Causes of Cat Aggression

Cat Aggression

However lovely, sweet and sociable your cat might be towards you and your family, the same may not be true when it comes to other cats. Just like humans, some cats are very social with other cats however others can be most reserved about spending time with other cats and may prefer to be on their own.

This is a very important idea to understand as many owners think that getting a second cat will help their existing cat be more sociable and ‘better’ with others. This is a very risky move as you can never be sure how a cat will react to another. It might be that the new cat is very social and respects the existing cat in which case, the situation may prove beneficial and it might all go well. Alternatively, your new cat may also feel uncomfortable around others which can lead to an agitated, highly charged household and can be dangerous for the owners especially if they have children.

Why is your Cat being Aggressive?

There are a few reasons why your cat is acting aggressively:

  • Territorial Aggression
  • Defensive Aggression
  • Displaced Aggression

Territorial Aggression

This kind of aggression occurs when the cat feels that there is an intruder in their ‘marked’ territory. The most common reason for this kind of aggression is when your cat sees another animal (or in some cases, human) in the garden or when a new cat is brought home by the owner. This is why getting a second cat after the other has settled can be a dangerous decision that might not work out. Bear in mind that females can be just as territorial as males.

Kittens learn to socialise and interact from an early age. This means that if you get your cat at an early age, it will overcome its natural fear and avoidance tendencies and interact with other unfamiliar humans better at a later stage. In the same sense, if your cat grows up with other cats, the same bonds will be strengthened and it is likely that it will react better to new cats in the future.

Defensive Aggression

This is where the cat feels threatened and become aggressive in order to protect itself usually because they feel they cannot escape.

This kind of aggression is probably less likely than other forms but can be stimulated by other aggressive animals or the threat, or act, of punishment by the owner. Usually if a cat feels threatened in this way it will crouch down low, stare at the potential threat and remain very still. If you see your cat in this posture, it is best not to approach it but instead, look for what the cat is nervous about and deal with it accordingly.

Displaced Aggression

Have you ever had a bad day at work to then come back home and be snappy or short with your family? It’s very likely you have or you have had a similar situation because displaced aggression in humans is a very common condition and the same is true for cats.

In general, this form of aggression refers to when a cat acts aggressively to a person or animal that did not initially provoke the behaviour. For example, if your cat sees another playing with its toys in the garden, it is likely to get agitated for territorial reasons and when you then go to stroke him, he turns and bites you. Usually, they will release very quickly as they realise who it is but this kind of aggression is extremely reflex based so don’t take it too personally.

What to do

Breakup fights: Don’t think that fights are debates where eventually the cats will understand the other and work things out. The more they fight the worse things will get so try to break them up where possible. Do not try to get involved yourself! Use loud sounds or water to break them up, not your hand.

Try to incentivise good behaviour rather than punishing the bad: positive reinforcement is much more powerful that negative. Give your cat attention and treats when it is behaving well around others. Punishing a cat after a fight is more likely to agitate it even more in the future when in a similar situation and you are likely to be on the receiving end of some displaced aggression.

Learn from the experience: if your cat doesn’t like other cats and your efforts are not helping, it’s best to just stop putting the cat in that position rather than trying to change them.

Despite this advice, sometimes cats will be cats and in some cases, why a cat is being aggressive or was aggressive is beyond analysis. Our understanding of animal behaviour is still growing and as a result, there are times when we just don’t know why some animals act as they do so don’t try to over analyse your cat’s behaviour.

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