Felines are stereotypically selective with their affection, but cat aggression can be dangerous. First of all, someone could get hurt. Secondly, no one likes to visit a friend whose pet bites and scratches!
The first thing you need to do observe your cat for a while so you can identify patterns. Once you recognize the problem, then you can move forward with an appropriate solution.
Potential causes of cat aggression include:
Biting and scratching are instinctive to cats. Your kitty doesn't need to defend herself like she would in the wild, but she still feels the natural urge to pursue and pounce on her prey-even if she's playing. If you want your cat to behave around other people, don't encourage or ignore this behavior. Clap your hands or rattle a coin-filled bottle in front of her when you notice her stalking you. Then redirect her attention with an interactive cat toy. If she manages to scratch or bite, grasp the scruff of her neck-like mother cats do with their kittens-and firmly push her downward while saying no.
If your cat wasn't properly socialized as a kitten, she may be fearful around other animals and people. You can't miss the standard scaredy-cat stance: crouched with her ears laid back, her tail curled inward, and her body leaned away from the potential threat. Her hair may even stand on end. Teach your cat to be less skittish around strangers by having a friend hold her favorite treat in front of her when she's hungry. Make your cat come to your friend, not vice versa. This way, she learns to trust the people you bring into your home. If she won't come, have someone she trusts hold the treat while your friend stands by. Do this repeatedly, moving your friend closer each time.
Your cat might enjoy being pet for a while and then all of a sudden attack. In this case, you should look for signs that she's reached her limit. Those signs include: tail twitching, flattened ears, and head movement toward your hand. Once you notice the signs, stand up and remove her from your lap. Many experts recommend using desensitization to treat petting-induced aggression. Ignore her for several days, then if she initiates affection, pet her for a few minutes, give her a treat, and then back away. Gradually extend the time so she learns to increase her affection threshold.
Your cat may treat you and guests in your home like other cats, attempting to dominate you to show where she stands in the hierarchy. She might growl or hiss when you approach, or stand in your way when you try to enter another room. You need to teach her she's not the leader when it comes to people. The best way to do this is to leave the room she's in, and withhold attention, affection, and treats until she relaxes. Reward good behaviors with treats to show her people are in control of rewards, and that she'll only get them by behaving.
If your cat just had kittens she will likely be very protective. Your best bet is to disturb her as little as possible when the kittens are young-especially while they're nursing. With the right rewards and desensitization, she may allow you to handle the kittens, but this will likely be a challenge.
If you have no idea why your cat is displaying aggression, you should book an appointment with your vet as there may be a medical problem. Possibilities include distress from mites or fleas, a hormonal imbalance, arthritis of the spine or limbs, dental disease, or a neurological condition. This would cause your cat to growl or hiss when handled.
As with any training technique, consistency is crucial. It may take a while to change your cat's aggressive behavior, but you can do it if you stick to your guns!
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