It is not uncommon to hear people say that cats are unpredictable creatures and that they bite and scratch out of the blue. A new study recently estimated that around 27 percent of cats living in shelters were left there because of aggressive cat behavior.

Is aggressive Cat behavior really that common? Has it become that difficult for Cat owners to take care of? Luckily, the answer to those questions is a reassuring “no”. More often than not, dealing with an aggressive cat doesn’t need the intervention of a specialist — only the patience and persistence of the owner.


Why Are Cats Aggressive?

Cats are complex creatures, and their behavior is usually just as complex. Although the roots of the problem may appear invisible to humans and we assume that cats are only overreacting to a small change in the environment. This is usually not the case.

Cats fighting
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While these environmental changes might seem small and insignificant to us, cats are completely different creatures and have a different perception of their surroundings.

Cat aggression is not a simple behavioral problem — it has many different causes that need to be analyzed carefully. It’s very important for the owner to recognize and identify the triggers and targets of aggressive cat behavior in order to intervene successfully.


Types of Cat Aggression

Knowing that cat aggression can be caused by a number of various stimuli and that it can be classified into different types is half of the battle against this problematic behavior. Listed here are some of the most common signs of aggression in cats, their causes, along with some solutions.


Play and Predatory Cat Aggression

Using one’s fingers and bare hands to chase a kitten in a room and play around with them is something most kitty owners just can’t resist. After all, it’s adorable to see such a small creature having fun with much bigger human hands! While it might be all fun and games when they’re still small, it can turn into a problem when they’re all grown resulting in unwanted cat bites and scratches.

Kitten Biting Hand when playing
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By playing rough with a kitten you are teaching them that your hands are moving targets and okay to play with. Grown cats who were encouraged to play this way, who don’t get much exercise, and that might be bored from being alone all day are particularly susceptible of showing this aggressive behavior.

To deal with this behavior, avoid playing rough with your kitten or cat with your fingers and hands. Instead, set some time aside to play with them using cat-appropriate toys and keep any painful cat bites and scratches from happening.


Petting-Induced Cat Aggression

Picture this: you’re sitting on the couch, your cat comes up to you to be petted, and after a while they’re biting and scratching you before running into another room. Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Petting-induced cat aggression is one of the most frustrating kinds of aggressive cat behavior for cat owners. Why did your cat lash out after being given love and attention?

Petting Kitten
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While some cats don’t like to be touched at all, some do and actively seek it. However, even the cuddliest cats have a threshold for affection.

The trick to never be left with cat bites and scratches after a session of petting is to know your cat’s limit. If you feel them start to get agitated don’t try to restrain them — simply let them go away. Showing your cat that they will only be handled when they want and how they want is a sure way to deal with this aggressive cat behavior.


Maternal Cat Aggression

Mothers have the instinct to protect their offspring, and mother cats are no exception. Female cats are very protective of their babies and will not let anyone — cat or human — approach them as they might feel threatened.

Mother Cat
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Although it might seem difficult to not pet tiny furry kittens, this is not a wise move. The simplest way to avoid being left with cat scratches, cuts and cat bites is to leave the mother and her kittens alone during the first weeks of their lives.


Pain-Induced Cat Aggression and Irritability

Cats can lash out at other cats or even their favorite humans when touched in a spot that’s been injured. When cats react aggressively to being touched in these places it’s not a personal matter, and it doesn’t mean their owner has done something wrong — rather the pain and discomfort is too much to be tolerated.

Injured Cat
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If you think your cat’s aggression might be due to pain, you should visit your vet as soon as possible. Some diseases such as arthritis and dental pain can go unnoticed to the untrained eye, but a cat’s aggressive behavior can be a tell-tale sign. The best solution to stop this kind of aggression is to have your cat checked out as soon as possible and cured of any ailments.


Territorial Aggression in Cats

Just like humans don’t like people intruding into their homes unannounced, cats don’t like other animals barging into their territory. Cats are especially prone to show territorial cat aggression towards other cats, but they can also exhibit this aggressive cat behavior towards humans and dogs alike.

