Cats are born with piercing teeth and four pairs of razor-sharp claws, ready to hunt. It’s no surprise that with so many weapons at their disposal, some cats turn to using them against their caregivers.
After house-soiling, cat aggression is the second most common feline misbehavior noted by behavior experts. This article will examine many types of cat-to-human antagonism and offer solutions.
Playtime Kitten Aggression
Is your feline offspring hiding under the hall table, ready to pounce on the first ankle that moves? Is she going to step on your toes when you’re sleeping? Play aggression is common in kittens and teenagers, and it can occasionally persist into young adulthood. This sort of violence is most common in single-cat households where the cat is left alone for eight to ten hours per day. During play aggressiveness, some cats may not be able to control their biting and scratching.
Increase your cat’s interactive play on a regular basis to protect your toes and ankles. Imitation bugs on wires, kitten fishing poles, feather wands, and catnip mice on a string with erratic bounce all function admirably. (For safety reasons, keep these toys out of reach of the cat when she is not being monitored.)
If you can predict when the assaults will occur, toss a toy ahead of you to divert the cat’s interest away from your feet. Avoid roughhousing with the cat, and make sure that the rest of the family obeys. You might also consider buying your home-alone cat a young feline companion to help her channel her youthful enthusiasm.
Defensive Aggression and Feline Fear
Two of the most dangerous types of feline aggression are fear/defensive aggressiveness and misdirected aggression. The fear and high-arousal components of various types of aggressiveness can result in deep multiple bites.
While all cats are scared of something, some have a lower stress tolerance and are more inclined to react aggressively. A kitten raised by a healthy mother, for example, is more stable than one raised in isolation from other humans and animals. You may assist your cat and prevent a recurrence of defensive violence by discovering what stresses him to the degree that he feels compelled to defend himself. Is it due of new people, loud noises, or an environmental change? If this is the case, place him in a quiet corner of the house when things become chaotic, and then make plans to begin a desensitization program as soon as things calm down.
Determine how close or loud the fearful stimuli must be to the cat to cause worry. You should begin right in the heart of his comfort zone. If your cat is scared of strangers in the kitchen, have them begin by peering through the doorway or standing a few feet outside. Request that they not stare at the animal. If the cat does not appear stressed, reward him with a tasty treat. Repeat the procedure as needed.
Take a step closer, utter a few words, or make a small arm movement when your cat appears to be at peace in their presence. With enough repetition, the cat should be able to associate the rewards with the sight of the formerly terrifying individuals and come to accept, if not welcome, them. Before you begin, you may need to consult with an applied animal behaviorist or receive anti-anxiety medication from your veterinarian.
Learning Cat Aggression: Rewarding Bad Behavior
When Sheila’s cat, Childe Harold, initially attacked her toes as she slept, it was simply nocturnal play violence. Sheila made the fatal mistake of distracting Harold with a predawn meal instead of ignoring his pranks. Unknowingly, Sheila became a victim of learned animosity. Harold discovered that attacking the caregiver might result in a reward. Cats quickly learn that being aggressive pays off, whether the reward is food, play, or the completion of an unpleasant chore, such as grooming or nail trimming.
Withdrawing the reward may eventually terminate the animosity, but the attacks may get more intense before stopping. If your cat’s restrained attacks are no longer rewarding, he may expend more effort to earn the desired reward. This is referred to as an extinction burst. Ignore the behavior without giving in to it, and it will eventually stop. If your cat’s attacks are particularly vicious, you should either avoid them entirely or arm yourself with a squirt gun or can of compressed air to deter the cat before the biting becomes more severe.
Overpetting Cat Aggression
You’ve sat on the couch, cuddling the cat in your lap and watching your favorite television show.
Suddenly, you feel the sting of teeth in your fingertips. In a second, Kitty has jumped off your lap and is grooming himself across the room. You’re probably confused about what just happened. You unintentionally exceeded your cat’s tolerance for petting. He almost definitely gave you unexpected warning signs before lashing out – most cats stiffen slightly, twitch their tails, and move their heads quickly as the touch reaches a restricted place, and their pupils are frequently dilated.
While unneutered males are the most common aggressors, females and neutered males can also become aggressive as a result of excessive stroking. Behaviorists do not know what triggers the response. Is it tactile arousal, startle after being lulled into a light sleep, or simply the cat’s way of stopping what he perceives has been going on for far too long? What matters most is that you learn to read your cat’s tiny indications and stop petting him before you cross his contact threshold.
Pairing meals or a treat with petting might progressively improve your cat’s contact threshold. Finish the strokes, give the reward, then stroke once or twice more before wrapping up the session, progressively increasing the number of after-treat strokes over time. For the extreme cat that can only manage a few strokes after you set the food bowl down and the cat has arrived to dine, stroke once or twice. Consider what cats do to one another. Typically, social grooming between cats is brief. The urge for long periods of social grooming is a human weakness.
Pain Causes Cat Aggression
When a cat is in pawithin, she frequently attacks the source. Physical reprimand and rough treatment can lead to revenge and are also detrimental to your cat. However, some sadness is inherent in life. Veterinarians are usually the objects of feline wrath when delivering vaccines or inspecting physical parts to ascertain diagnosis.
