An aggressive cat is never a good thing. It can be a dangerous situation for you or any member of your family, especially unaware children. Get to the bottom of why your cat may be showing signs of aggression and learn some helpful ways to calm your cat.
Most anger in cats derives from fear, and aggressive behavior stems from your cat’s perception that it needs to defend itself. Placing your cat in any situation where fearful emotions arise will often result in anger. Knowing how to minimize and remove such situations is an important part of calming your angry cat and keeping it calm.
Recognizing Behaviors of an Angry Cat
Consider the motivation for your cat’s anger:
- A cat’s primary motivation for displaying angry or aggressive behavior is fear. Cats are not as domesticated as dogs and easily revert to their wild state. This means that cats are one step away from being a wild animal still and many wild animals live in a constant state of alertness for danger, including a fear of people.
- Top of the list for inducing fear is strangers, simply because a cat doesn’t know what that person is all about until they’ve had time to observe and trust that the person is cat friendly. Keep in mind that the reason for your cat’s fear may not always be immediately apparent to you
Recognize behaviors associated with fear or anger in your cat. Reading your cat’s body language can help avoid conflict. It is useful to recognize both fear and aggression. However, there is an overlap between both sets of behavior, so don’t get too hooked up on differentiating the two. The important thing is to recognize the cat is stressed, and stressed leads to possible attack.
Be aware that a cat can turn from being calm to afraid or angry in a matter of seconds. Signs of fear or aggression include:
- Piloerection (hairs standing up)
- Dilated pupils
- A direct stare at you (precedes attack)
- Averting its gaze (fear)
- Whiskers stiff and drawn back
- Ears flattened against the head
- A hunched body posture
- Drawing backs the lips and hissing
Consider the purpose behind usual “angry” behavior. Though most of these behaviors are often thought of as signs that an angry cat is about to attack, the behaviors are more typical of a stressed and fearful cat that wants to escape the situation.
Calming an Angry or Fearful Cat
Interrupt the aggressive behaviour: Once your cat’s aggression takes off, it can be hard for them to reel it in. If you notice signs that your cat is moving toward aggression, try to interrupt the behavior with a distraction such as whistling, throwing a soft toy in their line of vision, or shaking a jar filled with pennies. However, never interrupt the aggressive behavior by attempting to touch or pick up your cat. A cat who is already showing signs of aggression could be dangerous.
Use calming diffusers and sprays: There are a number of products on the market designed specifically for the purpose of calming cats down. These diffusers and sprays naturally mimic feline pheromones that cats recognize, the reassuring familiarity of which makes them feel safe and secure. This often results in a less anxious cat, and in some cases that means a less aggressive cat too.
Provide alternative stimulation: For many cats, aggression is a way to release energy. Providing a stimulating environment can help a cat to rid themselves of some of that energy before it spirals into aggression. Scratching posts, climbing perches, and cat condos are not only activity centers, they are also spots where a cat can curl up and get some much needed privacy. You can also stimulate your cat by playing with them, but only at times when you do not see signs of aggression. Keep your hands at a distance by using toys that you can throw or dangle, and if you notice that your cat is beginning to act aggressive, end the playtime and return when your cat is calm. If your cat is playing nicely, reward the good behavior with treats or food.
Try behaviour modification: This method for calming an aggressive cat is usually carried out under the supervision of an animal behaviorist. Behavior modification is a form of conditioning that uses positive or negative reinforcement to change undesirable behaviors. For example, if you have a cat who reacts aggressively when they are touched, you may be able to modify that behavior by forming a positive association with petting by offering treats or food when you wish to pick up or touch your cat.