With big eyes, whiskered faces and unassuming, velvety soft ears, who could be afraid of a little kitty cat? Unlike dogs, which, if provoked, do tend to pose a very loud, very intense threat to most creatures; cats seem so small and punitive in comparison. But since the domestic cat has been in the mouse-killing business since King Tut was building pyramid empires, they’ve got to be scary to something. Lest we not forget that our domesticated housecats are a part of the same Felidae Family Tree as their own kind of KINGS (of the jungle). Your humble ball of fur does share some of the mighty lion’s anatomical qualities – a strong body with flexible properties, lightning fast reflexes, razor-sharp claws and teeth that are designed to shred the flesh of their prey. Combine that with their ability to see in near-blackness, a keen sense of smell and highly-evolved hearing capabilities and you’ve got yourself a worthy soldier in the fight against extinction.
But some cats have a different fight brewing inside of them. According to the ASPCA, “aggression issues in housecats” is the second most common reason behavior professionals see cats. What triggers acts of aggression is a long list, but these are a few of the most common causes of feline attack:
Playful Aggression occurs when your cat gets a little too intense during his playtime. Kittens are especially prone to this type of aggression (they have not yet learned how to separate playtime from non-playtime). Expect to see cats showcase some of their amazing hunting skills, such as chasing, nipping your ankles or swatting your feet as you walk.
Predatory Aggression is what creates the impressive hunting abilities that exist inside every cat. Muffin may appear to be nothing more than a sleeping purr baby, but watch the next time she spots a squirrel infiltrating your garden. Perched high upon the couch, she will lock her gaze upon the enemy. As her pupils dilate, she will instinctively begin making a chattering sound, almost like a computer processing data. In the wild, that nut-stealing rodent wouldn’t stand a chance against Muffin.
Petting Aggression is rather common in cats. Contentment can change to annoyance in a matter of seconds. Most cats will either whip their heads around and give your hand a warning nip or just jump off your lap and run away.
Pain-Induced Aggression is sometimes the first sign that something is wrong with your cat. If your ordinarily docile cat becomes agitated when touched, there could be something causing her pain. Pain-induced aggression is also evident when having to medicate your cat (like putting salve on infected eyes).
Defensive Aggression – When a cat is frightened, it will exhibit outward defense mechanisms in an attempt to protect itself. Hissing, puffy tail, laid back ears – these are all signs that your cat is scared.
Knowing the types of aggression in cats is just half the battle. Now that you know the motives, what are some of the warning signs that your cat is annoyed?
*A twitching tail
*Laid back ears
If the cause for aggression continues, you might notice your cat’s demeanor change further:
Finally, if the provoking continues, a cat will attack:
*Striking the opponent with her paws and swatting with her claws
*Growling and howling
*Laying on her side to utilize all four paws in an all-out attack
The act of cats attacking humans is rarely fatal. However, the transmission of rabies, deep lacerations from their claws (which also can be disfiguring to the skin) and causing a flu-like infection called Cat Scratch Fever are all very serious dangers that cats pose to humans.
If your cat exudes aggressive behavior for no apparent reason, it is important to seek veterinarian assistance. The reasons for chronic cat aggression are not simple and finite, and require professional assessment and testing. Issues such as adrenal fatigue, medication reactions, thyroid abnormalities, cognitive dysfunction, orthopedic issues, and even diet, can all be contributors to feline aggression.
Every cat personality is different. Most important is to know what triggers aggression in your cat and be very aware of how she reacts when she is annoyed. Removing the stressor from your cat’s environment is the best way to prevent feline attack, and learning to understand your cat will continue to strengthen your companion bond.