Aggressiveness is one of the most spread behavioral problems in cats. Unfortunately, quite often, owners of aggressive cats become desperate when trying to correct undesirable cat behavior and are forced to look for a way to get rid of their stubborn pets.

Since aggressive forms of behavior are common in cats, we will try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from their owners regarding this problem.

First of all, what is aggression? A threat and intentional harm to a person or another animal is a pure form of aggression. A cat can resort to this destructive form of communication often, but the most frequent forms of its aggression are territorial, fearful, playful, hunting, and redirected.

The following behavioral reactions accompany aggressive cat behavior:

  • A reaction from the senses – dilation of the pupils of the eyes, a change in the position of the ears (pressing to the head, etc.);
  • The characteristic movements of the tail are shaking or quick movements from side to side;
  • Performing movements specific for this type of body – sneaking up, pressing the body to the ground before making a jump, turning over on its back, scratching on wall ruing your ralph lauren paint, etc.;
  • By adopting frightening poses – by rearing the fur, arching the back, turning to a potential enemy sideways, which visually makes the animal’s body larger;
  • Creating ominous sounds – hiss or scream;
  • Biting and clawing.

Territorial Aggression

The combination and severity of these reactions depend on the type of aggressiveness inherent in the animal.

Territorial aggression is directed towards other cats (less often dogs and people) who live or temporarily find themselves in the territory that the animal considers its own. When several cats live in one apartment or some other limited area, it is divided between them under their “social status.” Attempts to violate the border entail a corresponding aggressive response. Sometimes, when one of the animals grows up, a struggle for redistribution of territory begins between the cohabitants. But most often, the problem arises when a new animal appears in an apartment where a cat already lives. Usually, an attack by a cat showing territorial aggressiveness is preceded by a long, irrelevant gaze at the enemy, increasing the tail movement’s intensity from side to side, adopting a challenging pose, and making frightening sounds.

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Fear-caused aggression

When a cat is confronted with something unfamiliar or is in a situation involving previous negative experiences, it can become aggressive due to fear. In some cases, if at the first signs of fear-induced aggressive behavior, the cat meets with confirmation of the correctness of its worries (for example, continued pursuit or actions that cause it physical pain), then it can develop a stable form of aggressive reactions. For instance, each visit to the veterinary clinics is accompanied by stress and often pain.

Usually, cats with this type of aggressiveness try to run away and hide from danger. If you pursue it and, especially dangerous, drive it into a hopeless position (for example, a corner), the cat will stop, fall to the ground, turn over on its back, and try to use its claws to grab the pursuer. When it is impossible to escape, and after such a determined resistance, it sets in motion the entire arsenal of intimidation – from hiss to howling, bending her back, ruffling her hair, etc.

Playful aggression

Such aggression usually occurs initially during play. Young cats are most susceptible to it. Suppose you regularly create a game situation in which the cat becomes aggressive. In that case, this form of behavior can gain a foothold and manifests itself every time in everyday life, when at least something resembles the conditions of the game. External manifestations of game aggression are primarily determined by the nature of the game that provokes it.

It is often manifested by the animal’s sudden attempts to sneak up, grab, scratch with its claws, bite or grab another animal, its owner, or its clothes with its teeth. According to guide from The Pets blog, some cat toys or cat scratch trees may help with engaging them. Furry family members have a natural instinct to climb and scratch, and they love to curl up for snoozing above ground level. Therefore, finding a tower for large breeds can be a daunting challenge.

Usually, the attack is preceded by intensive tail movements from side to side. A cat preparing for an attack pulls its ears back, pressing it to its head, and the pupils of its eyes increase. Sometimes this form of aggressiveness manifests itself according to the scheme: attack-escape.

Aggressive caused by hunting instincts

Hunting aggressiveness is not associated with the feeling of hunger of the animal. It is based on the behavior of the animal during the hunt. The first signs of such aggressiveness may appear already in 5-7-week-old kittens. When hunting aggression is manifested, cats do not emit any sounds, they sneak, periodically freezing and twitching their tail, carefully peering and listening. Having approached a sufficient distance, the animals suddenly make a rapid jump, often grabbing the object of attack with the claws of both paws and inflicting bites with their teeth. This might become a threat to your favorite poster of Ironman you got from art com.

This kind of aggressiveness can also be transferred to objects that are not included in the hunting interests of cats, such as humans.

Redirected aggression

The redirected aggression is directed towards a casual bystander who finds himself in a situation where the cat was influenced by a factor that induced its aggression. The cat owner can also be an injured party, even if the relationship between them is usually the warmest. Redirected aggression is, as it were, a continuation of the other forms of aggressive behavior described above.

Methods for correcting the aggressive behavior

This includes sterilization, avoidance of aggressive situations, and a combination of rewards with non-physical forms of punishment, changes in the animal’s environment, training, and the use of drugs. Eliminating each type of aggressive behavior requires a specific approach.

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To prevent or reduce the severity of territorial aggression, an acquaintance of the territory owner with the newly introduced animal is carried out gradually. Both cats are provided with separate bowls, houses. It is advisable first to place the newcomer in a different room, in which the former cat is less common than in the others. Over time, both animals will lose tension in relationships if they have nothing to share. Their meeting will facilitate establishing good relations between them during events that please them – during games with the owner, while feeding, etc. At the same time, of course, any possibility of competition and hostility between them should be excluded.

But in some cases, the incompatibility of cats can be so great that it cannot be overcome. In such cases, they are either completely isolated from each other, or they are given sedatives according to the veterinarian’s recommendations.

If you attach a small bell on the collar of an aggressive cat, it will allow its opponent to receive a warning about the attack in time and avoid conflict.

Communication with shy animals should be calm and helpful to avoid their fright and provocation of aggressiveness. Training, stress relief, and gradual habituation to fearful objects or situations can significantly alter your cat’s behavior.

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To prevent game-caused aggression, games must be either avoided or started by the owner, not the cat. When playing aggression is shown, the cat should not be physically punished, and if negative reinforcement is used, then only during the manifestation of aggressiveness. As such, any scary sound can be used, for example, sharply exhaling air.

Hunting aggressiveness can be corrected by the sudden fright of a hunting cat. Attaching a ringing bell to the collar also prevents the cat from hunting behavior. There are two opinions on how to behave with an animal that tends to be aggressive. Some vets recommend avoiding outdoor games with a cat showing a pronounced hunting reflex, especially in the presence of children. Others, on the contrary, recommend periodically giving the animal’s hunting instinct a release in the form of games with moving inanimate objects.

Madison Lee

Madison Lee is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with a degree in veterinary medicine. She has been an expert in pet care and animal behavior for 12 years. Her previous experience includes practicing as a veterinarian and volunteering in animal rescue organizations. She offers insights into responsible pet ownership, breed-specific care, and animal psychology. Her background includes working in animal shelters and as a pet nutrition consultant. She participates in community animal health awareness campaigns in her free time. She also enjoys trail running with her dog and is a wildlife photography hobbyist.

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