Most cats love to pounce and play with their humans. But at some point, cat owners must have experienced their kitties unleashing a sudden attack with their teeth and claws. Aggressive cat behaviour is a serious issue that needs immediate attention. It is one of the most prevalent behaviour problems in felines. To gain more understanding about aggressive cat behaviour, we have listed down its main causes and tips on how to stop it.
What is aggressive cat behaviour?
Aggression in cats is characterised by hostile and violent behaviour directed toward another cat, animal, or person. Cats commonly do this behaviour to intimidate or dominate. Feline aggression is a complex behaviour problem with different causes and triggers, making it difficult to control and eliminate. When cats become aggressive, they can inflict pain and cause injury to their targets. Although fights between cats rarely lead to fatalities, cats can potentially develop serious infections from bites or scratches. To avoid injuries due to aggressive cat behaviour, cat owners must be able to recognise the triggers and warning signs as well as understand the causes of this feline behaviour problem.
What are the warning signs of aggressive cat behaviour?
Knowing your cat’s body language and behaviour under normal situations can help you recognise her motivations and triggers. Through this, you will know how to respond effectively if your cat exhibits aggressive behaviour. The following are warning signs of aggressive cat behaviour:
- Piloerection (Goosebumps)
- Twitching or thrashing of tail
- Eyes wide open with dilated pupils
- Growling, hissing, or spitting
- Raising of hairs on the back
- The back is arched or tensed
- Ears are flattened
- Stalking and pouncing
- Baring of teeth
- Whiskers are pulled back
10 Types of Aggressive Cat Behaviour
Why is a cat suddenly aggressive towards the owner? Why do cats suddenly fight each other? Cats can exhibit aggressive behaviour for several reasons. It is crucial to know the different types of aggression so that they can be properly addressed.
1. Predatory or Play Aggression
Play aggression is the most common type of aggressive behaviour cat owners often suffer from their feline friends.
It is natural for kittens and young cats to engage in rough play. They will often stalk, pound, and bite their owner’s feet or hands. This is a way to practise and hone their predatory instincts.
Play aggression often happens around the hunting time of cats: morning and evenings. This also occurs because of boredom and lack of exercise.
It is observed that orphaned and early-weaned kittens cannot control their rough play, which then leads to play aggression, because of the lack of learning and socialising from the mother cat.
Never encourage your cat to playfully bite any part of your body, as it can turn into a bad habit. Redirect his play aggression to interactive cat toys such as feather toys or a fuzzy mice.
2. Territorial Aggression
Cats are highly territorial, and they will not hesitate to defend what is theirs. The size of a feline’s territory can be as small as a room to as big as a whole block. They will mark their domain by urine marking, inappropriate elimination, chin rubbing, and clawing.
There are various triggers to a cat’s territorial aggression, including introducing a new cat into the household, the presence of stray cats in your cat’s territory, and big and sudden changes in her living environment.
3. Intact Cat Aggression
Intact cat aggression is more commonly seen in male cats than females. This type of feline behaviour problem often begins when the tomcats reach their sexual maturity.
This aggressive cat behaviour acts out when adult cats are around 3–4 years old. Intact cat aggression is also linked to territorial aggression.
4. Pain-Induced Aggression
This kind of feline aggression is commonly caused by medical problems like dental disease. Even the gentlest of cats can become irritable if they are hurt. Being ill makes them very vulnerable. Thus, they will have a strong instinct to protect themselves from any threats.
To prevent this type of aggressive cat behaviour, avoid touching the painful body parts of your sick or injured cat. Think about working with the vet to come up with a feline pain control plan.
5. Petting-Induced Aggression
This type of aggressive cat behaviour is triggered when a cat becomes overstimulated. It is commonly caused by repeated stroking. However, it can also be due to handling and any type of grooming activity.
For this reason, mind your feline companion’s tolerance level for petting. Once she starts exhibiting signs of aggression, do not touch her or make any forms of physical contact.
Don’t insist, or else pet-induced aggression may occur. Note that male cats are more likely to display petting-induced aggression than female cats.
6. Redirected Aggression
What causes unprovoked aggression in cats? Some cat owners describe redirected aggression as an unprovoked behaviour problem in cats. This type of feline aggression is triggered by the cat’s inability to approach a particular stimulus.
For instance, your indoor cat may have smelled another animal’s scent on their owner or watched prey animals through a window. As a result, the cat will unleash her pent-up frustration to the first human or animal that approaches her.
Do not mistake redirected aggression as an intentional act to inflict injury. It is simply a strong instinct that your feline friend cannot rein in. She will not go around trying to find people or animals to hurt.