The combination of pain and the stress of being in a strange setting decreases the cat’s tolerance to handling. Many veterinarians will use muzzles to obscure a cat’s eyes or towel restraints when handling the cat since they cannot avoid inflicting some agony. If you need to medicate an infected ear or change a bandage, you may need similar items. This is one case where causing some discomfort is good to the cat.
Redirected Cat Aggression
Redirected aggression is the most harmful type of aggression. This can occur when the cat is aroused by a loud, startling noise, the sight, smell, or sounds of another animal, or strange people or places. His adrenaline is pumping as he yowls, growls, stares, stalks, and assaults anyone who happens to walk by. Caretakers who have observed this wrath firsthand frequently express the need to “rip the cat off.”
The cat can be aroused and menacing for up to six hours if overstimulated. Following one of these instances, confine the cat to a dark, quiet room or, if handling the cat is difficult, leave the house for several hours. If the cat is not given time to calm down and return to normal, a minor stimulation will rekindle its animosity.
Even though such misdirected anger attacks are destructive, they are usually isolated incidents. However, if the trigger stimulation is not removed, certain sensitive cats will continue to overreact. This is entirely dependent on the circumstances. It could be a new puppy in the backyard or a college-bound youngster who insists on playing basketball in the house. The stray cat should be removed, and the basketball should be confiscated as a first step.
If the source of the agitation cannot be eliminated, the cat may be desensitized to the stressor. Because of the inherent risks of misdirected aggression, this method should only be used under the guidance of a behaviorist. If arousal indicators are present, family members should be trained to avoid the cat; however, if the condition is severe and the stressor cannot be removed, the cat may need to be re-homed in a less stressful setting.
Fear and stress can push your normally placid cat over the edge, causing damage to your flesh as well as your bond. By building an escape route for your fearful feline, avoiding your kitty-on-the-warpath, or, if necessary, implementing a desensitization program, your home will once again be a safe refuge for all.
Mothers’ Cat Aggression
Maternal violence occurs when a new mother becomes overly protective of her litter. Cats have excellent visual acuity for movement. This hormonally inspired behavior is typically and predictably focused on other cats – intact males, in example, have been known to consume newborn kittens – but it may also be directed toward humans.
When the kittens are most vulnerable, maternal antagonism is most likely in the first three to four weeks following delivery. If the mother cat charges at you, soothe her by leaving her and her kittens alone for the first several weeks if they are all healthy. As the kittens grow older, lure mom from the nursery for food or play time while another family member socializes the kittens. Spay mom once the babies have been weaned to avoid the experience recurring again.
Territorial Aggression in Cats
Cats are extremely territorial animals. By spraying urine or scratching or rubbing oil from scent glands, males and, to a lesser extent, females stake their claims on trees, entrances, and other surfaces. Claim jumpers are frequently hunted or attacked.
The majority of territorial aggression between cats happens. The local kitty, on the other hand, will occasionally try to chase unexpected individuals off his imagined land. He’s probably reacting to the smell of other animals on his victim. Request that your guests wash their hands and change into clean clothes before they come. Unfortunately, despite its rarity, this type of hostility is quite difficult to resolve, and if Felix continues to act as if all vwill beitors are usurpers, the only way to regulate the situation is to isolate him before company arrives.
Pathophysiology of Cat Aggression
When you wake up one morning, your normally placid cat has unleashed the tiger within and is acting violently. His hostility, on the other hand, does not appear to fit into any of the previous categories discussed in this series. What should a stressed-out caregiver do? Pay close attention to the veterinary clinic!
Pathophysiological aggression is a painful response to anal sac obstruction, lower urinary tract disease, arthritic changes, oral sores, or infection. It could also be a response to a medical condition such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, or a brain tumor, or a neurological problem such as trauma, poisoning, feline ischemic encephalopathy (a degenerative mind illness), or the “furious” stage of rabies. Careful observation – and, if required, expert intervention – will reveal the source of your grumpy tabby’s exceptionally cranky behavior.
Hunting Cat Aggression
When left to their own devices, feral cats, barn cats, and outdoor cats hunt birds, insects, and small mammals to survive. According to the July 1995 issue of Catnip, a journal published by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, “the cat has developed directly into a brilliant spotter, tracker, and pouncer.” She will thereby drive any intruders from the nest.” Their mothers educate them to hunt, ambush, pounce, and, most crucially, murder. Mom most likely did not train the kitty who simply “plays” with prey.
Kittens with hunting mothers may display preliminary skills in the art of the kill at four weeks. The average, spoilt young domestic tabby, then, directs his energies on the physical parts of his unknowing human guardian. The most intense and frequent misdirected attacks occur throughout late kittenhood and adolescence (a period of peak feline fitness and vigor), and then level off or end at 1-1/2 to 2 years of age.
Take heart: after Simba’s second summer, the ASPCA Behavior Helpline rarely receives complaints about bedtime “twitching toe assaults.” But there’s no reason to put up with it till the cat matures. The solution is to redirect the predatory play. To put it another way, divert the cat’s attention to something that appears to be alive (at least to the cat) but will not be injured by the cat’s quick flurry of teeth and nails.
If your cat displays any of these signs of aggression, regardless of the type, it’s time to take action. If you’re unsure, consult your veterinarian or a local shelter for a referral to a feline behaviorist. While not every incidence of violence can be resolved, you won’t know how effective you can be unless you take the first step.
Wondering about Dealing With Nighttime Troublemakers? Check it out on our latest post!