Cat aggression is the second most common behavior that veterinarians and animal behavioral specialists see on a daily basis. It is often underestimated because cats are smaller and don’t pursue people to bite them. However, cat aggression can sometimes even be more dangerous than dog aggression because rather than just having a mouth full of teeth to attack, cats also have four clawed paws that they use to harm their targets. Cat claws can be home to bacteria, which when it comes in contact with blood beneath the skin after a scratch, can lead to serious diseases such as cat scratch fever.
Before learning how to deal with cat aggression, it’s important to note that you should always speak with your veterinarian first to ensure that there are no underlying medical causes to your cat’s behavior. Once it is determined that your cat is healthy, then it is time to analyze her behavior to try and figure out the root cause of the aggression.
Types of Cat Aggression
There are two “types” of cat aggression according to the ASPCA: offensive and defensive, the organization explains, “an offensively aggressive cat tries to make himself look bigger and more intimidating, whereas a defensively aggressive cat adopts a self-protective posture and tries to make himself look smaller.” There are various warning signs that you can witness in a cat based on her posture and these differ between the two types of aggression:
Offensive Aggression Warning Signs:
- A stiff posture, with straight legs
- The cat’s back is arched with a lowered tail
- Direct eye contact with extremely constricted pupils
- Hair is sticking up
- Growling or yowling very loudly
- Directly facing you and possibly moving towards you without breaking eye contact
Defensive Aggression Warning Signs:
- Crouched down with the head tucked in
- Tail curved underneath the body
- Eyes very wide open with dilated pupils
- Flattened ears
- Not making eye contact with you and not facing you, instead of facing to the side
- Hissing or spitting
These are just some of the behaviors to look out for in an aggressive cat that will help determine whether the cat is in an offensive or defensive mood. If you are not sure how to read your cat’s behavior, then make sure to contact an animal specialist or veterinarian for help. This is important to keep both you and your cat safe.
Find the Cause of Your Cat's Aggression
When you determine the type of aggression your cat is exhibiting and consult your veterinarian about it, the next step is to observe what exactly triggers this negative behavior in your cat. The source could be a number of reasons—such as too much petting, being fearful of a new roommate in the house, a new pet, or simply just, frustration from boredom. This is why it’s important to watch your cat’s behavior and figure out what triggers it before taking action.
How to Help Your Cat
Once you figure out the source of the aggression, then it’s time to take steps towards making your cat feel more comfortable at home. Here are just a few simple ways to help your cat:
- Give her an awesome hiding place like a bed on a shelf in your closet, or a cool box with a door in it that’s nestled in the corner. With a safe space, your cat will hide there whenever she’s aggravated or scared, then come out when she thinks it’s safe to do so.
- Provide her with an enriching environment. Cats come from a long line of wild hunters who spend their days prowling through the jungle, so it makes sense that indoor cats get frustrated from boredom and as a result act out in aggression. By filling your house with interactive cat toys, your cat can stay entertained, which will help ease some of their aggressive behaviors.
- Give her space. Sometimes, as much as we hate it, our cat wants space. If she’s snoozing on the couch in the sun, don’t bother her. She’ll come around to you when she wants to be showered with affection and scratches!
- Have a nice window spot. Cats love to watch birds outside. By giving them a good spot to check out the great outdoors, you’ll keep their tiny minds entertained for hours and, in turn, have a less aggressive kitty.
What other tips do you have on helping aggressive kitties? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!