Causes Behind an Aggressive Cat

Causes Behind an Aggressive Cat

As cat owners, we all want the best for our furry friends. However, sometimes it can be difficult to give your cat the best if they start to act out. What may come off as a mean cat, is actually a troubled cat with needs. If you have an aggressive cat, you may be wondering what could be causing this behavior and how you can calm your feline friend. 

angry cat sits on fence

Causes Behind an Aggressive Cat

It's important to understand that cats can be aggressive for various reasons. It could be due to fear or anxiety, a reaction to pain or discomfort, a lack of proper socialization, or even natural instinct. Below are some of the most common causes of cat aggression, explained.

Fear or Anxiety

Cats may become aggressive when they feel threatened or scared. This can be triggered by things like loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, or changes in their environment. Make sure the cat is not cornered in any way, as this will increase anxiety. Cats who are fearful tend to show defensive body language: a crouched position, tense posture, tail and body lowered, hissing, etc. Fear aggression can occur at any age.

Pain or Discomfort

If your cat is experiencing pain or discomfort, it may become aggressive to protect itself. This could be due to an injury, illness, or even something as simple as a hairball.

Lack of Proper Socialization

Cats that aren't properly socialized as kittens may be more prone to aggression as adults. It's important to expose your kitten to a variety of people, animals, and environments to help them feel more comfortable and confident in the world. Otherwise, it may lead to social anxiety that reveals itself in the form of aggression. 

cat screams when being pet

Natural Instinct

Some cats are just naturally more assertive or territorial. While this behavior can be more challenging to manage, it's important to remember that it's not necessarily "bad" - it's just part of who they are. This is where taking the time to observe your cat’s body language will help you in the long run to form a stronger bond with your cat.

How to Handle an Aggressive Cat

Now that you know the triggers for cat aggression, let’s go over how to handle it. If you have an aggressive cat, look for ways to calm them down and prevent further incidents. Here are a few tips to help calm and manage your feline friend’s behavior:

Identify the trigger

It's important to try to figure out what is causing your cat's aggression. Is it fear-based, pain-related, or something else? Use context clues such as the environment and the cat’s body language to help determine the problem. It is typically not hard to find, since it will likely be something new to the cat’s environment, and the cat may be staring right at it. Once you identify the trigger, you can work on finding ways to reduce or eliminate it.

Keep them healthy

Make sure your cat is up to date on all their vaccinations and has regular check-ups with the vet. This will help ensure that any underlying health issues are addressed, which might even be the cause of the aggression if left untreated.

Provide a safe space

Cats need a place to retreat to when they feel threatened or overwhelmed. Make sure your cat has a safe, quiet space where they can go to feel secure. Many times, the root cause of aggression is anxiety. Create a safe space for them with treats, toys, and in an environment with only people the cat is comfortable with. 

cat lays on ground with toys

Seek professional help

If your cat's aggression is severe or you're struggling to manage it on your own, consider seeking help from a professional behaviorist or veterinarian. They can provide you with more specialized advice and support. Keep in mind medications may help, but only in combination with behavioral and/ or environmental modifications. 

Use body language

Cats are very good at communicating through body language. Pay attention to your cat's posture and facial expressions to see if they're feeling threatened or anxious. You can also use your own body language to communicate with your cat - for example, avoid making direct eye contact, which can be perceived as a threat.

angry cat

Early Intervention 

The longer you let your cat act out, the harder it will be to calm them down. It’s best to be proactive in terms of damage control. If you can, avoid situations that you know make a cat aggressive in the first place. Recognizing aggression and startling a cat (without physical contact) is usually effective since it will divert its attention. 

Provide plenty of stimulation

Cats need mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Make sure your cat has plenty of toys and activities to keep them entertained, and provide opportunities for play and exercise. This can help reduce boredom and frustration, which can contribute to aggressive behavior.

Consider pheromone products

Pheromones are chemical signals that animals use to communicate with each other. There are pheromone products available that can help calm anxious or aggressive cats. These products can be diffused into the air or applied to your cat's bedding or collar.

Don't physically punish your cat

It's important to remember that physical punishment is ineffective in managing aggressive cat behavior. In fact, it can often make the behavior worse. Instead, try using positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and provide consequences for bad behavior that are appropriate and non-violent. 

cat hissing

How to Stop a Cat from Biting

The agonizing pain of a cat bite is something most cat owners are familiar with, and probably the reason for many to read this post. Below are a few strategies you can try to stop a cat from biting:

  1. Redirect their attention. Try offering your cat a toy to play with instead of your hand.
  2. Reward good behavior. When your cat is not biting, give them positive reinforcement by offering treats or praise.
  3. Determine the cause. Is your cat biting because they are feeling threatened or because they are playing? If it is the latter, try to provide appropriate toys for your cat to play with. If it is the former, try to identify and address the cause of their fear.
  4. Train them to stop. Try using firm commands or a loud noise to startle your cat when they bite, and then immediately redirect their behavior by offering a toy. This will teach them that biting is not acceptable behavior.

In addition to these tips, it's important to remember that every cat is different, therefore the results may vary depending on which approach is taken. If you still feel lost and are having trouble managing your cat's aggression, it may be helpful to seek the advice of a professional behaviorist or veterinarian. They can provide you with more specialized guidance and support. 

cat looks up at toy

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Always keep in mind that aggressive behavior in cats is usually a sign of underlying issues that need to be addressed. This could include health problems, lack of socialization, or fear or anxiety related to changes in their environment.

By identifying the trigger and taking steps to manage and reduce aggression, you can help your feline friend feel calmer and happier. Follow us @NaturVet on social media to fill us in on any cat aggression tips we might have missed. We’ll keep you up to date on all our latest pet resources, supplements, tips and tricks, and more – everything you need to be the best pet parent possible!