Part II: Dealing with Feline Aggression

by catfood

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 bite


Cats Who Are Terrified

Jitters spits and hisses at Alice, the new neighbor, as she enters the kitchen, nestled in a tight ball with his ears squeezed against his skull. While cooing to the cat, Alice reaches out to stroke the cornered cat and…bam! The host team receives one bite, while the visitor receives one bleeding hand.

When they were imprisoned and had no way out, jitters exhibited a common defense behavior – fear aggressiveness. This was not a clandestine operation. Jitters, like most cats, expresses his emotions by vocalizations such as growling, hissing, spitting, and baring his teeth. If these cues are disregarded, his hunched-up body will stiffen like a spring, ready to jump forward for a quick bite or turn over to expose deadly claws. When you back off, you almost always avoid an attack.


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 repetition, the cat should grow to identify the rewards with the appearance of the formerly threatening people and 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.


The Following Is the Best Thing

Redirected aggression is the most harmful type of aggression. This can occur when the cat gets awakened by a loud, startling noise, the appearance, scent, or noises of another animal, and caregivers who have witnessed this anger firsthand commonly comment that they had to intervene “Remove the cat. With his adrenaline rushing, he yowls, growls, stares, stalks, and attacks anyone who chances to walk by.” 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. Depending on the situation, the stimulus may differ. 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 redirected aggression is risky, it should be done under the supervision 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.

Wondering about Resolving Feline Aggression Part III? Check it out on our latest post!


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