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Understanding the reasons behind cat agression and ways to cope with aggressive cats

Cats are territorial and changes in the environmental can trigger extremes in their behaviour which are often observed as aggression, although this is disturbing it is natural behaviour of a cat.

Aggression can be associated with the following:

  • Play fighting
  • Territorial behaviour
  • Medical problems (pain)
  • Non-recognition (after being in cattery/vet)
  • Dominance
  • Maternal
  • Instinctive hunting behaviour

Cats display a variety of aggressive behaviors, mainly due to fear or wanting to defend themselves; the most problematic type is redirected aggression. These attacks are often triggered by the sight, smell or sounds of unfamiliar cats or when they come into contact with something they perceive to be threatening such as another cat or dog. Once they have been stimulated by the perceived threat they may attack the closest object, which could be a family member or another pet.

A cat exhibiting redirected aggression may growl and pace, swish his tail, exhibit dilated pupils and his hair may stand on end. It is difficult to diffuse this behavior because the stimulus for the aggressive behavior is often unavailable. However, with careful observation, you can tell when your cat is likely to become aggressive and avoid contact with him.

Extreme fear may provoke hissing, spitting, and trying to escape from the danger. Territorially defensive cats may stalk, or howl, and even pounce on perceived intruders. Both fear and territorial defense may lead to biting and scratching.

It is important to take your cat to the vet to rule out any general medical conditions that may contribute to this behavior. Provided your cat is in good physical health, your vet should be able to offer you appropriate behavioural advice and calming agents such as Feliway.

Coping with cat aggression:

  • If your cat is showing redirected aggression, have him checked by your veterinarian as pain or neurological problems could be causing the problem.
  • Prevent your cat's aggressive behavior from becoming a habit by intervening early.
  • Use calming agents such as:
  • Keep aggressive cats separate from each other and reintroduce them slowly when signs of aggression have disappeared.
  • Interrupt and startle cats that are being aggressive toward each other with a squirt of water or by making a loud noise.
  • Use food treats occasionally to reward non-aggressive behavior