Aggression in Cats (Overview)



If your veterinarian identifies an underlying disease responsible for the cat’s behavior, it will be treated first. If there is no underlying illness, it is up to you to re-train your cat. If it is determined that your cat's behavior is driven by experience or lifestyle, behavioral modification techniques will be put in place. Just remember, you are the boss, and the change in attitude that you will need to make on your side, in order to encourage change on your cat's behalf, will be a permanent change, or the cat will slip back into its old behavior.


Some of the modification training will include:


  • Avoiding frightening situations
  • Avoid provoking or instigating aggressive behavior
  • Identifying the situations that will initiate a bad reaction from the cat
  • Learn to read the signs (e.g., tail flicking, ears flat, head hunched, low growl, etc.)
  • Leaving the cat alone when it is aggressive
  • Identifying situations when the cat is calm, so behavior-modification training can be carried out
  • Rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior
  • When aggression signs are present, let the cat fall from your lap or walk away from it, and refuse to give it attention until its behavior has changed
  • For aggression between cats, separate them and keep the aggressive one in a less favorable area
  • The use of leashes and harnesses to help in desensitizing and conditioning
  • Clicker training, in which a clicker is used to encourage desired behavior, might also be considered


When training for behavior modification, keep in mind that sessions should be kept short to avoid resentment, boredom and resistance. It is very important not to use physical punishment of any kind; it will only exacerbate the problem.


If you and your veterinarian conclude that your cat's predetermined personality is at the root of the behavior, and it cannot be modified extensively, you may want to consider one of the mood-enhancing drugs on the market that are specifically formulated for pets. The availability of drugs is limited for cats, and as with any drug, if you do decide to use them, be alert to possible unfavorable side effects. Otherwise, accommodating your cat's personality, as you would for a family member, may be your best option. You will want to keep your cat safe from fearful situations, and safeguard other animals, and people, from your cat's tendencies to act out.


Image via Shutterstock

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