Cats are usually sweet and gentle, especially as they outgrow their rambunctious kitten phase. But what happens when you have an aggressive cat? Hissing, clawing, and biting isn’t fun for anyone, especially if it creates conflict with family members or other household pets.
Aggression issues can come from many sources, including an abuse history or health problems. Unfortunately, many aggressive cats end up in a shelter or on the street, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five expert ways to handle aggressive cats and restore harmony in your household.
The 5 Expert Tips to Handle Aggressive Cats:
1. Get a Vet Checkup
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The first step in addressing any aggression issue in your cat, or any other pet, is a vet checkup. Aggression can be caused by medical issues, such as pain or anxiety, and may be treatable. Your vet can rule out any possible medical causes and address any that show up. In addition, your vet may be able to prescribe medication, even in the short term, lifestyle changes, or other interventions to help you address your cat’s aggression.
2. Teach Children Boundaries
Children and pets don’t always mix, especially with cats that aren’t tolerant. Young children can be too boisterous for a cat, and even the most well-meaning child can accidentally hurt cats by pulling on their tails or ears, pinching fur, or handling them roughly, leading to a scratch or bite. It’s important to teach your children how to behave appropriately around your cat (and other pets), not only for their own safety but for the safety and comfort of your cat. Furthermore, children should always be supervised around pets, and it’s best to keep them in different areas when that’s not possible.
3. Offer a Safe Space
If a cat is becoming aggressive, it may need its own space to mellow out and get away from whatever is causing stress. You can’t control every stress trigger your cat encounters, but you can provide a safe space for it to escape. Cats are largely solitary creatures, and though they can coexist peacefully in multi-pet households, they may still need some alone time. You can provide a room, a high shelf with a condo, or a cat tree with different hiding spots—whatever provides privacy and solitude for your cat. You can even try adding calming pheromone diffusers in their safe space such as Feliway to help curb their stress.
4. Don’t Punish
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Behavioral modification can be difficult with cats. They respond to rewards-based training and modification, not punishments. Resist the urge to yell, scold, swat, hit, or spray your cat with a water bottle in response to aggressive behaviors. Cats don’t respond to negativity; doing so may only serve to increase aggression and put your cat on the defensive. Instead, use rewards to reinforce the behaviors you want, instead of aggression, such as lying with you, allowing you to pet it, or signs of affection like purring or rubbing against you.
5. Consult a Behaviorist
If the previous interventions haven’t improved your cat’s aggression, it’s not necessarily bound for the shelter. Consult with a professional veterinary behaviorist to get to the root cause of your cat’s aggression. These professionals are trained in animal behavior and may recommend a combination of behavioral modification, environmental modification, and short-term medication to treat aggression and reinforce non-aggressive behavior.
Types of Cat Aggression
One of the challenges with cat aggression is that it can come from a variety of sources, all of which need to be treated differently.
Cat aggression can be challenging and may put other pets or people in the household at risk, but not all hope is lost. Aggression can come from many possible sources and can be corrected, especially once the underlying cause is identified. Try these tips to correct your cat’s aggression, or consult a veterinary behaviorist to teach your cat appropriate behaviors.
- You might also like: How to Care for an Abused Cat (7 Ways to Help)
Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock