Posts Tagged‘cat aggression’

Question from Kelsey,

I have 4 cats in my home, 3 females and 1 male.  Buddy, my male, is generally a very gentle, loving cat, and sort of took my baby cat, Valentine, who is 10 months old, under his wing when she came to live with us; she pretty much shadows  him everywhere he goes.  Recently, Valentine escaped the house and was gone for about three days.  She has since returned home safely, albeit a little timid and dusty, but none the worse for wear.  However, Buddy acts like he’s never seen her and is very hostile.  I thought at first it was because she didn’t smell right to him, but he doesn’t show any signs of lightening up on her.  He hisses and bats at her, growls if she walks by, and won’t let her look out the back door with him and Ceci like they’ve always done together.  She’s confused by his behavior and sticks close to my side so Mama can protect her.  Is there anything I can do, or is this something that will resolve over time?  And if it’s a time thing, about how long will that be?  Thank you!

Answer from Amy:

Cat aggression can be enigmatic. There are numerous reasons why cats become aggressive. It can stem from stress, illness or various uncertainties. When a cat’s behavior shifts south, it can affect other cats, animals and humans in the same household.

There are several possibilities to your cat’s aggression. However, let’s first look at a few common types of aggressive behaviors in cats:

Territorial Aggression:

Cats become territorial when sharing a house with other cats. Each cat demands for a personal space or sanctuary where they can attain their domain. However, in a crowded area, trespassing another cat’s territory is inevitable which can be irritating to the cat and causing the cat to act aggressively. Spraying is the most common form of territorial marking among cats. Even neutered or spayed cats can spray or leave their mark to show other cats this is their personal area.

Unfamiliar Scent Caused Aggression:

It is true that when you bring in a new kitten or cat, the established cat can become aggressive, unease and stressed. The change of behavior is usually accompanied by spraying, growling, hissing, chasing or/and swatting. The reason of doing so is to establish the cat’s social status in the family. In a cat colony, there is a clear hierarchy structure where the alpha cat is usually the most confident cat in the crowd who likes to stand tall and centered. The submissive cats are usually found along the perimeter of the colony, timid and constantly watch out for their safety.

In order to solve territorial issues in the house, a very effective way is to

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Question from Cathy:

My 5 year old cat just started hissing and fighting with her mother cat. I can’t figured out why now all of a sudden, no changes in the household, she won’t allow her near me, on the window sill, or near the scratch toys. They are both indoor cats.

Answer from Amy:

Hi Cathy,

Cat aggression usually comes from situation when a cat wants to dominate (offensive aggression) or feels threatened (defensive aggression), but first of all we have to know that it is never the cats’ interest to be involved in an aggressive fight because cats are very cautious about their safety and like to conceal their vulnerability from others. That’s why it is hard to read if a cat is having any discomfort because they are masters at masking pain but that’s a different story (Cats are masters at masking pain)

Usually a cat fight involves hissing, swatting and a bit of wrestling and biting, but they never bite into each other very hard and usually get separated when one cat surrenders and leaves.

Cats like to send warning signal through staring, walking with the hindquarters lifted, turning the ears flat to the side, etc.. However, these usually happen for purposes such as territory rights or for food.

Sometimes cats fight or even bite when they play. If they get really aggressive, you can clap your hands really hard, the loud noise will separate them apart. However, if they continue to grapple,  you will need to keep them in two separate rooms until they cool down. Never physically intervene or engage in a cat fight because they may turn their aggression towards the mediator.

In your case, it sounds like your 5-year-old cat is being territorial against her mother by blocking her entries to the window sill and the scratch toys. The reason that she won’t let her mother near you is because

Cat aggression towards people usually has to do with lack of socialization with humans or traumatic experience with humans in the past such as abuse. Cats can remember things for a long time especially trauma. If a cat gets injured by a door when it’s shut by accident, she will remember it and whenever she sees a door, she may associate it to the pain she once experienced and thus run away from it.

If your cat is usually pretty placid and all of a sudden acts really aggressive towards people, it could underline a possible medical condition. You can check with your vet to rule out any medical illness.

Punishing your cat for her aggression can be counter-productive and can intensify the aggression and fear. The best way to deal with aggression or agitation in cats is to apply positive reinforcement.

Since most aggression towards people stems from lack of trust in human beings, we can start helping the cat by familiarizing her with human scent since cats use their smell to identify objects and their whereabouts. You can achieve that by allowing the cat to inspect a person through sniffing. During the exploring process, do not interrupt. You can allow the person to point an index finger at the cat and let the cat sniff it. The person should not pet the cat until she starts rubbing her face against the finger, leaving her own scent on the human finger to indicate “we are good now”. If your cat is not comfortable being too close to a stranger, try having the person stand further away from her at the beginning. Reward your cat with her favorite treat if she stays calm with the person around. Once your cat is ready, you can have the person move a step closer and see if your cat can continue to stay calm. Reward your cat again if successful. When you realize the person might be too close to the cat because your cat is acting out aggressively, ask the person to avert eye contact from the cat or even turn around, but do not step back. In the meantime, soothe your cat by talking to her in a soft tone. As soon as your cat calms down, offer her a treat.

Always reward your cat when she is doing well. Soon your cat will learn that by meeting people, she will be rewarded, which puts a new perspective in her that interacting with humans is positive and rewarding.

It requires a LOT of patience and consistency to train a distrustful cat to become more friendly towards people. With positive reinforcement, you can achieve that. However, in order to make it work, we have to stay calm throughout the entire process because if we lose our patience or become frustrated, our cat may mirror our behavior.