My Cat’s a Bully

My cat, Schmittenz, curled up in his favourite cardboard box (Source: the Author)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my cat. But when it comes down to choosing a pet to play with or have a cuddle, I normally opt for my dog. Far less predictable and trusting, my cat Schmittenz tends to quickly change his mind about whether he wants pats or to just be left alone. Not wanting to be scratched or bitten, I often try to keep my distance from him.

Aggression in cats is no small thing. Whether it’s friendly playing that gets a bit too intense, hiding from and hissing at strangers, or frankly tormenting and chasing you around the house (as my sister can attest to), cat aggression poses a large problem for owners. Despite loving your cat, it’s also important to feel safe in your own home. 

Schmittenz deciding that the best place for his nap is on my sister’s homework (Source: the Author)

After making sure the aggression isn’t derived from any medical problems, there are a few main reasons why cats can exhibit signs of aggression towards their owners, other pets, or outside visitors.

1. Fear aggression

Fear aggression commonly occurs when the cat feels threatened, cornered, or trapped. When encountering unfamiliar and fear-triggering stimuli, a cat may hiss, flatten its ears against its head, or bare its teeth.

Prevention: 

  • Try to avoid potentially triggering situations, such as forced encounters with strangers or loud noises like crying and screaming
  • Reward non-aggressive behaviour with treats

2. Pain-induced aggression

As the name suggests, pain-induced aggression occurs when the cat experiences a painful stimulus and reacts defensively.

Prevention: 

  • Try to avoid the painful trigger from occurring or take the cat to a vet

3. Patting aggression

Patting aggression normally occurs when you initiate the patting, by either approaching the cat or picking it up. Cats can get overstimulated quickly, causing them to become aggressive in a short period of time.

Prevention: 

  • Try to let the cat initiate patting & keep patting time short
  • Watch for body language indicating the cat has had enough

4. Playing aggression

Playing aggression often occurs when games with your cat get a bit too vigorous. This aggression can often present with the cat stalking and then pouncing.

Schmittenz with his pupils dilated during an intense game of chase-the-string (Source: the Author)

Prevention: 

  • Encourage playing with toys, rather than your hands and fingers
  • Positively reinforce gentle playing with treats and praise

5. Redirected aggression

Redirected aggression occurs when you attempt to interact with the cat after it has been excited by some other stimuli (ie. being chased or barked at by a dog).

Prevention: 

  • If a cat has been excited or bothered by another stimulus, avoid touching or picking up the cat 
  • Try to prevent the trigger situation from occurring (ie. keeping stray cats/dogs away)

 

Although there are many different ways aggression can occur in cats, learning to understand your cat’s body language and avoiding certain triggers will help to ensure both you and your cat stay happy and comfortable at home.

 

Additional Links:

RSPCA

Feline Behavior Problems: Aggression

Aggression in Cats


8 Responses to “My Cat’s a Bully”

  1. Mathilda Bates says:

    Hi Allanah! That’s very true – Schmitty will sometimes knead my lap which is cute and affectionate, but the claws still hurt!

  2. Allanah Mott says:

    Hi Mathilda,

    Having always had 1-2 cats at home growing up I have experienced a couple of these different forms of aggression. I like to keep in mind that most of the time when your cat hurts you it’s not because they don’t love you. I remember getting the experience of pain aggression from my first cat a couple of weeks before he died when I was patting him and touched a tender area. It was the only time he showed any aggressive behavior towards me.

    One type of physical pain caused by cats you didn’t mention (not an aggressive behavior) is when they get all cuddly and comfy then affectionately stab you with their claws! (Not fun if you’re wearing thin clothing)

  3. Mathilda Bates says:

    Hi Chenyang! Thanks for your comment! And yes, Schmittenz can look cute when he wants to haha

  4. Mathilda Bates says:

    Hi Peter! Thanks, I’m glad you liked the blog!

  5. Mathilda Bates says:

    Hi Albert! Thanks for your comment:)

    Cats definitely do like their alone time & choosing when they want to interact with you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build a connection with them!
    I would probably recommend engaging with them through playing (with strings or other toys – not your hands haha) as well as rewarding good & gentle behaviour with treats and food. When they do choose to come and sit on your lap you can pat them for a bit – but just keep in mind that they often don’t love being touched all the time!

  6. Albert Li says:

    Hi Mathilda,

    I personally never had a cat as a pet, the only experience I had with them are getting chased and scratched by one of my cousin’s cat when I was 4, and being stared at dead of the night while I was sleeping on the couch by another one of my cousin’s cat.

    Most of the cats I’ve seen prefer to mind their own business most of time and doesn’t like it when their lone time is disrupted, so in case I do get a cat in the future, how would you recommending building connection with a pet cat? It seems actively trying to engage them can pretty easily result scratches on the arms. Would the best way be just wait until the cat wants to be petted?

  7. Peter says:

    Excellent article for cat owners, especially in these uncertain times.

  8. Chenyang says:

    Hi Mathilda,

    Thanks for your explanation about the aggression of cats, I used to through cats are aggressive because they were frightened. Now, it looks like a servals reason for this behavior. It’s a good guide for me to get along with cats.

    By the way, Schmittenz looks so cool! haha~