How To Handle Aggressive Cats | 7 Reasons Behind Their Aggression

The behavior of aggressive cats often stems from fear, stress, and anxiety rather than anger, spite, or other reasons that humans typically use to explain a cat’s aggressive behavior. Understanding and addressing aggressive behaviors can improve a cat’s quality of life and strengthen the bond between you and your cat.

Which Behaviors Indicate Aggressive Cats?

aggressive cat
aggressive cat

Understanding the behavior of aggressive cats can be challenging due to the overall complexity of cat communication. Aggressive cats employ various methods to communicate with other cats, which include:

  • Physical expression
  • Voice cues
  • Physical interaction
  • Chemical messengers, such as pheromones,

Cats have smaller physical features than dogs and use more subtle and rapid movements when communicating. Deciphering these signs can assist in recognizing when a cat is experiencing fear or anxiety, which may indicate an imminent display of aggressive behavior.

Indications of Defensive and Offensive Aggression in Cats

When a cat exhibits aggressive behavior, it typically employs a combination of signals to communicate its emotional state. The signs will vary depending on whether the individual is the victim, displaying defensive behavior of aggressive cats, or the attacker, exhibiting an offensive attack.

Signs of defensive aggression in cats include:

  • Crouching low to the ground to protect their underside.
  • Hissing and baring their teeth to make the threat back away and avoid confrontation.
  • Tucking their tail under their body.
  • Standing their fur on end to intimidate and scare off a threat.

Signs of offensive aggression include:

  • Swatting at other animals or people.
  • Blocking doorways or passages to assert dominance.
  • Growling.
  • Rapidly swishing the tail from side to side.
  • Chasing and attacking other animals or people.
  • Standing up with the back arched and body turned sideways to appear more prominent.

Types of Cat Aggression And Their Prevention

This article offers valuable advice on seven common types of behavior in aggressive cats and provides effective strategies for dealing with them.

  • Patting/petting aggression
  • Fear aggression
  • Redirected aggression
  • Pain-induced aggression
  • Play aggression
  • Noise-induced aggression
  • Sexual aggression

Patting/ Petting Aggression

Particular cats may not tolerate extended periods of being patted. In these situations, the cat typically starts feeling content when petting.

However, after a while, they may exhibit signs of irritation or stress, such as swishing their tail, dilating their pupils, tensing their bodies, and flattening their ears. The cat may bite or scratch if the person continues the interaction despite these signs.

Afterward, the cat may jump down, run a short distance, and then sit down to groom itself, all while still having dilated pupils.

The bites and scratches are usually initially restrained, with claws retracted and insufficient force to cause injury. However, they can escalate to more severe bites and scratches over time.

Prevention and management

If your cat displays signs of aggression triggered by patting or petting:

  • Avoid patting the cat for an extended period of time. Instead, take the time to understand how much interaction your cat can handle before becoming irritated.
  • Wait for the cat to initiate patting, and then keep the interaction brief.
  • Look for signs the cat no longer wants to be patted, such as a swishing tail, dilated pupils, stiff body, or ears back.
  • Desensitization can help some aggressive cats accept more patting. This entails petting the cat for short and extended periods and giving it goodies for taking it. This won’t work for all aggressive cats, so respecting their right to determine how long and what kind of relationships they have with people is crucial.
aggresive cat
aggressive cat

Fear Aggression

Cats often exhibit fear and aggression when perceiving a threat, mainly if backed into a corner. At first, a cat typically displays defensive body language and tries to avoid the person they fear.

However, if they feel trapped or cornered, they may become aggressive to create space between themselves and the person. In this situation, the cat’s ears will typically be turned back, and its tail and body will be lowered. It may display its teeth and make hissing or growling sounds.

Cats that experience fear aggression typically avoid approaching people. Instead, they show aggressive behavior to keep the person they are afraid of at a distance. Fear and aggression can manifest at any stage of life.

Prevention and management

  • It is advisable to avoid situations that may trigger negative emotions or reactions.
  • Teach the cat to exhibit different behavior when encountering situations that trigger fear.
  • Sometimes, your vet may recommend medication in conjunction with behavioral modification techniques.
  • Synthetic pheromones, such as Feliway spray or diffuser, are calming. These products can be found at veterinary clinics.

Redirected aggression

Redirected aggression happens when a person tries to interact with a cat that is already agitated for a different reason, like being chased by a dog or fighting with another cat.

Redirected aggression is commonly observed when a cat encounters or detects the presence of another cat, which it perceives as unwelcome. This often triggers territorial aggression in the cat.

However, because the cat cannot directly interact with the outside cat, it redirects its aggression toward another cat in the household or a person.

