How to handle aggression in cats?

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Kritika Manchanda
Aggression in cats is quite common. The little dainty beings use their claws and teeth as weapons, which can be harmful to humans and other pets. Here’s how to handle aggression in cats.
 
Experts believe that felines have an in-built aggressive response. Since cats are small, they are targeted by other animals and are vulnerable to dangers. Usually all wild animals have a streak of aggression – protecting their young ones, guarding their territory, and saving themselves from being attacked. Aggression becomes a response or defense to these threats and dangers. Aggressive cats may scratch you or other cats with their claws, or even bite causing lesions. The lesions easily become infected, so one needs to be really careful.
 
What is aggression?
Aggression is threatening or harmful behaviour which can be directed towards another cat, dog or a person. Sometimes the action of attacking without provocation is also referred to as aggression. In pet cats, aggressive behaviour would mean inducing harm to anyone around.
 
Warning signs…
Cats usually avoid confrontation, so when they are aggressive or are going through a behavioural change they’d probably be suffering in some corner and pet parent might not even know. Cats use postures and body language to demonstrate their discomfort. The main signs and symptoms to look out for include: Hissing; Pouncing; Attacking with claws; Lowered head; Showing teeth; Marking a territory by spraying; Ears pulled back; Raised hair on the back; Arched back; Direct stare; Constricted pupils; and Stiff tail.
Get in touch with your vet if your cat shows any behavioural changes. Many times aggression is a symptom of some other diseases namely – seizure, kidney disease, brain disease, epilepsy, and hyperthyroidism.
 
Causes of aggression
There can be various causes of aggression. Some of the most common ones are listed here.
 
Intercat aggression: Two or more cats might have a hostile relation, and this would lead to inter-cat aggression. It can occur between unfamiliar cats and even the ones who know each other.
 
Petting induced aggression: Dogs have masters, cats have staff. A cat’s tolerance towards petting is much lower than that of a dog. Over-stroking, cuddling, and stimulation may cause irritability. As a result, the cat might suddenly bite, scratch or pounce.
 
Redirected aggression: When the cat sees something new or something she cannot decipher or access, it results in redirected aggression. Hearing unfamiliar noises may also cause this type of aggression.
 
Territorial aggression: This type of aggression is most common in the outdoor world. It can be displayed towards another cat, a human and even a dog. Although in most cases it is shown to another cat.
 
Fear aggression: Just like humans cats also have the fear of unknown. If the cat is scared of an object or a situation, aggression can be used as a defense mechanism.
 
Other causes: These include play-related aggression, pain-induced aggression and maternal aggression.
 
Tips to handle aggression

  • Don’t leave the cat alone when aggressive.
  • Do not over pet.
  • Give the cat some time to cool off.
  • Be patient and extra caring.
  • Don’t provoke or instigate aggressive behaviour.
  • Rewarding good behaviour is as important as punishing bad behaviour.
  • Take her to the vet. Once your vet identifies the underlying cause of aggression, treatment can begin.
  • Your vet might suggest some medications and lifestyle changes as well. Follow them regularly to get things under control.
  • Many times there might not be any underlying illness causing aggression. In such cases, behaviour training is recommended.
  • Make sure you take the training slow and steady. The sessions should be short and not at all exhaustive. Getting professional help for training would be a good idea.
  • Remember not to lose your cool. You don’t want your little one to be more stressed!
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