Causes of Cat Aggressive Behavior
There may be several causes of cat aggression
Narrow down why your cat may have turned out aggressive
The most obvious physical causes of aggression in cats is pain. Having worked at an animal hospital, I have seen my fair share of aggressive cats. In many cases, the cats proved to be far more aggressive and damaging than dogs. As a veterinary assistant, you surely do not want to deal with a very angry cat. Fortunately, special restraint techniques make treatment possible, sometimes requiring the help of others.
When it comes to aggression issues with cats, underlying physical or behavioral problems must be addressed. There can be various causes and therefore, identifying the triggering factors may help ease and/or solve the aggressive issues all together.
Physical causes of Cat Aggression
Before assuming your cat is just plain mean or aggressive because of some behavioral problem, it is important to rule out some medical condition. If your cat is usually friendly and now out of the blue is hissing, does not want to be picked up and this is totally out of character, assume a painful condition or some other underlying physical problem known for causing aggressive displays.
- A non visible wound
Anytime your cat appears to be aggressive for no reason, a veterinarian visit is a must. Somewhere must be hurting and the cat may scratch or bite if handled improperly. The source of pain therefore must be investigated. Many times there is an open sore or an abscess not visible under the fur. My cat one day was hissing and growling and we had no clue, only a day later we noticed one of her nails had grown so long it was embedding in her paw pad!
- Chronic conditions
Chronic conditions such as arthritis, dental disease or poor eyesight may cause cats to become grumpy and unwilling to be touched. Have a veterinarian screen your cat for any underlying health disorders. While cats tend to hide their pain because this makes them vulnerable, when there is pain, the cat is likely to change attitude.
Cats affected by this disorder may exhibit behavior changes along with increased drinking, increased urination, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea. Behavior changes may consist of aggression, nervousness, and hyperactivity. Worth running a thyroid panel if your cat has had recent behavioral changes and you cannot find a reasonable culprit.
- Rippling skin disorder (Hyperesthesia)
This is a condition that is not very known. However, many cats seem to be affected. Affected cats will display an odd behavior: their skin on their back will twitch and the cat will run as if bothered by something. The cat may then turn around and try to bite or scratch its back. The cat's eyes may be dilated and the cat may vocalize disturbed. Upon petting these affected cats the skin on their back may twitch and they may turn aggressive.
If you encounter a stray cat that is aggressive ,stay away as it may have rabies. Consider rabies as well in unvaccinated cats that appear aggressive and that are kept outdoors in contact with wildlife. Should you encounter an aggressive stray cat, call animal control. They are best equipped to restrain such cats and have them evaluated for Rabies. While rabies is rare, it is such a serious disease that you must rule it out if an unvaccinated stray cat bites you or scratches you.
Psychological Causes of Aggression in Cats
Once you have rules out medical causes for aggression and your vet gave your cat a good bill of health, it us time to consider behavioral problems. Important questions to ask are: any recent changes? have you moved? new partner? new cat in the home? a new baby? new furniture? new routine? new construction workers across the road? Cats are creatures of habit and anything that changes their routine makes them stressed.
- Redirected Aggression
This is a form of aggression caused by an overstimulated cat. This may occur when a cat sees out from a window another animal such as another cat or a dog and then suddenly attacks his owner or another pet. Such cats may be difficult to treat, many times requiring covering all windows and doors or placing the cat in a dark room to calm down.
- Unfamiliar scent aggression
Many times right after taking a cat to the animal hospital, owners would call us because their other cat at home would start attacking the sick cat. This is a common instance, and it is due to the fact that the cat left at home is disturbed by the other cat's smell. Many times this was solved by bringing both cats at the hospital when one was sick or by passing a scented towel on both cats so they both smelled the same.
- Rough playing aggression
Many times young cats and kittens may be thought to be aggressive while all they are doing is playing rough. A cat or kitten that attacks the owner's ankles is simply acting out of prey drive. In other words the owner's feet or ankles are thought to be prey and so the cat chases and scratches. Most cats seem to outgrow from this form of play aggression, however, a good remedy is to toss a toy at the cat upon stalking you in order to redirect his attention.
- Intolerance to being pet aggression
Some cats will tolerate being pet for a few minutes and then they will lash out when they get tired. In this case, it is very important to anticipate his behavior by reading physical cues suggesting he is about to lash out.Before reaching his intolerance point immediately put the cat down and give a treat. Repeat by making the petting sessions longer.
- New mom aggression
Your sweet cat may turn into a lion once she has hada litter of kittens. Most new mom's aggression regresses as the kittens age. Try to keep her quiet and avoid disturbances. This is just a natural instinct to protect her babies.
- New cat aggression
You just adopted a new cat and your older cat will not tolerate the new arrival. Threatening growling and hissing takes place. This form of aggression usually regresses with time. Always make introductions slow and do not force the two to get along. Sooner than later with no pressure, the two will begin to accept each other.
As seen there may be a multitude of causes for aggression in cats. The best course of action is to have all medical causes ruled out first and then deal with the behavioral issues.
T-TOUCH for Calming Cats
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.