Signs of aggression in cats
Aggression in cats can be either offensive or defensive. Cats show offensive aggression when they want to attack or intimidate another cat or human; and show defensive aggression when they are under threat or feeling intimidated by another animal or person.
Though cats often communicate their feelings of anger and irritation through outward actions, body language and expressions, the signs of aggression may sometimes be subtle and may easily go unnoticed. Make sure you intently look out for these physical signs of aggression in your kitty.
- Growling and hissing for no apparent reason.
- Eyes staring directly at you.
- Upright ears (offensive posture) or ears flattened backward on the head (defensive posture).
- Raised fur along the neck, body and tail.
- l Tail pointing downwards towards the ground (offensive aggression), often moving in a back and forth swish, or tail turned sideways towards the opponent (defensive aggression).
- l Biting and scratching when petted or lifted.
- Frequent fights with other animals.
Causes of aggressive behaviour in cats
It’s important to diagnose the cause of aggression in order to treat the problem effectively. Your cat could be struggling with a health problem that’s causing her pain and discomfort, leading to an irritable mood; or it could be an environmental factor such as stress or boredom that might be making her furious. Below are some of the common causes of aggression in cats.
Illness or pain: Like us, cats also get grumpy and short-tempered when they are unwell or experiencing pain due to some illness. Several medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, arthritis, dental diseases, epilepsy etc. have been known to cause aggression in cats. Consult a vet to identify any health problems that your cat might be suffering from.
Lack of healthy diet and exercise: Lack of nutritious diet and regular exercise is not only detrimental to your cat’s physical health, but it can also negatively impact her mental fitness, leading to moodiness and unhealthy behaviours.
Mistreatment: Has your cat been exposed to some sort of abuse or mistreatment in the past? Has she been ever attacked by some other animal? Painful experiences and mental trauma can cause her to avoid socialising with other animals and resist contact with humans.
Fearful situations: When cats find themselves in a frightening situation, they display defensive aggression. Your cat might be afraid of a pet dog, a particular person in the house, or something as harmless as a moving toy. Identify any such objects, animals or people that might be triggering aggressive behaviour in her.
Stressful surroundings: It’s essential that you provide your pet with a healthy environment, devoid of unnecessary stress. Your cat may experience stress due to different factors such as lack of space to move around and sleep, noisy surroundings, and being forced to live alongside things she fears, like a pet dog or another cat.
Territorial aggression: Cats, like dogs and other animals, strive to protect their territory and tend to attack other animals and even humans when they intrude into their space. Cats may chase other cats, and display other offensive signs such as biting, growling and swatting to keep out intruders and defend their territory.
Aggression between male cats: Unneutered male cats, as they reach adulthood, show aggressive behaviour towards other male cats, and get into fights, challenging and competing with them for mates.
Ways to deal with aggressive cats
- Take good care of your cat’s health by feeding her nutritious food.
- Incorporate games and other activities to keep her mentally fit, and to shave off boredom and moodiness that often lead to aggressive behaviours.
- Consult a vet to rule out on medical conditions that could be causing the problem.
- Watch out for warning signs of aggression. Pay attention to your kitty’s body language, and expressions before she gets into the aggressive mode, and try distracting her with catnip or lure toy, whenever you see an attack coming.
- Pet parents often underestimate their cat’s ability to hurt them. Do not encourage your cat to engage in rough play, and grip your hands and legs with their claws. Keep your cat’s claws trimmed to avoid them from causing serious injury while playing.
- Do not force your cat to do things she does not want to do. If she does not seem interested in playing, or tries to get away from you, don’t pursue her or restrain her in any way.
- If you have been monitoring your cat’s behaviour, and have still not been able to identify the problem, then consider seeking professional help and consulting an animal behaviour specialist for detailed analysis of the issue.