30 April 2014 | Cat health issues

Dealing with aggressive cats.

It is in a feline’s DNA to display some sort of aggression, be it in the form of predation, social interaction or simply rough play. The level of aggression displayed will most often be according to breed or background, but can result in scratching, biting or clawing. No fun if you’re an innocent bystander! The good news is that most of the time your cat will provide plenty of warning before acting aggressively. If he displays any of the below, back away and leave him be. Chances are, he will calm down and go about his business, with no harm done.  

Signs of pending aggression:

  • Growling
  • Hissing/spitting
  • Flattening  of ears
  • Hairs on his neck (hackles) up
  • Twitching tail
  • Tense body
  • Staring straight ahead/pupils dilated
  • Crouching body

What follows are some simple and typical types of aggressive behaviour and how you can deal with each one individually:

1. Rough play

Rough play most often starts as kittens and is often encouraged by humans who find it cute to “rough-house” with their kittens. That is until they get bigger and the teeth and claws become a whole lot more painful!

Solution: Try not to encourage aggressive play. If your ankles are constantly under attack, get a toy and quickly throw the toy for the cat to play with in anticipation of their next pounce. Distraction, as well as the entire family’s buy-in is key!

2. Redirected aggression 

If a cat randomly lashes out at you as you are merely walking past, the chances are that it’s a case of redirected aggression – meaning your cat is agitated or annoyed by something he can’t get to; a cat outside, birds on the lawn etc. You are not the target, just the unfortunate victim.

Solution: This is a difficult one to correct seeing as you might not be witness to whatever has upset your cat. Look for the warning signs (see above) and avoid any contact. And if possible, remove any form of aggression-inducing triggers.

3. Fear 

Knowing your cat’s background is important. Has he been abused at all? Is there any reason for your cat to be fearful? Do certain incidents trigger aggression? If cat’s are scared or feel threatened in any way, they will lash out.

Solution:  Know your cat’s history and look for the signs. Provide a loving home, and ensure plenty of stimulation and positive interaction.

4. Over-petting

Do you find that your cat will be sitting happily on your lap, with you contentedly stroking him, when suddenly he lashes out for no apparent reason? Chances are you’ve stroked him one time too many. (yes, there is such a thing.)

Solution: Look for the signs (see above). As soon as he stops purring and displays any of the warning signs, stop petting. He’ll most likely move away or simply nod off to sleep.

5. Pain or illness

If your cat displays any form of aggression without any apparent reason, you should get him checked out by a vet for any pain or illness. If you were in pain or sick, you’d be pretty grumpy too!

Solution: Head to the nearest vet and treat accordingly.

6. Maternal

As with most mothers (human or feline), cats are extremely protective of their offspring. If you try and mess with their kittens (even with the best of intentions), chances are you will be met with solid aggression.

 Solution: Provide mom and babies with a loving environment, ensuring all their needs are met, and then leave them be! 

7. Territorial 

Animals are instinctively territorial, and cats are no exception. They often mark their territory by urine spraying. Territorial aggression is often displayed when stray cats wander in to their yard, or a major change occurs in their environment (moving house or a new baby). 

Solution: Once again, ensure a loving and comfortable environment; offer plenty of interaction and toys or scratching posts for them to sink their claws into. If you are introducing a new cat to the household, do it gradually, separating them at first. Never punish or hurt your cat when they display any form of aggression. 

This will only make the situation worse. Be patient and remember to read the signals. If the situation is beyond your control, consult a professional who can assess your individual situation.   Did you know Regal has a product to help calm, heal and strengthen your cat. 

Read about the Cat Health Tonic and how it can help you help your cat.  

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