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5 Tips to Calm an Aggressive Cat

Making Your Combative Cat Cool as a Cucumber

By Meredith Alling. November 05, 2013 | See Comments

An Aggressive Cat Hissing

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.

According to the ASPCA, aggression is the second most common behavioral problem seen in cats (the first being litter box issues). Cats are capable of causing serious injuries with their sharp teeth and claws, and an aggressive cat poses a real danger to the people and pets in your home. Here are 5 great ways to help calm your aggressive cat.

1. Find the Source of Aggression

In order to resolve your cat’s aggression, you’ll first need to find the source. There are a number of reasons why a cat may act aggressive, including, but not limited to:

  • Fearfulness or defensiveness
  • Conflict with other cats
  • Redirected aggression
  • Territorial aggression
  • Predatory aggression
  • Tendency toward rough play
  • Maternal instincts
  • Irritability caused by petting
  • Pain
  • Thyroid problems

Before trying anything else, take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing aggression. If your cat’s aggression is not the result of a medical condition, your veterinarian may refer you to an animal behaviorist, or suggest treatments that you can try at home.

2. Interrupt the Aggressive Behavior

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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Try Behavior 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.

More on Cat Behavior

Cat Behaviors
Separation Anxiety in Cats
The Benefits of a Playful Cat

 

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Aggressive Cats at a glance

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  • 1Aggression is the second most common behavioral problem seen in cats
  • 2Visit your veterinarian to be sure that your cat’s aggression is not the result of a medical condition
  • 3There are a number of ways to calm an aggressive cat, but when in doubt, contact an animal behaviorist