Have you ever found yourself petting your cat and having a relaxed time when your feline buddy suddenly goes a little crazy and switches to attack mode? We all know that cats can be mysterious creatures, yet many owners of cats become frustrated with their seemingly erratic or aggressive behavior. It’s important to understand cat aggression and what signs to look out for that would communicate that your cat needs some alone time.
Types of cat aggression
Cat aggression often falls into one of the following categories:
- Petting aggression: Some cats love to be petted. Others enjoy it, but only on their terms and for a duration with which they’re comfortable. Most cats who are about to reach their petting limit will exhibit at least one warning sign (see below) before losing their cool.
- Territorial/resource aggression: Cats are territorial. When they perceive something as belonging to them, they may feel compelled to guard and protect it. Resources a cat might defend include scratching posts, food bowls, toys, and even people. A new visitor or pet in a cat’s home could also lead to aggressive behavior.
- Fearful/stressful aggression: Whether a cat is afraid of some unfamiliar noise or is feeling anxiety or stress because she just arrived home after being boarded during a vacation, cats that feel fearful or anxious are more likely to aggress.
- Predatory/play-related aggression: Most common among cats that were weaned from their mothers too early, cats experiencing predatory or play-related aggression didn’t have as much (or any) playtime with their littermates, and, as a result, never learned to bite inhibition.
- Medical-related aggression: Various medical conditions, including pain, hyperthyroidism, cognitive dysfunction, dermatological conditions, and more, can lead to aggression in cats. Cats on certain medications may also experience behavioral changes.
Warning signs of cat aggression
Watch for the following warning signs that your cat might be on the verge of attacking.
- Dilated pupils
- Flashing tail
- Hissing or growling
- Whiskers and/or ears held flat or pointing directly down or straight out
- Hair standing up on the back of the neck
- Backing into a corner and crouching into a small position or trying to look as large as possible
If your cat is exhibiting aggressive behavior, contact us for assistance.