Is there a solution for Cat Aggression?
Cat aggression is often misunderstood and we should consider where it starts. As soon as kittens are old enough to walk around they begin to play with one another. This play has been an essential part of kitten and cat survival long before they were household pets. While watching kittens play, no one would consider their play aggression. Kittens learn how to sneak up and stalk their litter-mates, and how to attack them by kicking, biting, chasing, and pouncing. All essential skills for learning to feed themselves once they have left their mothers. Only in the most feral cat communities does this happen anymore, however, the instinct is still there and most kittens still practice and hone their hunting skills. This leaves humans with the question is there anything to do about the aggression?
In this day and time, these kittens are placed in loving homes where hunting the food bowl or the bouncy toy can be quite boring. So they turn to their human litter-mates for play. They must learn that actions such as biting too hard cause pain and that scratching the unsuspecting baby is not okay. This natural instinct in a kitten is often misinterpreted as aggression and at times, mishandled by the human counterpart.
Therefore, true aggressive behavior is, in most cases, fear, interpreted as anger and meanness. Cats understand instinctively that they are small and vulnerable. If a cat is backed into a corner or hiding, you might think it is ready to attack when actually, it is simply trying to protect itself.
These signs will help you to understand your kitten’s behavior:
• Arched back • Attacking with claws and teeth • Ears pulled back • Hair on spine standing up (Halloween cat style) • Hissing • Hunkering down in a protective manner • Urinating inappropriately • Pouncing • Showing teeth • Spraying • Stalking • Staring • Tail up • Tail swooshing back and forth
The first thing to do is determine if the cat is ill or in pain, so a trip to the veterinarian to check for the following might be in order:
• Adrenal Disorder • Anemia • Arthritis • Brain Disease • Dental Disease • Epilepsy • Hyperthyroidism • Kidney disorder • Lead poisoning • Rabies
Once the kitten has a clean bill of health, he or she can be started on behavior modification. These methods can be used for most types of aggression. It is very important to never use any physical punishment of any kind because it will only reinforce the reason for the aggression in the first place.
Changing the Aggression
Never use your hands or let your kitten use your hands as objects of play. Do it once and it is forever. The cat will not understand why it is okay sometimes and not other times when his play becomes too rough and become aggressive.
If your kitten attacks your feet as you walk by, throw a ball or toy to distract him so your passage is claw-free. Trim claws whenever possible, or take him to the vet and have him trimmed to make clawing less painful until he learns.
While playing, if your cat gets too rough, there are several strategies. Distraction with a feather teaser or other toy will pull his attention away from you. A human hiss will stop him for a couple of seconds and send the same message a mother cat would. If these rather simple things don’t work, then get up and remove yourself from the play area. This shows your kitten that this type of play is not acceptable. It’s a subtle hint but after a few times your kitten will figure it out as they will not like being left alone.
Another good tactic is playing the victim when the kitten bites or hurts you. Over-exaggerate a loud OWWW, as if you are crying. This will make the kitten realize he hurt you. They do have a conscience and they will recognize that they have hurt you.
Environmental stimulation will also help to expel some of the kitten’s energy. High shelves where they can jump away and feel safe, a small or even large catio/enclosure where they can get outside will move their attention to better things.
There are other options that are not so easy. There are very good cat behaviorists nowadays as well as shows on Animal Planet and YouTube.
Calming a cat down and keeping it happy is your responsibility. It began the day you decided to bring a pet into your home. Never lose your temper or hurt an animal; instead, remove yourself until you can behave appropriately.