Aggression in Cats: Common Causes & Symptoms

Even the sweetest cats can be aggressive from time to time, which is why it is important to understand where this behavior comes from and what you can do to ease their stress. Cats are relatively calm pets, so if you are noticing increased aggression in your furry friend, it is important to take action early and effectively.

Aggression in Cats

According to the ASPCA, cat aggression is defined as “threatening or harmful behavior directed toward a person, another cat, or other animals.” Although we have domesticated the common house cat, they may still show signs of aggression because it is an animal instinct that cannot be fully extinguished.

There are different levels of feline aggression, depending on the situation and the disposition of the cat. For example, stray cats are likely to show higher levels of aggression than house cats. Feline aggression is comprised of body language, actions, and other visual and emotional behavior. Some common signs of cat aggression include:

  • Stiff posture
  • Crouching
  • Open-mouthed hissing or spitting
  • Clawing things
  • Biting
  • Fighting
  • Dilated pupils

Common Causes of Cat Aggression

Feline aggression can be triggered by a number of factors, including medical conditions or environmental causes. Once you recognize common aggressive behavior, you can move on to analyzing the reasons why your kitty might be acting up.

Medical Conditions

Just like humans, cats face different disorders that may cause aggressive behavior. Some of these include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which often exhibits itself as anxiety
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lead poisoning
  • Liver disorders
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Metabolic or hormonal disorders

All of these are serious conditions that require the supervision of a vet or animal behaviorist. If you believe your kitty is acting aggressively because of an internal problem, reach out to a professional today.

Environmental Conditions

Cats thrive on routine, so new changes in their environment might trigger aggressive behavior. Some common situations include:

  • Introducing a new pet into your household. Cats are solitary animals, which means that while they might benefit from a friend, they don’t necessarily need one. They are also very territorial so new animals in the house have the potential to put a cat on edge.
  • Inappropriate handling, either by accident or on purpose. Oftentimes, pet owners will have young children over or guests who aren’t familiar with animals and these individuals might hold or pet a cat in a way that bothers them. This behavior can lead the cat to be aggressive. Likewise, if a cat has faced abusive behavior in the past, they might exhibit signs of aggression to try to defend themselves. These kinds of situations require a high level of care.
  • Changes to environments. This may include a big move or home renovation. Anxiety in situations like these is common, but sometimes a cat will become aggressive.

All of these cases may trigger aggressive behavior in cats. If you recognize what this aggressive behavior looks like and what may be causing it, you can take steps to calm your kitty or seek further help.

Steps to Combating Feline Aggression

While each case of cat aggression differs, there are some universal tactics that cat owners can use to treat chronic or occasional aggression in their feline friends.

First, identify the problem. As stated earlier, there are many reasons why your cat might be acting up. If they’ve experienced a major change in their routine, it may be a result of environmental changes. However, if nothing has been out of the ordinary, it may be a medical cause.

If you believe your cat is acting out because of medical reasons, seek professional help. A vet may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medicines or provide other professional recommendations.

If you believe your cat is acting out because of an environmental reason, try to remove them from the situation if possible. Make sure your kitty has plenty of places to hide and give them time to calm down before trying to hold or pet them. Although they are acting aggressively right now, they might just need a little time to cool off.

Third, seek further help if necessary. Don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with your vet if your cat’s aggression stays the same or worsens. By acting quickly, you will likely help your cat in the long run.

Aggressive behavior can be scary for any pet owner, but if you understand what to look for and the steps you can take to help your cat, you will be well on your way to a happy, thriving feline.

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