Cat Aggressive Behavior

"Cat aggressive behavior is usually due to your cat feeling like it is not in control of its environment. This includes introduction of new people or animals in his or her territory, an unexpected interruption such as when tracking something through the window and when your cat follows natural hunting instincts when outdoors."

There are several types of cat aggressive behavior that you may experience with your cat.

Play and Predatory Aggression
Aggressive Kitten Behavior

It is a cat's nature to hunt and catch prey. Even though your cat does not have to hunt for her dinner, she still may want to practice her hunting skills. She may do things like sneak up on you and pounce on your toes, or wait under the bed and attack your foot as you walk by. She is just playing, but this play can be painful, cause injury and be interpreted as cat aggressive behavior.

Biting and scratching during play are typical of play aggression, a behavior most commonly observed in young cats and in aggressive kittens. Kittens raised with littermates learn how to bite and scratch with reduced intensity, because play that is too rough causes pain to a playmate, resulting in either retaliation or the cessation of play. Consequently, cat aggressive behavior during play is usually seen in kittens that were not raised with littermates or playmates, are under-stimulated, or lack appropriate play outlets.

You can also tell if your cat is playing too aggressively by its body gestures. If you see his or her tail lashing back and forth, if the ears flatten and if you see dilated pupils, this is indicative of a cat acting too aggressively. If you see your cat "stalking" anything that moves such as your feet, they are also being a bit too aggressive. They may also jump out from a hiding place.

To correct the problem you should start by keeping a list or record of the behavior. Note the time it occurs and possibly any trigger or cause for the behavior. For example, if your kitten hides such as under the bed and then jumps out, you might block the opening under the bed (eliminate the places your cat likes to "hunt" or "stalk" from). You could also attach a bell to your cats collar to help keep better track.

You can teach your cat to play gently. The use of noise is a popular way to try and correct behavior. When the play gets too rough and kitty uses her claws or bites, say "ouch!" very loud to startle your cat and then withdraw briefly. Other ways to make noise include you making a hissing sound or you can even use a compressed air canister pressed at a safe distance from your cat. Any sound should startle your cat and be within moments of the bad behavior. When your cat retracts her claws, resume playing. If she continues to bite or use her claws, say "ouch!" again and stop playing. She will soon learn that to play, she must be gentle.

Never touch your cat in punishment. Your cat will react by being even more aggressive and might be interpreted as another form of playing. You could also walk away from your cat any time he or she engages in play that is unacceptable.

You can also encourage play with objects. For example tossing a ball focuses play on the object instead of your feet or hands. Places to climb and scratch or a pole with a feather to chase are also fun ways to play while minimizing problems.

Fear and Anger Cat Aggressive Behavior

Cats that were not adequately socialized as kittens may be easily frightened by strange people and in strange or stressful situations. For instance, they may dislike being picked up by strangers, such as the vet. They may strike out aggressively. Even cats that have been socialized will have their limits.

Exposing cats to other people, including children, when they are kittens will help them be more comfortable with strangers when they are older. You can teach your cat that going to the vet can be a fun thing by offering treats at the vet's office. This type of socialization is best done when your cat is a kitten, but can be done as an adult as well. It will just take more time and patience if you are working with an adult cat.

If possible eliminate the cause of the fear. If you can't, then slowly introduce the cause. You can do this by keeping a big distance between your cat and lets say the person or animal they are afraid of. Then slowly close the distance over time. When you introduce the person into the room, give your cat a treat so that you reinforce their presence with a positive experience. Over time the fear behavior should subside.

Territorial and Protective Aggression

Cats are territorial by nature. Unless they have been socialized to accept other animals in their territory such as another cat, they will react aggressively. Mother cats will also act aggressively to protect their kittens.

Typical behaviors associated with territorial aggression include swatting with the paws, chasing and attacking the new cat.

To prevent or treat territorial aggression you need to introduce a new cat gradually. This includes:

* Place any new cat in a separate room, but do not let the two cats see each other. Via smell they can get used to the new pet.

* Wait several days and then switch the cats. This way your cat can smell the new cat and the new cat can smell your existing feline.

* Place the two cats on opposite ends of the same room. Use some type of restraint to keep them apart such as a leash. Feed them in the same room so they learn to be near each other. If either cat acts strange or nervous, but a bigger distance between the pets.

Allow the cats to get closer and closer until they are comfortable with each other. Don't rush the process.

If this doesn't work you might be able to try a prescription medication that can be obtained from your vet.

Over Stimulation and Excitement Aggression

You may be petting your cat and she may be peacefully enjoying it. Then suddenly, her mood may change and she may bite you. Perhaps you touched a sensitive spot, or perhaps she just became over stimulated and biting is her way of saying stop.

Pay attention to your cat's behavior. If you notice that she becomes over stimulated and bites, has flat ears or a tail that is lashing back and forth then stop petting. Watch young children to avoid any over petting problems.

Be sure not to restrain or keep your cat from jumping off of you when they are being petted. You can also use treats for your cat (feed them on the floor, not on your lap) in order to associate this behavior with a pleasurable experience. You can increase petting time as long as each is rewarded so that your cat associates petting with something positive.

Of course, different cats may or may not enjoy petting.

Health Problems and Changes in Cat Behavior

Cat aggressive behavior due to physical illness and pain are most often recognized on the basis of a change in behavior that cannot be attributed to other causes.

Cat Aggressive Behavior Questionnaire

If your cat suddenly develops cat aggressive behavior, see your vet. It may be a sign of a medical problem rather than a behavior problem.

Your veterinarian should do a behavior assessment at every annual visit. Questions suggested by the American Society of Feline Practitioners to understand cat aggressive behavior include:

* Is your cat urinating outside of the litter box?
* Does your cat project or spray urine onto a wall or other surface?
* Does your cat react badly to family members or strangers?
* Does your cat act afraid?
* Is your cat destroying property such as furniture?
* Is your cat reacting badly to other animals in the home?
* Is there any aspect of your cat's behavior that you can't explain?

Natural Remedies to Change or Calm Aggressive Cat Behavior

If cat aggressive behavior or anxiety are an ongoing problem, you might want to experiment with adding a natural herbal remedy to your cat's diet. There are several herbs that are thought to be associated with the ability to soothe aggressive behavior. PetAlive Aggression Formula for stressed cats and cat aggressive behavior is worth researching as it is made specifically for this purpose.


Cornell Feline Health Center


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