Cats are generally considered calm and independent pets, so when they lash out at humans it is surprising and confusing especially on how to handle the situation. This is because they are just very good at hiding their pain and discomfort. When the favorite pet begins to bite, chase away the visitors, pounce or scratch intensively a visit to the veterinary may confirm cat aggression
It can be described as menacing behavior directed towards animals, humans and other cats.
By understanding some subtle signs displayed by cats, aggression can be managed.Observing the facial expression and body postures such as the tail position, ears and whiskers might help in early diagnosis and possible treatment.
Some of the possible causes of aggression may include:
Cats are natural predators and this make them always ready to hunt and they may at times engage in fights.
Some breeds of cats are generally known for their aggressive personality, they are generally calm but tend to be highly sensitive in nature. An example is the Bobcats and Bengal who are highly tempered
Cats love their personal space and that is why they are often viewed as independent and private. Indoor cats mostly guard, rub their cheeks or piss just to leave their scent on the space. Unexpected shifts to space may cause the cat to become very aggressive. The Egyptian Mau is an example of a cat breed that is very protective of its personal space.
In homes where there are many cats, personal space may become an issue and they may attack each other.Also, it may be exhibited by older cats who may want to assert their authority others.An example is the Pixie bobs breed.
Cats spend a lot of their time asleep and when they get interrupted they may become agitated and react violently.
When there are sudden changes in the environment that the cat is used to as well as if it confined in a place for too long it may become a bit aggressive. An example is the Canadian Lynx breed which loves climbing high areas and Bengals who are highly destructive when confined.
Kittens with poor social skills may act aggressively when approached by humans.
Cats are naturally hypersensitive and sudden noises in the environment may trigger a reaction. For cats with volatile personalities, the change can trigger aggressive behavior. An example is the Geoffroy’s, Korat, Exotic and Bombay cat who are extremely sensitive to noise
Cats use head-bunting, whisker and nose touching to identify each other. Any change in scent such as a visit to the vet may cause the other cats to become aggravated as they sense an unfamiliar scent. An example is the Scottish fold cat, Persian which relates well with other pets at home and may easily sense if any unfamiliarity occurs.
They are active animals that play with toys, yarns, boxes around the house. It may seem a bit aggressive since they kick, bite and even use their claws, however, this is how they enjoy. It may become an issue if they extend this behavior to humans as their claws and bites cause bacterial infections
When with other cats the paw swatting, scratching and nibbling may become too aggressive if they feel threatened or challenged.
Cats are intelligent and are able to sense imminent danger, they thus may assume protective postures. This may include tail tucking and hunkering with legs under the body. Any further approach might result in the cat attack. An example is the Singapura breed which is not very social to humans and may misinterpret any human interaction.
An example of a breed who may display this aggression is the Sphynx, Scottish fold, Siamese who can be a bit demanding of their cat owners and may attack if they feel threatened or unloved.
A form of defensive aggression depicted by queens (female cats) when they are protecting their kittens. The first few weeks of the kittens’ life are very important. The heightened levels of estrogen, prolactin, oxytocin and progesterone coupled with strong motherly instincts that heighten aggression.
Male cats referred to as toms are more aggressive than the female or queens.
When of age cats do seek for mates, unneutered cats become extremely territorial and may often become quite aggressive towards each other.
An example is the Ocelot breed which has an irritating growl during mating.
Cats are highly sensitive to sound and are able to detect sounds that are made from a distance. Their senses are heightened when they detect the scent of unfamiliar cats or animals. For indoor cats, they may become highly aggressive if they are unable to come into contact with the ‘stranger’.
They may also react as a result of seeing other unfamiliar cats through the window. They may become aggressive to the owners who may have come to their aid. The problem with this type of aggression is that it may trigger an emotional disorder which associates the owner with attack and the cat continues to be aggressive
An example is a Cymric breed which is known for its mild anti-social behavior and often growls at undetected materials.
Cats are able to hide pain well and rarely show any emotions including tears but if they are injured or abused they may become highly aggressive. Medical conditions such as arthritis, dementia, epilepsy parasitic infection, hyperthyroidism and other bacterial and viral infections may heighten the reaction
In severe pain, the cat may lose it muscle ability and may wrongly use the litter box such as urinating outside the box.
Rough handling of the cats may also aggravate their condition.
Breeds of cats that are likely to react aggressively if mishandled especially by children are the Korat, Siamese and Bengals breed as they are quite unfriendly to children and strangers.
Cats especially female love to snuggle and do enjoy a gentle rub however when they are scratched or over stroked they may react aggressively. They are very intelligent and try to communicate when they get uncomfortable.
They keep shifting their position, meow loudly, tries to use their tail to slap the owner, stop purring and there is fast twitching of the ears.
An example is the American White hair whose fur coat that is a bit hard to the touch can get highly irritable if overdone.
This occurs when the cat is afraid of something or someone. The fear triggers a part of the brain that may cause involuntary muscle movement which may cause the cat to defecate, express anal gland, curl up their tail around the body and urinate.
Cats often fear changes, other animals, pets, phobias
Symptoms of Cat Aggression
- Poor appetite
- Biting and scratching
- Inactivity if it pain related
- Poor grooming and litter use as the aggressiveness may affect muscle movement
- Staring without blinking. Cats usually stare then blink when they are affectionate. A direct stare is a sign that they are highly alert and ready to attack or defend.
- Constant meowing and growling
- Mouth open with teeth exposed shows its ready to attack and defend
- Exposed claws. Cats gently scratch at their owners during play, full exposure is a form of defense.
- Lack of socialization and hides as it is highly irritable.
- Dilated pupils
- When cats are excited they wag their tails. A straight stiffened tail is a sign of aggressiveness
- Cat fur is often relaxed on the body, raised hair is a sign of aggression.
- Spitting especially when they want to mark territory.
- Loss of bladder control
- Fearful posture and expression
- Poor body posture that may involve limping, flat ears, coiling to avoid contact and hide
- Cats often purr and chirr when communicating with humans and other familiar cats. Sudden aggressive change in sound is a sign. For example the Caracals breed
- Paw swatting. Cats express their affection by using their front paws to gently knead their owners. However, in an aggressive state, they may roughly slap at other cats or humans
Treatment of Cat Aggression
- Neutering and Spaying of cats to reduce their mating hormones that often lead to aggression.
- Reduce petting the cat so as to avoid overstimulating them. Instead, use the cat’s favorite toy during petting to associate with joyful memories.
- Using flower essence, diffusers and sprays that create a familiar scent that calm the cat and reduce stress.
- The introduction of supplements to the diet so as to help provide immunity thus reduce aggression.
- Use of medication to deal with the pain that triggers the problem.
- Use of leashes and harnesses to help restrain highly aggressive cats
- Training of the cats to understand basic instruction
- Use of anti-anxiety and anti-depressants to help treat chemical imbalance.
- Euthanasia in extreme cases
- Physical exam
- Blood test
- Use of toys to assist during his private play
- Expose the cat to strangers quite often to increase their familiarity
- Scheduled play time to provide the cat with attention issues and also help to exercise.
- Use of vertical space to create personal space for each cat.
- Avoid punishing the cats as they will grow to fear.
- Providing a safe home for kittens within the first few weeks and introducing human contact early enough for them to adjust.
- Never leave cats unattended with children as they are highly irritable.