Aggressive behaviour in our pets is normally associated with dogs. We hear of cases of dog attacks all the time in the newspapers and whenever we encounter a new dog, our first reaction is to be weary of it in case it becomes aggressive. This is not normally our first reaction to pet cats, thus sometimes resulting in a bloody hand.
Cats like all other animals will display aggression when a threatening situation arises, the difference with a cat is that there are many different reasons for their aggression and knowing what will trigger an attack will help us to understand our cats behaviour and help us to prevent the situations arising.
The first thing to understand is that it is not in the cats interest to be involved in a unnecessary fight as this could result in injury to itself which could threaten it's survival. So in most cases aggressive behaviour is either used as a warning signal or for survival purposes such as territory rights or for food.
Aggressive behaviour can be displayed in many ways, from the straight full on attack to subtle body movements designed to be intimidating. These body signs include, fluffing of fur, arching of back, low-pitched growls, crouching and hissing. In most cases these body signals are enough to warn off the potential enemy without an actual fight being necessary.
There are many different causes for cat aggression and by understanding the reasons for the behaviour cat owners will be able to react correctly towards it.
Some cats will become aggressive during a normal petting session for no apparent reason, often shocking their owner who is totally unprepared for the attack. Often this behaviour occurs in a timid or less social cat that may find petting pleasant for a short time but then may feel trapped by the situation and warns you off with a quick bite. Understanding your cats temperament and their likes and dislikes to being petted will reduce the risk of this aggressive behaviour.
Predatory aggression arises from the cats natural instincts to hunt for prey and when the opportunity for this is reduced by being kept inside for most of the time, is redirected in attacking other animals or humans who by pouncing on hands and feet. These attacks can be headed off by placing a bell on the cats collar so that you can hear them coming and my making a loud startling noise if an attack is imminent. Stooping the cat in their tracks.
Many owners find that game time with their cat can leave their hands covered in scratches and bites. This play aggression is a learned behaviour and or rather that they haven't learnt that when playing they should retract their claws. Using only toys to play with your cat rather than hands will reduce the likelihood of injury and any games that do result in a scratch should be stopped immediately. Over time the cat will learn that the game will stop when they bite and scratch their owners and they will stop this aggressive behaviour.
Fear is another major reason for a cat to behave aggressively. It is their normal instant reaction and can sometime manifest itself in strange ways. Trauma aggression is one of these strange manifestations of aggression and is often one of the most misunderstood behaviours. This aggression is displayed towards another animal or person who is totally unrelated to the initial reason for the fear in the cat. It can stem from hearing loud unexpected sounds, having their tail stepped on or even from another pets visit to the vets. These incidents cause stress and fear to the cat who needing to retaliate against this fear will attack the first creature or person they come across. Unfortunately this aggression can continue for some time until the cat has re-established friendly relations again with the object of their aggression.
The main reason for displays of aggression from pet cats is usually based around territory and hierocracy between other cats. As cats are not pack animals like dogs they require there own space and have to feel that they are master of that space. So cats sharing the same living space inside will often display bouts of aggression towards each other to reaffirm their status in the house, these are not usually serious fights and should be allowed to happen without our intervention, as peace should return to the home quite quickly. The outside battle for territory is constant and one that as cat owners we have to accept as apart of their natural behaviour and not one that we can prevent. In most cases these fights will result in a scratched nose or bitten paw.
Aggression in cats is always a reaction to something else and should never be seen as bad behaviour. By understanding the reason for the aggression will help us to react to it appropriately and will in the long-term help us to build a better relationship with our pets.