Cats can show aggression towards their owners for many different reasons and in different situations. It is a very common behavior problem, only second to soiling issues. Felines can use their teeth as well as their claws to attack. This can result in serious wounds, spread disease, and can lead to an owner choosing to euthanize. This column will discuss the most common scenarios and give techniques to resolve these problems.
Play aggression occurs frequently, especially in single cat households, and especially with very young cats. Play is a normal activity for felines. Even though they may sleep for many hours a day, cats need to play as a form of exercise. In kittens, play is a way to practice survival skills that are needed to catch prey or explore their environment. Cats don’t understand why play can’t occur at all times of the day. Your cat knows when you are walking down the hall, in your feline’s mind; this is a perfect time to attack your feet. Your companion might crouch in the corner ready to pounce when you arrive. You might hear small cries and see he or she flicking her tail. This may sound cute; but it if gets out of control, a pet owner can end up with significant wounds.
Fortunately there are many strategies that can be utilized to help with this type of aggression. Offer playtime at least 2-3 times a day, especially if you only have one cat. This will help to channel all of this energy into a time that you can better manage it. Use toys. If you can redirect the your felines aggression towards an object it will result in less injury to you. Do not encourage your feline to chew on your hands or feet. This will only cause problems later. It is much easier to prevent than fix. Use a spray bottle to help deter behaviors that you don’t want. A loud noisemaker such as a can with coins in it can be used as well. Wear closed toe shoes around the house, and you may not be able to have your feline in your bedroom while you are sleeping. If theses techniques don’t help, consider getting a second cat. Medications and pheromones are another alternative. Your veterinarian can help you decide if this may be helpful.
Aggression associated with being petted can seem very random and result in biting or scratching. In this situation, a feline will suddenly bite while being adored by his or her owner. It is not known why this happens, other than the cat suddenly decides he or she has had enough. Generally there is some signal before a bite occurs, although the pet owner may not be aware of it.
To help with this problem, look for changes in position or other signs of restlessness. Monitor for a shift in how your feline is holding his or her ears, or tail twitching; and stop holding or caressing the cat right away. Sometimes treats can be used to increase the time your cat will allow you to interact. Felines in general are very independent, and may not want a lot of affection.
Territorial aggression is related to a feline feeling he or she needs to protect his or her territory; but he or she takes out this frustration on the owner. You may see your cat growling at other cats outside, and then suddenly he or she attacks you. It can happen when people visit. Territorial aggression can happen with any situation that your feline feels someone or something is taking over his or her space.
This type of aggression can be much more difficulty to manage. You don’t want to give comfort to your feline with this type of behavior issue because it can reinforce the unwanted behavior. When company visits, you can confine your feline to a specific room so that he or she is less likely to feel threatened. You can also have guests give your cat special treats. Water can also be sprayed when the unwanted behavior occurs. This is another situation in which medication or pheromones may be helpful. Your veterinarian is an important resource in managing this type of behavior problem.
There are other reasons that felines can show aggression such as pain, illness, fear, dominance, and others. If you try to manage aggression and find that simple techniques do not improve things, it is important to consult with your veterinarian right away. There may be an underlying health problem that you are not aware of. Treating issues in the earliest stage possible allows for the best potential outcome; and addressing behavioral problems right away gives the best chance to resolve such issues.