Cats are among the most complicated of any pet that you could own. Felines have distinct personalities and they are generally quite independent. Cats may display moody behavior which alternates from being loving and craving attention to preferring solitude. Sometimes behaviors may begin as playful and turn to acts of aggression. To a degree, this may be normal but there are five signs of aggression that indicate there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. It is important to be familiar with them so you will know when it is time to take the appropriate action to protect yourself and your family from the dangers that can accompany injuries inflicted by cats through bites and scratching.
Biting and scratching during play
Kittens who are raised with other kittens are less likely to become aggressive because they learn how to play properly with one another through trial and error and retribution for offenses. A kitten that is raised solely may not understand the parameters of acceptable behaviors as well as the others. If your cat or kitten becomes aggressive and plays roughly, the behaviors can quickly escalate and get out of control. Anytime a cat displays this type of behavior it should be addressed immediately. Your pet must learn that hard biting that and scratching that causes pain or breaks the skin must never be tolerated.
When your cat becomes too rough during play you need to let them know that they are crossing acceptable behavioral lines. Verbally respond with a tone that lets them know that you won’t tolerate the behaviors. Walk away from them and discontinue play. This will let them know that if they want to play, they must do it gently. Be consistent and always discourage rough play. If family members engage the cat in rough play they are reinforcing the behaviors so this will take an effort and commitment to every member of the family.
A tell tale sign of aggression in a feline is when a cat assumes a stiff body posture. Your cat may arch his or her back. This may be accompanied by growling or pinning the ears flat against the head. The pupils of the eyes may also dilate. This doesn’t always mean that your cat is getting ready to
Growling and Hissing
This is one of the major signs that a cat is feeling aggressive. When a cat is hissing and growling, they are giving a warning that they are about to take further action including biting and scratching. This behavior is especially dangerous for young children who may not recognize this as a sign to leave the animal alone or face potentially dangerous consequences. Common causes of this are fear of harm or it may also be an indication that the cat is in some type of pain. It is best to ensure that there is no physical reason for the behavior. Some older cats may experience arthritis which causes them pain when walking or moving about. The best action to take in this instance is to have the cat examined by an animal veterinarian to rule out physical issues. If a medical condition is present, treatment may alleviate the problem so no further action is needed. If the cat is acting out because it feels threatened, removing the stimulus is the first solution. Reassuring your pet may also be helpful. Because of the risk of infection and transmission of illness it is best not to place yourself in a position to be bitten or scratched.
Tail lashing and laid back ears
You can tell by the head and tail if your cat is feeling a little peeved. While all cats both aggressive and gentle do this, for some, it is a sign that they are preparing for more aggressive behaviors. It is a strong indication of their displeasure and in particular, the emotion of anger. It is best not to touch a cat who is displaying these signs, but rather coax them out of this by talking. Many people tell their cats to “knock it off,” and get fairly good results. It is always best to attempt to de-escalate this emotion as quickly as possible. Your cat will learn that this is not acceptable and will either run to another room until they are more in control of the emotion or will discontinue their tantrum after a verbal warning.
Attacking moving body parts
It is natural for a cat to respond to moving feet under the bed with playful batting. It is when this escalates to biting or scratching that it becomes a problem. Similar to the reaction for rough play, this behavior should be discouraged. A little harmless batting isn’t an issue, it is when they become too aggressive that you must administer corrective action. There is a line that must be firmly established with your cat that determines what is simply fun and play and which actions are over the line and too aggressive for your tolerance. Once your cat understands this, they will avoid the behaviors if at all possible because they do not want to deal with the consequences.
Recognizing the signs of aggression in cats can help you to avoid injury or illness due to cat bites and scratches. Infections are common from any break in the skin caused by cats and may result in the need for medical treatment or even hospitalization. It is important to ensure that the animal is not being teased or treated unfairly. Ensuring that he or she is in good health and well fed is vital as any pain or discomfort can cause excessively aggressive behaviors in felines. Young children and other pets are particularly vulnerable to injury caused by cats, particularly those who may not recognize the signs of aggression. Aggressive behaviors should be addressed immediately to teach the pet which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Taking early action can help in preventing behaviors which could quickly become dangerous.