When dealing with a cat who is acting aggressively in your house, an important first step is to visit your vet to rule out any neurological or medical reason for the behavior. If your vet clears your cat of any medical problems, then it’s time to look at the situation carefully.
Generally cats will go out of their way to avoid confrontation. When you see growling, hissing, swatting, biting – an outward display of your cat’s frustration – then it’s likely your cat is feeling like he has no other choice but to behave that way. Aggression can be caused by a variety of stimuli. Some cats will act out while they are being petted with biting or scratching. Sometimes playing gets out of hand and your cat will attack your hands or feet. Some cats may lash out because they are afraid. Multi-cat households may have cats that one day get along fine and then suddenly have conflict.
Aggression between your cats, or inter-cat aggression, can be very frightening and upsetting for everyone in your house, including your cats. It is important to contact a professional to assess the situation so they can provide an appropriate behavior modification plan. Again, it is also important to see your vet to make sure the aggression isn’t caused by an underlying medical condition — he may acting that way because he’s feeling sick or in pain. If two cats in your house are extremely hostile towards each other, it is likely you should separate them and then work on reintroducing them like they’ve never met before. It is a good idea to seek professional advice on how to do this correctly.
There are several strategies you can use in your home to minimize aggressive flare-ups. Providing tall cat trees or other vertical spaces where cats can get away from each other can help minimize interactions, and will give cats somewhere to go when they feel the need to escape from a stressful situation, and also provide a high vantage point from which to view their environment. Make sure any cat tree or vertical place you provide your cat is sturdy and safe and has at least two safe escape routes so your kitty will be able to get away if another cat is seeking him out. There should never be a place, especially one high off the ground, that is a dead end with only one way out.
Play can also diffuse stressful situations. For instance, if you have a young cat bursting with energy who is attacking your other cat, you should do at least 2-3 play sessions (or more) a day to drain that excess energy. This is especially effective if you do a good play session before dinner time. Play until your kitty is tired, then feed him a delicious dinner. Most likely he will eat, groom himself, and then settle down to sleep. This is also a good plan to follow if your cat is acting aggressively towards you, like if your cat comes out from under the bed ambush-style, biting or scratching your ankles. This is called play-related aggression and is usually easily diffused by incorporating more play sessions into your routine. The toy provides an outlet where your cat can get what he needs to satisfy his predatory instinct: something acceptable to stalk, chase, catch, bite and chew on.
Most importantly, never punish your cat for acting aggressively. You will only make the matter worse.
You do not have to live in fear of your cat. There are solutions to this problem. His behavior can be changed with the correct assessment and behavior modification program put in place. Don't wait, hoping the aggressive behavior will go away on it's own. Give me a call and let's get started finding a solution.