them together for short periods.

When your feline shows any sign of fear induced cat aggression, take her, not your other pet, out of the room. When your cat tolerates the other animal, reward her with a healthy treat, petting and praise.

Sometimes folks who are living with a cat that displays belligerent behavior, take the extreme measure of having their cat declawed.

Declawing is not the answer to cat aggression. It is cruel and unnecessary. Find out what is causing your cat to be hostile and help her to have a calmer personality.

As stated above, if you suspect that your cat's aggressive behavior is due to a medical problem or injury you should take your cat to your veterinarian right away.

A Feliway Diffuser contains synthetic copies of feline facial pheromones known to support peaceful attitudes, and may help your cat to relax and enjoy the company of people and animals. Feliway Diffuser.

Cat Behavior Problem?
The ideal way to end cat behavioral problems is to train your cat every day. About 15 minutes a session is good, any longer and your cat is likely to become bored.

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