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December 1, 2021 |0 min read

What is Aggression in Cats?

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Aggression in cats refers to hostile or violent behavior towards humans or other animals in the home. This could be in the form of roughhousing, scratching, biting, hissing, spraying, or aggressive body language

Cat aggression is different than normal playing. Cats are natural predators, meaning that their play sessions can look aggressive to an untrained cat parent. You see your cats tackling each other, throwing paws, and biting each other’s necks. But it’s the severity and intent of the cat’s behavior that takes it over the edge into aggression. It’s important to know this boundary so you can protect yourself and the other animals that your cat might attack. 

Some common signs of cat aggression include:

  • Aggressive body language (ears straight back, hair standing on the edge, tail stiff and straight back, direct stare)
  • Whiskers pointing straight out
  • Dilated pupils
  • Swatting with paws
  • Biting
  • Fighting
  • Spraying
  • Growling
  • Hissing

Now, let’s look at what can cause cat aggression so you can work to minimize it in your household. 

What Causes Aggression in Cats?

Every cat is unique and will have different triggers, but there are a few common reasons why a cat might get aggressive. Here are a few:

Hormones/Sexual Maturity

Cats reach their peak adult maturity at about 2 years of age and as they reach this maturity, they may experience aggression due to their hormones. This behavior may worsen during mating season, even for spayed and neutered cats (even though it will be much less intense). 

Territorial Disagreements

Cats are extremely territorial and will mark their territory with their unique scent. Territorial aggression might arise if one cat goes into the other cat’s territory. This is hard to avoid in a multi-cat household, which is why it’s important for each cat to have their own space. 

Stress in Their Environment

Stressors in a cat’s environment, such as new furniture, different smells, or even the change in seasons, can cause feline aggression. They may act out in fear or defensiveness if they don’t recognize these changes. 

New Family Members or Pets

Speaking of changes in a cat’s environment, introducing new people or pets can cause a cat to become aggressive. For some shy cats, even having guests over can make them aggressive or cause them to run and hide. The Humane Society recommends introducing new pets slowly and creating positive associations between the two to minimize cat aggression.

Personality Clashes

Cats all have such unique personalities and unfortunately, sometimes those personalities don’t get along. More assertive cats might bully a shy cat, or older and more established cats might bully a new kitten. When this happens, it’s important to redirect the aggression to a toy, rather than another pet. 

Fear

Lastly, a fearful cat might be an aggressive cat. Fear aggression in cats may cause them to lash out if they are scared of their surroundings, something happening outside, another cat, or a person in the household. These aggressive behaviors can include hissing, scratching, and arching their back with their hair standing up. If this is the case, you should consider how your environment might be causing fear aggression

How to Stop Aggression in Cats

By identifying the root cause of your cat’s aggressive behavior, you can stop the aggression and create a healthy, stress-free home for yourself, your kitty, and any other pets in the household. 

Here are some top tips on how to stop cat aggression. 

Spay/Neuter Your Cat

The first way to stop aggression in cats, especially male cats, is to spay or neuter your cat. Not only does spaying and neutering have many health benefits (from cancer prevention to longer lives), but it will also help curb destructive, aggressive behavior. Unneutered cats are more likely to spray to mark their territory and will try to attack both male and female cats in the home during mating season.

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Create a Healthy Routine

Cats are creatures of habit and appreciate a consistent routine at home. Any changes in the routine can make them stressed, which may lead to aggressive behavior. If possible, feed your cat at the same time every day and always keep their litter boxes, food, and water in the same spot so they can easily find it. 

Give Them Plenty of Space

As we mentioned, cats are extremely territorial and may attack another cat if they get in their space. Indoor cats might be limited on space, but there are a few things you can do to make your cat feel comfortable in their own territory. 

Have places for your cat(s) to run and hide that are different levels, such as windowsills, shelves, or cat towers. Cats love to run and climb, and these vertical spaces can add a lot more space, even in a smaller home. 

Also, spread out the litter boxes throughout your home so each cat has a safe, quiet place to go. Cats can get very territorial over their litter box space because this is a place where they feel vulnerable. Always have enough litter boxes (one more than the number of cats you have) and put them somewhere where your cat will feel safe. The best place to put a litter box is away from other pets to avoid causing territorial aggression.

Feed Them Separately

Lastly, cats can get territorial and aggressive over food, so always make sure to feed them enough and, if possible, feed them in separate locations so that mealtime doesn’t trigger food aggression. Limited resources (food, litter boxes, water, love, etc.) can lead to aggressive behavior, so creating a home with enough of these resources can help prevent feline aggression. 

Every cat is a little different, but these tips will help you understand what aggression in cats looks like and what you can do to stop it. By creating a safe home, you can limit aggressive behavior and live in peace with your furry friends. 

Sources:

  1. ​​https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/introducing-your-new-cat-resident-cats
  2. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/spayneuter-your-pet

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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