How to Handle an Aggressive Cat
8 June, 2015

If you have just adopted a kitten or cat from a local shelter or adoption agency, most of the cats there will adjust to your home splendidly.  If anything, most of the cats are a bit on the shy side. And, then every once in a while, you might bring home an aggressive cat who loves to pounce you and doesn’t know when to stop! Sometimes this aggression can be out of fear or just adjusting to his new home. There are ways for you to help minimize the aggression so you can live happily and comfortably together!

There are several possible reasons for aggressive behavior.

Lack of handling as a kitten:

Frequent handling of a kitten is a very important part of bringing up a friendly and gentle cat. When a kitten is not handled much or at all, he can grow up disliking being touched and preferring to be left alone. Such a cat may resist handling with a nip or a slap with his paws.

Mistreatment or abuse:

If a cat or kitten is treated very roughly, to the point that it suffers pain and discomfort, he will learn to resist human contact.



Illness or injury:

Cats who are sick or injured cats, like humans, can be irritable and even hostile. Even an innocent touch can cause pain or discomfort. A thyroid problem is just one condition known to trigger aggressive behavior in cats. Take your cat to a veterinarian to determine whether your cat’s aggression is caused by being sick or injured.

Threatening or frightening situations:

Cats are cautious creatures. Your cat may be frightened of something as obvious as a strange dog or as trivial as a slammed door. In either case, if you’re holding him when he bolts, he might scratch you trying to get away. If it’s an extremely frightening situation, he might even bite.

Stressful living environment:

A stressed cat is more likely to bite or scratch or, more often, become skittish. Stress can be caused by many different factors. Your home may be too noisy or perhaps there are certain noise levels or sounds may trigger aggressive behavior. If your cat was accustomed to regular time outside and now stays indoors, this change can cause stress.

An unhealthy diet:

Certain foods, malnutrition, and vitamin deficiencies can trigger aggression.  Your vet can help recommend a new diet if you think this is the source of the aggression.

Tips to handle the aggressive behavior

When your cat just growls or hisses at you, simply walk away. If he actually bites you or scratches, say “Ouch!” immediately, look and sound hurt even if it really didn’t hurt. Rub your bite and walk away. 

If you own a kitten and you’re confident that you won’t get hurt, pick him up and set him down pointing away from you. Walk away. If he persists in being aggressive, lock him in the bathroom for five minutes. Have a lure toy ready and start to play with him when you let him out if he’s still feisty.

Watch for warning signs of anger or agitation. Pay attention to his posture so you will learn how he holds his ears and tail before he attacks. Watch his eyes and mouth. If you see an attack coming, try distracting him with a lure toy. Or push an “aggression toy” onto him. You’re your cat something that he can kick and bite. Use a large fuzzy catnip toy or a stuffed animal sprayed with catnip.  Or something like a terry-cloth sock works well.

Always handle your cat with care as most cats will defend themselves against rough handling. Even if your cat only scratches or bites in that situation, stop doing it. Rough play is not a good idea anyway. You want your cat calm and happy, not riled up. Don’t use your hands to play with your cat. Use a lure toy. When cats play, they use their teeth and claws.

If your cat becomes aggressive when he hears certain noises, avoid creating those noises when you’re around if possible. But, on the other hand, you don’t want your cat in a completely quiet environment.  Your kitty needs to be exposed to normal human sounds to get more used to living with them.

By adding some cat vitamin supplements to your kitty’s diet, it can help alleviate moodiness. Or sometimes a specific food can cause allergic reactions that can lead to angry spells. Tuna, foods that contain yeast, and hormone-injected meats have been known to do that in some cats.  Your vet can make some recommendations if you think this is the case.

Always keep your cats nails trimmed. Kittens’ claws are very sharp and will easily cut through your skin. Adult claws can do even more serious damage.

Do not hold a cat when he or she is likely to be suddenly frightened, such as when meeting a new cat or dog, walking near an appliance that’s making noise, or any other trigger.

As you learn what triggers the aggression, you can, in turn, know how to get your cat to stop it.  It might take some time and effort, but for the most part, your cat is aggressive for a reason.  If none of the above recommendations help, make sure to call your vet to see if there is an underlying medical condition that is causing the aggressive behavior.



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