Territorial Cat
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More often than not, this kind of aggressive cat behavior is shown when a new cat is introduced into the household. It’s crucial to introduce the two felines properly; otherwise there can be long-term problems with socialization. Never force two cats to be together in the same room and always keep an eye on both of them during the first few weeks of contact.

If you have a garden, your cat can also display territorial aggression if they see other cats roaming around on your property. To avoid territorial aggression in cats or any possible anxiety, simply block all entrance points to your garden or use citrus sprays to ward off any intruding felines.


Knowing the Signs of Aggression in Cats

It’s not too hard to notice the signs of aggression in cats, but sometimes they can be misinterpreted. Knowing what they are can spare you from any cat bites and scratches as well as any hurt feelings.

The most common signs of aggression in cats are a stiff body posture, arched back raised to the sky, cat hair standing up, a direct stare and growling noises. Alternatively, if your cat is crouching, has their tail tucked in, erected hair and is hissing and showing their fangs they are also preparing to attack.


Kittens that Play rough and Bite. Is It Aggressive Kitten Behavior?

Playing rough with other kittens is very common for these felines. When they’re around their siblings and mothers, kittens learn how to play rough without injuring others. Techniques such as suppressing their bites and retracting their claws when playing rough are taught from a very young age — so it’s natural that kittens will do this even when they only have humans around.

Kittens playing rough
flickr photo credit

It is not, contrary to what might be perceived, a sign of aggressive kitten behavior. However, cats that were orphaned very early in life or taken away from their mothers too soon might not have learned this etiquette.

While it’s a natural way of playing, it’s one that should not be encouraged. Letting a kitty rough-house their owners or other pets in the household is not a good thing as they will get used to it and not stop even when they’re grown.


Solutions to Aggressive Cat Behavior

Different stimuli may produce different kinds of cat aggression. To know exactly how to solve aggressive cat behavior problems, you should first identify why your cat is displaying this behavior and only then choose an appropriate course of action.

An aggressive cat is usually a problem that can be dealt with at home without the intervention of a professional.

The most popular remedies for cat aggression are:

  • Tiring out your cat by playing with them each day.
  • Offering a Cat Tree or scratch pole so they can get exercise when they’re alone at home.
  • Avoid situations they might perceive as threatening.

Be sure to discourage any aggressive cat behavior. Never hit or yell at your Cat, but a sharp “no” can distract them from what they are doing. If they are attacking your hands or feet, tell them “no” right away.

Once they have stopped, grab a cat toy and play with them. If you’re working, offer them a toy they can play with on their own until you can spend some time with them.

If your cat or kitten still doesn’t get the message you can remove your attention. Doing this may have a more drastic effect. Simply walk away, go into another room and shut the door; or even leave the house and give them some time to settle down.

Kittens playing with Cat Toy

Also remember to praise your cat for any good behavior when they get along with other pets in your home, when they play with a toy instead of attacking your hands or feet or when they listen to you when asked to not play rough. Offer praise even when they are simply doing something you like.

If you’ve implemented a strategy to solve aggression problems with your cat or kitten, make sure everyone in the house is using the same strategy so your cat will get a consistent message.


Dealing with Cat Aggression Requires Patience

Hopefully our discussion on the different types of cat aggression will help you to better understand your Cat. Before you try and figure out how you can solve any aggressive cat behavior problem, first try to determine the type of aggression your cat is actually displaying.

Once you know the type of aggression, use some of our suggestions to create a strategy to help you deal with it. Implement it gradually and keep in mind that at the end of the day, it’s very important to simply remain patient with your cat.

For pain-induced aggression or if your strategy is not having any positive effect, you may want to visit your local vet or a cat behaviorist. Sometimes health problems or even genetic predispositions can set off aggressive cat behavior, which is why a specialist should be able to help you.

Do you have a question about cat aggression? Let us know in the comments below!



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