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You get home from work and want to snuggle with your cat. Unfortunately, the cat has other plans for you. The cat lets you pet it for a few seconds before lashing out and slicing into your arm.
Cuddling with your cat is hit or miss, but lately, it seems like the cat is getting out of control, which worries you because you don't want to take drastic measures like cat aggression medications or, even worse, giving up your little tiger.
You need help with your aggressive cat.
This blog scratches the surface of cat aggression, recognizing body language, different types of aggression, and solutions for each circumstance.
There are numerous reasons why cats might become aggressive, which we discuss further in this blog. Understanding the clues that come with cat aggression can help you avoid major clashes. It's also helpful to keep track of your cat's behavior patterns by paying attention to their body language.
CAT AGGRESSION BODY LANGUAGE
Cats demonstrate emotions through body language and understanding that language can help avoid aggression. There are offensive and defensive postures cats take to express feelings. It is important to note that no single sign of body language is guaranteed, so caution is always necessary.
Body Shape – A cat standing sideways with an arched back may be fearful or angry. Cats will try to make themselves as big as possible during these times. If a cat is pointing their head or body toward you, it means the cat is confident and comfortable, and they trust you. A cat crouching down displays stress and is ready to spring out of an uncomfortable situation.
Tail Position – Cats demonstrate emotion using their tails. An upright, quivering tail means a cat is happy and comfortable. The tail tucked in a down position represents anxiety and fear, making the cat a smaller target in their minds. If the tail is upright and flicking around, be cautious as the cat is on high alert and may be analyzing its attack strategy.
Ear Position – Ears can also tell a lot about a cat's mood. Forward-facing ears mean calmness and confidence. Ears that are high and erect show a cat is on high alert. Ears that are flattened and down demonstrate anger or fear.
Eyes – Dilated pupils may indicate anger, excitement, or fear. A cat that looks you in the eye and slowly blinks shows that they trust you. Some say a slow blink is a cat saying I love you. Narrow pupils can represent aggression too.
Some cats may enjoy human affection and love petting, while other cats may not enjoy it as much. Regardless of everything you do and the body language you recognize, sometimes it is simply the circumstance.
TYPES OF CAT AGGRESSION
There are a few different types of aggression, including aggression towards other cats and humans, maternal, play, fear, and overstimulation.
Cat Aggression Towards Other Cats – Cats are aggressive with each other over territory, personalities, lack of socialization, and even from not recognizing each other. In some cases, one cat may be in a playful mood, and the other may not want to play, leading to aggressive biting or scratching.
Cat Aggression Toward Humans – It is not common for a cat to get aggressive with a human, but it does happen. Some cats single out a particular person to hate, and they will treat that person the same as a rival cat. Uninvited petting or touching is another factor that leads to aggression against humans.
Maternal Aggression - Maternal aggression is when a new mom becomes overly protective of her babies. She will run any other animals out of the nursery. Maternal aggression is often against cats, but it can also happen with humans.
Cat Play Aggression - As babies, kittens learn by playing with their siblings. When a kitten doesn't get this opportunity, they won't know some boundaries while playing. Cats love sneaking around and pouncing on their fur friends. However, play fighting may lead to aggressive biting and scratching.
Fear - Another type of aggression your pet may be suffering from is fear. Fear aggression might show as a mix of offensive and defensive responses. The cat might try to avoid the fear if it can. They might growl, hiss, spit, or make their fur stand up. You will want to find the triggers and use the techniques mentioned below to manage fear.
Overstimulation – A factor that leads to cat aggression and can lead to cat hiccups; this is why paying attention to any signs your pet may give you is essential. For example, when petting your cat and you notice their tail flicking and pupils dilating, that is a clear sign that you should stop the petting and give your cat space to cool down.
HOW TO STOP CAT AGGRESSION TOWARD OTHER CATS
Do you want to stop cat aggression toward other cats? If so, here are some methods you can use to deter bad behavior.
Spay or neuter - If your cats are intact, that may be the problem. Often intact males will get territorial with other intact males. Both intact males and females in the same household can lead to breeding and then maternal aggression. Another option to manage cat-on-cat aggression is neutering/spaying if the cats have all their parts and pieces.
Resources - You can also circumvent cat aggression by providing plenty of food, water, litter boxes, hideouts, and toys, avoiding the need to fight over resources.
