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Help! My Cat Wants to Kill Me! Dealing with an Aggressive Kitty!
While many cats are indeed friendly, affectionate pets, there are some that have aggression issues. My friend has an aggressive cat that will attack just about any stranger that crosses its path. Needless to say, my friend doesn't get many visitors (I think we are all afraid of being clawed to death). While an aggressive cat can sometimes be funny to watch....aggression issues, are in fact, very serious (especially if you are the one with the deep scratches running down your arm).
The good news is that most cats can be tamed. Yes, there are a few cases that are hopeless, however, most cats can be taught to "play nice." It is important to note that just like some dogs…some cats are indeed born with aggression issues while others simply developed them over time. For example, if a cat is not socialized when it is young, it can become aggressive (though aggressive, under-socialized cats are actually acting out of "fear" and in their minds, are protecting themselves).
Sorry - NO Quick Fix!
If you have an aggressive cat, I must warn you…there are NO quick fixes. Changing your cat's behavior will take time, consistency and of course, a lot of love! There are different types of aggression so it is important that you study your cat's behavior in order to figure out what triggers his beastly actions. For example, play/prey aggression is caused by your cat's over-whelming desire to hunt down and kill something. In reality, this is natural cat behavior…after all, in the wild; cats catch mice, birds and other small critters in order to survive. In other words, cats are naturally "wired" to behave in this way…some just take it to the extreme and try to kill you every time you walk down the hall. If your cat is always attacking your hands and feet, this is because you have probably encouraged him to do so during play (for example, you swat at your cat to encourage him). By doing this, your cat now thinks that attacking your hands and or feet is what he SHOULD BE doing. To discourage this behavior, go to the pet supply store or your favorite on-line pet shop and buy a LOT of cat teasers. If possible, have a teaser available in every room of your house. I know this sounds excessive, however the next time your cat attacks your hands or feet, you will want to use a cat teaser to immediately divert his attention. Always flick the cat teaser as far away from your body as possible (you don't want to give him any opportunities to swat at YOU). Also, stand as still as possible. By standing still you are no longer a moving target and the cat teaser will become his main focus. I know this technique sounds too easy to be true…however, if you play with your cat (with the teaser) on a daily basis for at least fifteen minutes…he should get the idea. As I mentioned previously, redirecting your cat's aggression will take time as there is NO quick fix.
So, you have a "watch cat" on your hands. In other words, your cat wants to dissect any living thing that comes too close to his territory. Cats are, in fact, very territorial animals and will fight to protect "what is theirs." First of all, if your cat is an indoor/outdoor pet…TURN HIM INTO AN INDOOR ONLY animal! Though your cat might not agree with his new indoor only status, trust me, over time, he WILL ADJUST! Not only is your cat SAFER inside he cannot cavort with other cats…which, hopefully, will tone down his aggressive ways. Once an indoor only pet, you can use cat calming sprays in order to reduce his anxiety. Calming sprays contain pheromones that will calm your cat's inner beast. It is also a good idea to keep the blinds and curtains closed (at least for a while) so that your feline cannot see other animals outside. If your cat is territorial towards humans (and calming sprays do not work) seek advice from your veterinarian. He or she may be able to recommend a cat behaviorist (yes, they do exist) to assist you.
As you probably know, most cats are very independent. In fact, though they do enjoy a good petting session now and again, they like to be left alone the majority of the time. If your cat becomes aggressive while you pet him this is probably because you have over-stepped your allotted petting time. Figuring out when your cat wants attention and when he does not can be difficult, however, most cats will put forth very recognizable signs and it is up to you to figure them out! For example, if your cat jumps into your lap and rubs his head on you…by all means…pet away! The second he jumps out of your lap or steps away…leave him alone. Petting aggression is really your problem…not your cats.
Other signs that your cat may be done with you and no longer wants to be petted include the flattening of the ears, body stiffening, fur moving or standing up, tail flashing back and forth and growling. If you notice any of these signs as you are petting your puss…stop immediately and step away from the cat. I repeat, step away from the cat. If you enjoy petting your cat and wish that he would be more affectionate…it is up to you to develop a kitty/owner bond. After all, YOU are the human in the situation!
STOP the Problem BEFORE it Starts!
Over all, cat aggression, while serious, can be curbed. If you have a cat and you are afraid of him or her becoming aggressive…then stop the problem before it even starts! How? First of all, never tease your cat. Teasing, for obvious reasons can turn a calm cat into an aggressive monster. Secondly, don't allow your cat outside. Keeping your kitty inside is not only safer…he will not be able to develop strong territorial instincts towards other animals. Finally, if you are playing with your cat and he is really riled up…don't try to pet him until he has calmed down. Obviously, if your cat is in full-steam play mode…he will probably attack your hand when you reach towards him. Oh and one other thing…if your cat is NOT "fixed" I suggest you make an appointment. Spaying and or neutering can calm even the craziest of cats. Good luck and here's to scar free forearms! Meow!