Feline Aggression: Diffusing Some Common Causes

One of the confusing aspects of being a cat guardian is their unexpected aggression.  There are several types of feline aggression, each with its own trigger and method for diffusing it.

An article in the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Modern Cat magazine offers insights into feline aggression causes and solutions:

feline aggression

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Play Aggression

This behavior is quite common in kittens. What looks like playing to us is actually the kitten honing his hunting skills, part of learning to cat. In nature, kittens practice these skills on litter mates. If there isn’t another kitten available, he will resort to an adult cat, dog, or human. Around 16 weeks of age, the play aggression begins to ramp up.

Try This Solution:

Exhaust your kitten with a variety of toys. Wand toys, battery operated  toys, shelves to climb and perch on. Don’t put all the toys out at once. Change toy locations and selection often.  Kittens have short attention spans and get bored easily.

When adopting a kitten, consider adopting two at the same time. This decreases their stress, and gives them a play buddy to practice their play skils.

Underfeeding Your Cat?

Kittens are so active they need several feedings per day to grow and develop properly.  They need several feedings per day, with more calories per body weight than adult cats. Check with your veterinarian to determine the amount and frequency of feedings for your kitten. Kittens can become aggressive if they’re hungry or malnourished.

Redirected Aggression

This form of feline aggression can be very confusing, since we often don’t see what is causing it.

Redirected aggression is a case of a cat being scared by something they cannot address head-on.  Since they can’t deal with the problem directly, cats turn to the closest available outlet: furniture, another cat, or their human. This type of feline aggression accounts for about half of all aggression against humans.

Try This Solution

Try to avoid fear triggers such as another cat or other animal outdoors, loud noises, or new or different smells.

These are often impossible to remove. If you observe your cat becoming fearful, distract him with a wand toy. Cats rarely feel fearful when playing or watching a wand toy!

If possible, remove whatever is causing your cat to become fearful.  In many cases, it’s impossible to do this. For cases where the source is an animal outside, block your cat’s view.

Once a cat’s become aggressive, leave him alone to calm down.  This might take a few minutes, or a few hours. Once he’s calmed down, initiate a wand toy play session, or pick another toy you know your cat enjoys.

Petting Induced Aggression

This is probably the most common form of feline aggression against humans. It’s literally a case of humans not knowing when to stop!

Cats have certain parts of their bodies they may not enjoy being petted, or places that are actually painful to the touch. Petting overstimulates some cats when the area is petted too long.

Try This Solution

Don’t wait for your cat to react before ceasing to pet him.  Stopping petting before he wants you to stop will help raise his tolerance. He’ll begin to figure out petting isn’t a bad thing. Many times, humans will continue petting a cat until he shows signs of aggression, then they’ll stop petting him. Doing this gives the cat a feeling that petting is always bad.

Interact with your cat in other ways. Scheduling play or training sessions with him will give him the attention he’s looking for, and will be an activity you’ll both enjoy!

Written by Karen


Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.

2 Responses to "Feline Aggression: Diffusing Some Common Causes"

  1. We have a cat that hates everything and everyone. We have had her since she was a kitten. We have tried to figure why she is like this. And petting is a dangerous thing. It don’t matter where you pet. Or how long. Sometimes you pet her once and she attack’s. We have to warn anyone who comes over not to touch her. And don’t even think about picking her up. You lose a arm or two if you do. I am her chosen one and can sometimes get away with picking her up. But it is a scary thing if I have to.

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