Pheromones - According to a recent study, pheromones helped reduce aggression in multicat households within 21 days. Pheromone kits are relatively easy to use and operate like diffusers. You can also buy pheromones collars and sprays.
Separation – Keeping cats separated may be what you need to do. You can divide them into areas of the house where they will stay for a few days. Then you can try reintroducing the cats. If aggression continues, you may have to separate them for weeks and try reintroducing them at a later time.
In case of a fight – Do not get in the middle of two cats fighting. Make loud noises or crazy movements to distract your cats from the fight. Once you have stopped the fight, do not punish or soothe your cat as you may reinforce lousy behavior or set a fear precedent.
MANAGING CAT MATERNAL AGGRESSION
There are a few techniques you can use to manage maternal aggression.
Leave them alone - If the newborns are in good health, you can leave the mom and kittens alone until she is ready to come out or share them with you.
Good Environment - Provide the cats a quiet, safe, low-stress environment.
Minimal Visitors – You should avoid visitors during these aggressive times and if you see the signs of maternal aggression, again, leave the cats alone.
HOW TO STOP CAT AGGRESSION TOWARD HUMANS
If your cat is biting and scratching when you are playing, it may lead to even more aggressive behavior.
No Body Parts - You should always try not to make any part of your body a play toy for a cat (we all do this). If you can stop doing this when the cat is young, you may avoid an aggressive cat later in life.
Don't Scream, Don't Shout, Don't Get Angry – Cats will take this as part of the game or, even worse, as punishment.
Distract, Distract, Distract – If your cat is acting out and attacking you, try to distract the cat by throwing a toy in the opposite direction.
Read Body Language – If your cat gets aggressive when petting or playing with it, be aware of the signs from the cat, including ear, eye, and tail positions. If you are petting the cat and it shows you these signs, put it down, and you will most likely not get scratched.
HOW TO DEAL WITH CAT PLAY AGGRESSION
Cats love to play fight, but play fighting often looks like predatory or conflict aggression. Here are some solutions to help you fix play fighting with an aggressive cat.
Variety – Offer the cat a variety of toys that you can rotate out to keep it busy. Doing this will stimulate a cat's hunting instinct and use the extra energy.
Structure – Experts say that structured play times are an excellent way to manage play aggression. Once or twice a day, take 15-20 minutes to play with your cat. Make sure it is at the same time every day. Remember to play in a way where your body is not the focus. Interactive toys work great in this case.
Hands Off! – Once again, keep your hands out of the play area. Cats will think of your hand as just another toy. They won't understand why grabbing and kicking their toys is okay but not your hands.
Immediate Stop - This one is easy. If the cat is starting to show signs of play aggression, immediately stop playing and walk away.
HOW TO HELP A CAT WITH FEAR AGGRESSION
Fear aggression is going to take more effort on your behalf. Once you know what triggers a cat, there are some techniques you can use to help.
Know the triggers – If your cat is healthy, you must find out how close it can get to a potential trigger before it becomes scared. If the trigger stays six feet away, your cat will be okay. But your cat might become scared if the trigger is five feet away. Keep an appropriate distance between your cat and any potential triggers to avoid this.
Safe Space – Safe spaces are mentioned throughout this blog. Cats need safe spaces to hide and calm down when a fearful event occurs. Safe spaces can be a stack of pillows or blankets and even a cardboard box. You probably have safe spaces all over your house. Make sure the cat has access to them all the time.
Reduce Stress – Recognize the triggers and do your best to help your cat avoid them.
Stay Diligent – It may take a while to break your cat of these habits. Stay on course and follow your plan to stabilize your cat's fear triggers.
HOW TO CALM AN OVERSTIMULATED CAT
An overstimulated cat can be a confusing moment for a pet owner. One minute you are sitting there petting your cat, and a second later, the claws are out. It is crucial to know the body language of an overstimulated cat. Restlessness, twitching tail, laid-back ears, skin rippling, and moving head toward your hand.
Slowly Move Away - Place your hands by your side and slowly step out from under the cat, letting them gently glide away from your body.
Keep it Short – Avoid prolonging petting sessions unless all signs point to your cat allowing that to happen.
Regardless of how well you follow all of the rules to manage cat aggression, some cats may need natural remedies or medication to reduce the charge.