Know why your favorite feline is acting out? These tips may help restore the peace.
My friend, Paul recently visited, and to his surprise my super-shy cat, Angus, made an appearance in the living room. Paul froze and held his breath, just like Rutger Hauer in “Ladyhawke” right before Michelle Pfeiffer transforms into a poof of feathers and disappears into the dawn. However, instead of escaping into the nearest closet, Angus approached Paul, swiped and hissed at him. I was horrified. Paul, however, remained cool (and still) until Angus calmed down. This isn’t the first time Angus has behaved aggressively toward visitors. My saintly cat-sitter, Analisa, sends me updates of his ‘improved behavior’ whenever I’m out of town. “Only one hiss today and then he did flip-flops for me,” she’s reported. Initially I thought Angus felt threatened by the scent of other animals on Analisa (she works in a veterinary clinic). After a bit of research, I realized that scent might not be the cause. There are numerous types of cat aggression ranging from playful to defensive. Following are some types of cat aggression and solutions to save you and your best friend from an unpleasant situation.
The most common type of cat aggression is between cats – especially unneutered males.
We’ve all seen the scrappy neighborhood tomcat fight for his territory or heard those unsettling howls in the middle of the night. Indoor cats experience a more subtle territory battle. Their battles are frequently related to physical size, learned associations, undersocialization (a lack of pleasant experiences with other cats early in life) or a basic personality clash.
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Never allow your indoor cats to fight it out. This will lead to increased cat aggression. Instead, interrupt the aggression with a loud clap of your hands. According to the ASPCA, other solutions include neutering/spaying your cats, separating their resources in order to reduce competition and providing additional perches. Phermones, which mimic natural cat odor, can help reduce tensions. Rewarding good behavior with healthy treats will also help ease conflicts. Finally, give your indoor cats time and space alone in order to self-soothe and de-stress, especially after a conflict.
Other types of aggression can occur when a cat feels threatened, perceives danger, is defending his territory, is experiencing pain and irritation or is the result of idiopathic (unexplained) causes.
In instances where your cat is acting out not only to his fellow felines, but toward household visitors or even you, a full veterinary examination will help identify any medical complications. Diet or abnormal social behaviors could be contributing to the aggression. Implementing a full treatment plan with your vet will create an awareness of your cat’s needs as well as a happier, safer environment for all.
After reviewing Angus’ medical history with his vet, I learned that he, unlike his very socialized and chill ‘brother-from-another-mother,’ was under socialized. While kitty play dates are out of the question, by providing Angus with the space he needs and monitoring his health, he is warming up to visitors at his own pace – minus the hissing fits!
Image: Tomi Tapio K via Flickr