Kitty Aggression

Contributed by Angie Lewis, President of Alaska Animal Advocates

Cats can sometimes demonstrate aggressive behavior toward their humans, despite loving them. When cats do not have another avenue to release their aggression, such as other cats in the household to play with or if they are indoor-only cats, they can become quite feisty. This is a problem that can be solved. 

First, make certain that your cat is not experiencing any health problems. It is difficult to determine when a cat is in pain, so a visit to the vet is in order. There are also some medical disorders that can impact a cat’s behavior. If your veterinarian doesn’t find any health problems, you need to figure out what is triggering your cat’s aggressiveness. 

Cats rarely attack without giving a warning, therefore, it is really important to learn to read your kitty’s body language, so that you can pick up cues as to what to look for when she becomes angry. There are many books or online resources that will help with this. Typically, when a cat is in a defensive mode, she will try to minimize her size, flatten her ears, raise her hackles, crouch, turn away from you and she may hiss or swat at you. An offensive posture is one in which your cat will try to make herself appear larger – ears are upright, tail and legs are stiff, hackles raise, and may include a predatory movement towards you.  In either case, give your cat space, so that you do not become a target for her aggression. 

Many cats are sensitive to being pet and may lash out at you, even if they initiated the interaction. How confusing for us poor humans! If you feel your cat tense up while you are petting her, she has probably reached her petting limit. This is a good time to pay attention to body language – your kitty may flatten her ears to her head, twitch her tail or try to escape your grasp. LET HER GO! Next time you pet her, learn to pay attention to her body language and let her go at the first sign of discomfort. Do not restrain your cat when you are petting her – cats like to be in control of their environment. The more you allow your kitty to make her own choices, the more you will encourage her to have positive interactions with you. Remember, some kitties are just less cuddly than others.

Some aggression is play-related and is more common in kittens and young cats. We have all experienced a cat stalking our toes while in bed or having a kitty “attack” our ankles as we walk by. Most kitties, who have been raised with their littermates, learn to control their biting and scratching. A cat that is alone too often or does not have appropriate play outlets, may continue this behavior into adulthood. These kitties can benefit from an assortment of toys and interaction with their humans. Also, have lots of cat-friendly scratching surfaces and climbing areas. Do not play rough with your kitty. 

So, if your kitty has demonstrated some aggressive behavior, learn to avoid activities that would encourage aggression. Training your kitty, using a clicker and treats, provides positive play experiences and stimulates her mind. If you are still experiencing problems, contact a veterinarian or an animal behavior specialist. 

Don’t give up on your feisty kitty, she is worth the effort.