Aggression in cats
is usually defensive and is related to self-protection. This is not offensive
aggression (although some cats will attack offensively, this is not common).
When cornered, a frightened cat will nearly always take aggressive action.
During socialization, a kitten learns to relate to and trust humans. This
trust must be strong enough to overcome the natural fear and avoidance behavior seen in cats who grow
up in the wild. Cats who miss the period of primary socialization at 3 to 9
weeks of age may never make a good adjustment and will always retain some
anxiety when confronted by unfamiliar people.
Analgesics are drugs used to relieve pain. There are many classes of
painkillers. All must be used with caution in cats. Even though human
analgesics are common household items, they should not be given to cats.
Demerol, morphine, codeine, and other narcotics are subject to federal
regulation and cannot be bought without a prescription. The effect of these
drugs on cats is highly unpredictable. Morphine, in a dose appropriate for a
small dog, produces apprehension, excitability, and drooling...
Many cases of unexplained aggression are brought on by environmental stress,
leading to heightened fear. A distressed cat may suddenly attack another cat or
a person who is nearby, even though that person played no part in causing the
upset. A cat who has just been in a fight may accept handling by one person,
yet scratch and bite another who approaches too closely. This is known as
Some cats, when they are rubbed anywhere on the belly or along the back near
the tail, will turn suddenly and scratch or bite. These cats are saying “no” to
petting. Some cats like to be petted; others do not. Some cats will accept
petting for a while, and then decide they have had enough. An outright display
of aggression is almost always preceded by a signal-such as ears back, lashing
tail, twitching skin, whiskers coming forward, or a vocalization-that gives you
enough time to stop petting before the cat strikes.
Cats who develop a thyroid problem often become aggressive. Hunger and
physical stresses may induce irritable behavior. Pain can also cause
aggression. A cat with hip dysplasia may lash out if the hip area is petted.
Always have a thorough physical examination and blood work done on an
aggressive cat, especially if the aggression represents a change in
Use startle techniques, such as a whistle, a puff of compressed air, or a
small, soft object thrown across the cat’s field of vision (not at the cat), to
interrupt aggressive behavior.