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The Ultimate Cat Behavior Guide.




All animals exhibit aggression in one form or another. Many forms of aggression are accepted as normal behaviour eg a queen defending her kittens, a resident cat chasing a strange cat out of his territory and even a bite or scratch from a cat that has been provoked enough to retaliate. Cats seldom exhibit aggression to people as an unprovoked attack, however cats can be aggressive to people if they perceive attack, even though the person by no way meant to be a threat.

Possible causes of aggression include:

1. Pain

Common sources of pain include a developing cat bite abscess, developing arthritic change ( especially along the back towards the pelvis and hips ), ear infections and pad injuries. A cat that normally enjoys being stroked but suddenly becomes aggressive should be checked for signs of injury and probably taken to the vet for a check up if the signs are not resolving in 24-48hrs.

2. Petting and Biting Syndrome

When stroking your cat, he suddenly turns around and bites you or attacks your hand, grabbing your wrist with his front feet and kicking you with his back feet. Some cats will only do this if they are on their backs when you are stroking their tummies; others do it when you are simply stroking them on the head. This is generally due to conflicting feelings of security and fear – the cat relaxes when being stroked but by doing so feels vulnerable so reacts with defensive aggression and grabs the hand which is stroking them. Often the cat will then start grooming himself to calm down.

As stroking is a learned response rather than a natural behaviour, some cats may be more reactive than others. Some cats get better as they get older but others that have missed out on human attention at a vital time in their development may never accept physical attention.

They key to successful stroking is to make your cat feel as secure and calm as possible and stop before the cat starts to react. Twitching, ears back, sudden tensing and dilated pupils are signs that your cat is feeing defensive so stroking should be stopped. Reward your cat with treats and praise for remaining relaxed and never punish a cat for defensiveness as this will only reinforce negative behaviour and confirm to your cat that you are a threat.


3. Excess Energy

Sometimes cats perform proactive rather than reactive aggression. An example of this is a cat that attacks their owner’s ankles as they walk past them. Often this aggression occurs in house cats as a form of redirected aggression as these cats have no way of releasing pent up energy or frustration eg after watching other cats or birds out of a window. The movement of the owner walking past triggers the cat into a hunting or aggressive defensive mode and they attack. Owners of such cats need to encourage predatory games with toys on strings, varied toys and objects for their cats to climb on and teaching their cat to find food around the house rather than just presenting it in a bowl.

4. Over Excitement
Kittens and young cats often get too excited when playing and attack anything nearby like hands and feet. If kittens are encouraged to do this when they are small they will continue doing it when they get bigger with stronger, bigger more painful teeth. Immediately remove attention from the kitten by walking away and leaving it alone when it bites you so you are not rewarding the behaviour. Return to the kitten and give it attention when it doesn’t bite but immediately walk away again and ignore it if it continues to bite. It may take some time but the kitten will eventually realise that it gets your attention by not biting better than it does by biting. Fishing rod type toys allow you to keep your hands and feet a safe distance from sharp teeth and claws.

5. Hand Rearing

Hand rearing can cause behavioural problems in most animals, not just cats. Although humans can provide nutritional support and nutritional weaning, behavioural support and weaning is sadly lacking. Queens teach their kittens how to cope when they are not able to get what they want, we are lacking in our ability to do this to anything other than out own offspring. Much earning is to do with coping with forced change. As a queen’s milk dries up and the kittens demand more, she diverts them onto prey. A successful switch is accomplished and the kittens learn to be adaptable and deal with frustration. Most hand reared kittens do not learn this lesson early in life and react aggressively to frustration. The solution is to reward the behaviour you want with attention and food and to ignore or prevent situations when aggression comes into play.

6. Presence of another cat
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