Inter-cat aggression can occur when one cat directs aggression toward another cat in the same household. This can lead to ongoing aggression between the cats, which may not be resolved without targeted treatment.

Redirected aggression will likely occur repeatedly, whether directed toward cats or humans unless the trigger can be removed.

Prevention and management

  • To prevent trigger situations, take proactive measures such as restricting access to window sills, using window coverings, or keeping other cats away.
  • It is advisable to refrain from handling the cat if it appears aroused by something.
  • The cat may be desensitized by gradual exposure to the scary stimuli or by counter-conditioning with a food incentive during calm during the trigger event. Rewarding with food during the fearful event helps relax.
  • Medication may also be combined with behavioral modification, as your vet advises.

Pain-induced aggression

This type of aggression can be displayed in response to pain or the expectation of pain. There are various examples of aggression in cats that can occur during handling.

One instance is when a cat is in pain, whether due to chronic conditions like arthritis or an acute injury, or a painful procedure being performed. Another example is when a cat associates handling pain and acts aggressively to avoid it.

For instance, a cat with a painful grooming experience due to a matted coat may anticipate that grooming will be painful and display aggression to prevent it.

Prevention and management

  • They are avoiding the trigger, including giving those with diseases that cause acute or chronic pain enough pain treatment (your veterinarian can help).
  • Once you have confirmed that the cat is not experiencing any pain, you can begin implementing a systematic and gradual desensitization process to help the cat become more comfortable in situations that were previously linked to pain.
  • Offer the cat a food treat when calm or relaxed during the triggering situation.

Play aggression

One of the most prevalent forms of hostility is play aggression. Engaging in vigorous play is a natural and typical behavior for aggressive cats. These cats are typically young and energetic.

They live as the only cats and may have been separated from their mother and siblings at an early age.

Owners often contribute to the problem by engaging in rough play with their kittens, inadvertently rewarding them for biting and clawing by continuing the play.

Prevention and management

  • Try to avoid situations that may trigger adverse reactions whenever you can.
  • Positive reinforcement training involves the practice of rewarding “good” behavior. When the cat is playing with its cat toy or is calm and relaxed, you can reward it with a food treat.
  • Ensure you are adequately prepared by attaching a bell to your cat’s collar, enabling you to locate their whereabouts by sound quickly.
  • We offer a variety of engaging toys for your enjoyment. To ensure continued interest, we recommend rotating the toys regularly. Please note that we do not recommend storing toys, as they can pose a risk of intestinal obstruction if accidentally swallowed.
  • Use positive feedback to teach your pet not to bite or scratch. Do this for the first time when the cat is calm, NOT when it wants to play. Pat or play gently with the cat. Don’t get them too excited; their rough play will worsen, and they won’t learn that this isn’t good.

Noise-induced aggression

Aggressive cats may get angry when they hear certain kinds of sounds. There are examples of another cat crying, high-pitched whistling, a baby crying, or squeaking sounds.

aggressive cat
aggressive cat

Preventing and management

  • Whenever you can, try to avoid sound waves that can set off triggers.
  • You can try desensitization and counter-conditioning when it makes sense and is safe. Desensitizing a cat to noise means playing the “trigger” sound at a deficient volume. The cat can be praised (counter-conditioned) with a food treat if it stays calm and relaxed. The level is then slowly turned up over time, and the cat keeps getting treats as long as it remains quiet and comfortable while the sound is being made.

Sexual aggression

Sexual aggression is a behavior that is observed exclusively in male cats. The cat may climb onto a person’s arm or ankle, grip their skin with its teeth, and engage in pelvic thrusting.

Trying to remove the cat now will only make it more aggressive. Although a female cat’s thick scruff usually shields her from harm caused by a male’s nape bite, the same cannot be said for human skin.

A nape bite from a male cat can cause injury to humans. This can happen due to incorrect sexual imprinting.

Prevention and management

  • It is essential to learn how to identify the triggers that may lead to an aggressive sexual encounter and then take steps to avoid those situations, such as removing yourself from the room.
  • When the cat starts displaying this behavior, it is advisable to distract them with a toy rather than food. It is essential not to give food treats if the cat is already showing aggression, as this could potentially reinforce the negative behavior.

Are some cat breeds more aggressive than others?

All cats have the potential to be violent, but some breeds are more prone to aggression than others.

Siamese and Abyssinian cats are two breeds that are more likely to be aggressive. Breeds, including the Ragdoll, Sphynx, Burmese, and Maine Coon are typically more laid-back. Domestic Shorthair and Domestic Longhair are in the middle of the spectrum.

Of all, there are many examples of Siamese cats that are naturally laid-back and Burmese cats that are violent, and breed is only one element in determining feline aggression. However, knowing how breed influences aggression might help decide how to control aggressive behaviors effectively.

 

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