Cats can be unpredictable creatures. Even the cuddliest of companions can spit, hiss, bite, or scratch. While these attacks may seem completely random, cats often attack for predictable reasons. Understanding the potential motives for kitty violence and signs of stress can help loving cat owners better manage attacks and even sometimes stop them before they start.
Playful aggression is most common in kittens and young cats but can occur in cats of any age. Kittys enjoy play that utilizes their hunting instinct. Swipes with claws, bites, and lunges are all part of the fun. Kittens especially don't always realize when they're crossing the line from playful to painful. If playful aggression is a persistent problem, cats can be trained and redirected, so they play more gently.
Cats need daily intellectual and physical exercise. While they can be more independent than other pets, felines still struggle if they're left alone for long periods without play or socialization. The amount of playtime a cat needs can depend on its temperament, age, and breed. Humans can reduce bored cat attacks by offering them toys they can play with independently and setting aside time to work out their energy.
Redirected aggression is an expected cat behavior. Sometimes a kitty feels threatened by a person or animal they can't get to and attacks the next person that approaches them instead. This can be triggered by another feline walking by the house, the smell of another animal nearby, or a person who has frightened them. Humans can avoid attacks by giving their cat space if they seem frightened or are focused on something outside.
House cats are tiny creatures in a big world. Humans are larger and stronger and sometimes behave in ways the cat doesn't understand. A cat's first instinct when frightened is to escape. It's important to give your kitten small private spaces in the home where they can retreat if threatened. If a cat feels it can't get away, it may display warning signs like crouching, hissing, and flattening its ears before attacking.
Territorial behavior is most common in unneutered or spayed cats that are becoming sexually mature. Cats usually reserve territorial behavior for other cats but will sometimes attack humans or dogs as well. They might be selective, allowing some people and animals into their space but not others. Their territory could be a room, a corner, or the entire house. In some cases, professional cat trainers can teach owners how to reduce territorial aggression.
Any cat who suddenly shows unusual aggression should be checked for injuries or illness. Your cat might attack because someone is touching a painful part of them or because they see a person approaching and are anticipating being handled. Arthritis, dental pain, and abscesses can make a kitty irritable and frightened. If a cat is specifically attacking when a certain part of its body is touched, it may be injured.
Many conditions or injuries can cause a cat to suddenly or gradually lose one of its senses. Elderly and middle-aged cats are prone to high blood pressure, which can cause sudden loss of vision. Cats often lose their vision and hearing as they age, just like humans do. When a cat cannot see where a pet is coming from or hear a human approach, it can easily become frightened and attack.
One of the most common and confusing types of attacks from cats is attacks while they're being petted. Each cat has their own tolerance level for human interaction. Dilated pupils, twitching tails, and restlessness are all indications that the cat is done with playing or being touched. People who notice these signs should stop the interaction and let the cat leave or relax beside them.
Pregnant and mama cats can be very territorial and protective. It's important not to try to separate a mother from her kittens unless necessary; since most newborns are safest with their mother. Sometimes mama cats will bring her kittens to her owners. This is a massive act of trust, and it's important to always be gentle and careful when handling kittens.
Cats are predators by nature. They're driven to hunt, stalk, play, and sometimes attack. While it's important to watch out for signs of a stress or injury and consult professionals about intense aggression, occasional pounces and bites aren't necessarily cause for concern. A healthy, happy cat will still sometimes crouch down, wiggle its backside, and launch an attack on its owner's feet. They're cute enough to get away with it.
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