There are various signs of aggression in cats. Both male and female cat aggression towards other cats and humans is quite common, even if your pet seemed to be best friends with his mate a few moments ago. Sometimes cats only have to look at each other in the wrong way and it triggers aggressive feline behaviour. On this page we will look at the different types or feline aggression, tips on brushing an aggressive cat ,why your male cat is fighting with other cats, bad behaviour in house cats and most importantly how you can help your pet be safe and happy in their environment. So lets get started and get a true understanding of aggressive feline behaviour!
If you have a pedigree cat click here to check out our breed specific information on our cat breed profiles.
Types of Aggressive Feline Behaviour
There are two main types of aggression in cats.
Offensive Feline Aggression:
Offensive aggression in cats is common in male’s that have not been neutered. Offensive aggression is normally sudden cat aggression caused without apparent reason. A cat that wants to hurt or intimidate another cat will use offensive aggression. Offensive aggression can also be bullying.
There are various signs of offensive aggression:
• Walking towards their target with their ears facing forward
• Eyes intently staring with constricted pupils
• Crouching down with the legs bent, ready to pounce or chase
• Tail is stiff towards the ground
• Attacking another animal around the neck
• Growling in some breeds
Sometimes offensive aggression can be apparent between two cats that normally get along. Cats normally try to avoid eye contact. Eye contact is seen as a sign of aggression and can trigger offensive aggression. Males cats that have not been neutered will often fight with other cats if left outside. Unfortunately for us this is a natural way that cats create a hierarchy in their territory.
Defensive Feline Aggression:
Cats will often show signs of defensive aggression when cornered or under threat. A cat that is being bullied or attacked by another cat, dog or human will often react in an aggressive way. When cats are being defensive they try to show signs of intimidation.
There are various signs of defensive aggression:
• Ears down flat facing back towards the tail
• Eyes are wide open and the pupils have become dilated
• Turning sideways towards the opposition
• Arched back
• Tail curved around the body
• Hairs on the fur are standing up.
• Mouth open with teeth showing
• Hissing or Spitting
Cats are generally very good at intimidating by defensive aggression. Cats may show defensive aggression toward other animals, strangers they don’t know or towards the family when being picked up.
Types of Aggression Video
Click here if your cats aggression is caused by anxiety.
Causes of Cat Aggression
The cause of cat aggression can be mixed and directed at both humans and other animals. See some of the causes below:
• Eye to Eye contact can ignite cat aggresion. Cats see eye contact as a sign of aggression. Two cats can play happily together then a glance in each other’s eyes can cause a fight. This will often end with the submissive cat running away from the situation but this aggression was caused due to eye to eye contact.
• Cats can show signs of aggression when in pain. If you try to pick up a cat and they bite this can be a sign of a problem and if un common or un-explained sudden cat aggression you should take them to the vet. Chronic pain and association with pain may cause your cat to react aggressively. If your cat is acting unusually aggressive or dominant this maybe your cat trying to cover up an underlying medical problem.
• Cats can show signs of aggression when they are suffering mental trauma. This could be an incident that has happened that you do not know about. It could also be for example boredom. A house cat suffering from anxiety can show signs of aggression because they are stressed.
• Redirection of Aggression. A cat can lash out at a human or another animal because they are letting out their aggression that was focused on something else. An example of this is when a male cat watches a rival cat walk on their territory through a window. If you or another cat brushes against him on the window he may lash out. This is aggression that was focussed on the other cat being re-focussed on you or another animal.
• Your cat may be precious but they may have little patience to! If you continuously try to brush your cat when they don’t want to be brushed or pick them up when they are having a nap they may not tolerate it and take a swipe. This is actually quite natural in cats and little to worry about, most cats have little patience and don’t like to be disturbed while having a snooze.
• Cats can show aggression while playing with life like toys. This is quite natural and simulates natural characteristics in the wild.
• Aggressive behaviour in cats is common to display dominance. If your cat is in a house with other cats then aggressive behaviour is quite common. A top cat that feels under pressure from a new addition will often show signs of aggression to show dominance in the hierarchy.
Treating aggression in cats
★ Neutering should mellow an aggressive cat. If you are not planning on breeding your cat then we recommend that you have your cat neutered.
★ If you have an aggressive cat that is dominant and gets into fights outside try putting a bell on their collar. Other cats in the area may start to recognise the sound and associate it with your dominant cat. This gives them the opportunity to get away in time before a conflict starts. This can help your cat avoid dangerous fights.
★ You should try and keep your cat in a relaxed non competitive environment. Cats don’t generally live well with too many other cats. They do not make good pack animals and aggressive behaviour can be common if you have more than 2 cats.
★ Never react to an aggressive cat with aggression. This will only make the issue worse. Aggression should be treated with loving care and medical attention if need be.
★ Cats don’t show pain well, they try to hide signs of sickness or injury. If your cat is sick or unwell they may act with aggression for no apparent reason. This is because in the wild a sick cat is a target to predators or rivals. When cats are sick they try to act the opposite, this can result in aggressive behaviour and dominance. A sudden change in nature or sudden cat aggression could mean your cat is sick, it is important to monitor their behaviour and take them to the vet.
★ If you have taken your cat to the vet and they are healthy then try to keep a log of when your cat is aggressive. If you monitor this over a month you may find consistencies. You may then be able to avoid or rectify the issue that is causing your cat to behave aggressively.
If you are having problems with cat aggression then discuss the issue with your vet. Cat Aggression could be a medical issue or a behavioral problem. Treating aggression in cats is best done by a vet or professional, they may be able to help.
Cat Aggression Towards Owner and Children
Why do cats bite their owners?
If you have had experiences of your cat biting owner or child its can be quite distressing.Cat aggression towards people is not normal for pets that have been raised within a loving family from a kitten. It is however more common with adopted cats that have suffered trauma in their life. In these scenarios you may never have the lap ragdoll cat relationship you want. Your cat might not want to be cuddled or picked up. You can however still enjoy each other company, try to allow your cat to make the first move and give them control of how physical your relationship will be. You will never force your cat to enjoy being picked up, they will just feel confined and most likely bite. Over time an understanding will build and stokes behind the ear/rubs against the leg may become possible.
Cat aggression towards children needs to be closely monitored. If your cat is aggressive towards your child it is important to make sure they are supervised at all times. Child safety is imperative so educating your child about what i s appropriate behaviour is recommended.If you cat feels threatened by children and it is becoming dangerous to your child you might need to consider your long term plans and whether it would be best for everyone for your cat to be rehomed in a calmer environment.
Cats are very good at judging behaviour, they like to be in their comfort zones and sometimes with children this is hard for them due to in their eyes ‘erratic behaviour’. If you have children then ensure your cat has a place to go where they can rest in peace away from the children. When your cat is around your child then ensure they are not cornered. Your cat might see this as a sign of aggression. An open space with lots of escape roots is perfect. Try to encourage your cat to come to your child and not your child alway cornering your cat. Slow calm behaviour is recommended. Involving children in activities such as playing and feeding can often help their relationships. Providing your cat and children live in a calm environments they should live happily together. If you are concerned about your child or cats safety seek professional advice from a qualified vet or feline behaviour specialist.
If your cat bites your child seek medical advice. Never compromise your child’s safety and ensure supervision at all times with young children.