A cat that exhibits this aggressive cat behaviour should be isolated in a quiet room until her agitation abates. It may take a few hours to several days before her redirected aggression completely wears off. Thus, be sure to move her food and water bowls and litter box in the room that she’s confined in.
7. Status-Induced Aggression
Some cats have a dominating nature, much like dogs. Since they want to be at the top of the social hierarchy, they may challenge their owner’s or another cat’s power. This is how status-induced aggression happens.
The best way to handle this type of aggressive cat behaviour is to ignore your cat. Only give her attention once she has calmed down.
8. Fear Aggression
It is also known as defensive aggression. This feline behaviour problem can be seen when a cat comes across unfamiliar stimuli or intimidating situations. If she is unable to find an escape, this type of aggressive animal behaviour can quickly worsen.
Giving your fearful cat some space to let her relax is a simple but great way to let distress and aggression subside. Never coddle her as it would mean you are encouraging her undesirable behaviour.
You can also try to use feline calming spray or plugins to help curb her fearfulness and aggression.
9. Maternal Aggression
As its name suggests, this type of cat aggression is often acted out by a mother cat or queen. It is triggered when people or other animals that she sees as threats approach her newborn kittens.
Maternal aggression lasts for 3–4 weeks after the birth of a litter. Around this time, it would be best to avoid handling the kittens. This aggressive cat behaviour will slowly fade once the queen’s kittens turn older and self-reliant.
Another thing that you can do to prevent onset maternal aggression is by placing the mother cat and her offspring in a quiet and stress-free environment. Install a baby gate in the area, if possible. This is to keep the kittens from wandering into other areas of the house.
10. Idiopathic Aggression
Idiopathic aggression is any type of aggressive cat behaviour with unknown stimuli. This behaviour problem cannot be traced back to the cat’s medical history or behaviour history.
Sadly, the cause of idiopathic aggression is hard to pinpoint. Some vets may recommend owners consider euthanising their affected cat.
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How to calm an aggressive cat
Attempting to calm an aggressive cat can be a nerve-wracking task. However, with the right approach, you can stop the situation from escalating and bring your feline friend back to her normal self. Here are some ways that you can to do calm an aggressive cat:
- Having their own place to relax by themselves is important for cats. Provide her with enough vertical space, such as a cat tree or high shelves.
- No verbal or physical punishment. According to experts, hitting your cat or screaming at your cat will do little to change her aggressive behaviour. These types of methods can even intensify her anxiety and irritation.
- As mentioned earlier, always remember not to comfort, soothe, or calm your aggressive cat. Give her space. If you approach her, your cat might redirect her aggression towards you.
- Neuter your cats to prevent inter-cat or territorial aggression. Unsterilised male cats are prone to developing aggressive behaviour.
- Communicate with your veterinarian. Feline aggression can be triggered by a medical condition or an existing health problem. Working with your vet can help identify the triggers and the corresponding behavioural adjustments.
How to handle mild feline aggression between cats that used to get along
- Separate your cats’ resources such as food/water bowls, litter boxes, and beds.
- Do not let your cats fight it out. They cannot resolve their issues through fighting, as it might just make it worse. Instead, you can interrupt aggressive actions with a water gun or noiseless burst of compressed air.
However, do not use your body to keep them from fighting as it often triggers redirected feline aggression.
- Have your cats switch rooms daily. This will allow them to catch each other’s scents.
- When both cats have calmed down, reintroduce them slowly.
How to handle severe feline aggression between cats
- If one cat shows territorial aggression and dominates another cat, you must separate them for a longer period. Don’t rush the reintroduction. Let them stay confined in their separate rooms until they are ready to be reintroduced.
- During the reintroduction sessions, the following can be done:
- Cats must be far apart from each other right from the start to avoid triggering aggressive cat behaviour.
- Using leads or harnesses will help you control your cats better.
- Another alternative is to keep at least one or even both of your cats inside their crates.
- Keep both of your cats distracted by offering them food or treats or playing with them.
- Make sure that the reintroduction sessions are short.
- Behavioural medication can help reduce a cat’s aggression, which will make the reintroduction process easier.
- The only time the cats can be together without supervision is when they can eat peacefully around each other.
However, you should only leave them unsupervised for a short period to prevent fights. It will take more time before they get comfortable with each other and coexist peacefully. Read: How Do You Introduce Your Cat to a New Kitten?
If All Else Fails, Work with an Expert
If you have tried all means and nothing seemed to make a difference in your cat’s aggressive behaviour, do not hesitate to contact a feline behaviour expert. They will help find other options to stop your feline friend’s aggressive cat behaviour such as behaviour modification. Did you find this article helpful? Learn more about preventive measures for different cat health concerns here!