Aggression in Cats–Part 1
on January 2, 2012
Posted in Behavior Management
Aggression in cats is the second most commonly seen behavioural problem of cats. Cat aggression can be very serious because cats have so many weapons, (teeth and 4 sets of claws) and these can inflict serious injuries to humans, dogs or other cats. Cat bites are painful and easily become infected. Cats can also carry the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever in their claws. Cats attacking other cats can cause abscesses that require veterinary attention.
Aggression can be either offensive or defensive in nature. An offensive cat will try to make himself look bigger by stiffening his tail and erecting his fur. A defensive cat will crouch and try to appear smaller. Aggressive signs such as swatting, shrieking and a growling can be either offensive or defensive. These cats mean business!
If you are having problems with aggression in your cat the first thing to do is consult your veterinarian. Sometimes the root of the aggressive behaviour is a medical condition such as pain from arthritis, hyperthyroidism or senility. If your cat checks out ok then your vet may try to help you determine what sets off the aggressive attacks.
Some forms of aggression can be:
Inter cat aggression–between unneutered toms outside usually or between housemates if there is a size difference or if they do not get along.
Territorial aggression-This can be seen in inside or outside cats and often occurs when a new cat is introduced to the household or territory or when a kitten reaches sexual maturity.
Play–Some cats play rough because they never learned how to play nicely as kittens. If kittens are not well socialized with litter mates and other cats, they may play too rough.
Petting-Induced Aggression–Some cats like to be petted for only a certain period of time then will turn around and bite. Signs your cat is going to bite include dilation of pupils, swishing of the tail and flattening of the ears. It is best to get the cat off your lap if you detect this!
Re-directed Aggression–This often occurs in house cats who look out the window and see another cat they dislike. They try to fight through the window but if you, or another household pet happens to walk by the cat may re-direct his aggression toward the unsuspecting person!
Pain induced Aggression–This is easy to understand. If your cat is hurt or painful, he may bite you because he does not realize you are trying to help him. This kind of aggression is frequently seen in the vets office.
Fear induced Aggression–Another thing we see in the veterinary office frequently, but can be seen anytime a cat feels threatened.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan