Because of the inherent nature of the cat, a display of aggression toward another member of its own species, especially if a territory has been violated, is somewhat common. Aggressiveness toward humans, on the other hand, can be influenced by a number of factors, including personality defects, fear, play activity, and medical disorders.
Cats that have not been properly socialized to people can be expected to show some degree of aggressiveness when feeling threatened. It is also a well-known fact that even some socialized cats just want to be left alone at times and may become aggressive if disturbed.
Personality defects can lead to true aggressive tendencies in cats. These are cats that have been poorly socialized to humans, or have experienced negative socialization. Nervous or hyperexcitable cats or those with extremely domineering personalities can also show aggressiveness at times as well.
An agitated or angry cat will flag its tail and flatten its ears against its head when approached or touched. A lowpitched growl or hiss is usually heard as well.
All aggressive cats, especially males, should be neutered or spayed. If neutering doesn’t eliminate the problem, then antianxiety medications can be used to help “take the edge off” the pugnacious feline.
Fear-induced aggression rarely responds to training or reprimand. In fact, if such actions are attempted while the cat is in such a state, serious injury to an owner could result! The self-defense posture caused by fear-induced aggressive behavior is characterized by piloerection (hair standing on end), arched back, flattened ears, and hissing or spitting.
Cats that feel threatened will lash out with their claws, and make short, sharp lunges at their adversaries. If they really sense danger, they often roll over on their backs, and assume a defense posture that will allow them to utilize the claws on all four feet.
Obviously, eliminating the source of fear is the first step in managing such aggression. Afterwards, give your cat plenty of time alone to calm down and relax. A special food treat can be offered as well to help take its mind off the incident.
Playful aggression must be differentiated from the two previous types of aggression, since it is by far the easiest to address. This type of aggression is seen primarily in younger cats filled with youthful energy and curiosity. These cats may stalk house guests or ambush unexpecting owners when they arrive home.
This behavior provides them a way to release excess energy and to practice their instinctive hunting skills. Most bites inflicted during this type of play are not meant to break the skin; however, this can certainly be a function of the game’s intensity.
One physical characteristic of a mischievous cat or kitten is that they often carry their tail arched up over their back or in an inverted “U” position during these play episodes. Playful aggression can be managed by allowing your cat greater access to toys such as paper bags, ping pong balls, or windup, moving figures.
If you play action games with your cat using strings attached to toys, be sure to remove these strings following a play session. Finally, taking your cat out for more walks during the day can help expend some of its pent-up energy.
Negative reinforcement utilizing water sprayers or compressed-air canisters can also be used to break overzealous cats of their bad habits. As a last resort, simply isolating your rambunctious feline in another room while you have guests over will ensure that they are not met with any unexpected surprises!
Let us not forget about medical causes for aggressiveness in cats. Cats that don’t feel good often just want to be left alone, and if they are disturbed, they may show aggressiveness. Diseases that affect the nervous system (including rabies), metabolic disorders, and pain can all have a negative effect on a cat’s personality.
If your cat has experienced a gradual or sudden change in personality, have it examined by a veterinarian in order to rule out possible medical causes for the change.