How to manage aggression in cats

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Cats, like people, have different personalities – and a hot temper may just be one of the traits your cat possesses. However, if your cat is unusually aggressive or regularly violent, it’s worth looking a little deeper.

The first thing to establish is whether your cat is indeed being aggressive, or just tends to be a little overzealous. Some cats may hide and pounce, scratch or even nibble at the strangest times. While this can be playful, or a reflection of their instinct to hunt, overly aggressive behaviour should be attended to with the right kind of corrective measures.

Don’t encourage it

It is important not to encourage your cat’s aggressive behaviour. Play-fighting with your cat, or encouraging them to do so with other cats and animals sends a signal that you condone this behaviour. Violence begets violence, so any kind of physical reprimand or punishment will generally make your cat more defensive and violent.

Instead, try to channel your cat’s energy and need for physical stimulation in a different direction. Providing hanging toys, jingling balls or chew toys allow your cat to play and pounce, without doing any harm. This takes the emphasis away from hurting and redirects their energy toward stimulation and fun.

Can’t we all just get along?

Often, signs of aggression occur in homes with more than one cat or animal. This is partially to do with cats being inherently territorial, single-minded animals, who enjoy their own space, and the freedom to do things their own way.

Encouraging a non-competitive, equally loving environment between cats and/or with other animals in the household is crucial. Any fighting should always be stopped immediately. However, the environment could also be a trigger for this behaviour.

Inadequate food provision (in the same bowl for example) or constantly occupied litter boxes can make for a tense environment, so it is important to look after each animal’s needs individually.

Getting territorial

Beyond your home, neighboring cats can also create a trigger for aggressive or violent behaviour as your cat strives to defend its territory. Try to keep other cats off your property, and certainly do not give them access to your home, your cat’s food or litter box. If necessary, discuss this with your neighbor to figure out a solution for the cats involved.

Consult an expert

In serious cases of aggression and fighting, the input of a cat behaviorist may be necessary. A history of violence (especially in the case of rescue or stray animals) or temperament issues may need their expert involvement to help your cat react more positively to difficult situations.


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