Your kitty is starting to get more aggressive as you spend more time at home. This unprovoked aggression can be scary but in this piece, we’ll explain why your cat acts the way it does and ways to minimize its aggression and calm it down.
With COVID-19, the world is slowly shifting to remote work.
Businesses are all shutting their office doors and having their
entire workforce work remotely from home. What you may notice is
your kitty is starting to get more aggressive as you spend more
time at home. This unprovoked aggression can be scary but in this
piece, we’ll explain why your cat acts the way it does and ways
to minimize its aggression and calm it down.
What is aggressive behavior?
Cats can display aggression in many ways. Not all of them hiss at
you and there are levels of aggression that can be displayed.
Cats will use their eyes, ears, voice, and tail to communicate
how they feel. Understanding this can help avoid escalating their
aggression and also to calm them down. Here are some tell tale
signs of aggression:
Claws are out
Open mouth with canines exposed
Ears pointed backwards and flat
Stiff body posture
You’ll find cats have different activity levels. Some cats will
naturally play bite and jump at you. Others, especially at night,
will dash around and be energetic, pouncing on their toys and
humans. None of this indicates they’re upset and it can just be
their playful nature.
However, if your cat does exhibit repeated clear signs such as
those listed above and you haven’t seen such behavior before then
it could be aggression. If it’s not immediately obvious why your
cat is aggressive there may be underlying medical conditions and
it’s important to see a veterinarian. If your vet notices nothing
wrong, then it’s most likely some aspect of their environment
that annoys them - something that can be remedied.
Causes of aggression
Age and your cat’s stage of life matters
Cats display levels of aggression naturally depending on their
stage of life. For example, if your cat is pregnant or just
recently had a litter of kittens then her maternal instincts are
going to make her a lot more aggressive. This is normal.
Similarly, if your cat is young and less that 2 years of age,
then they’re going to be more aggressive and playful - it’s just
a natural part of their developmental years. A lack of
socialization can also lead to some cats being aggressive. If you
picked up an isolated young feral cat then there’s a chance it’s
not used to humans and will be more aggressive in nature.
Now if the above don’t apply, then here are some typical reasons
for why your cat is aggressive:
Playtime taken too far
Yes, sometimes cats can get carried away with being playful.
Especially when you engage back. A cat can get overstimulated by
the engagement and can take it too far by starting to get
aggressive and biting or scratching you. You’ll find with younger
cats this is more common as they still haven’t understood the
boundaries that separate playing from hurting. You can tell when
your cat has gone too far if their pupils dilate and ears
Hostility to other cats
Another reason for cats displaying aggression is if they are in
the presence of other cats. If you have more than one cat in the
house, it’s common to see hostility towards each other due to
either territorial protection or differences in their
temperament. Even cats that do get along may suddenly turn
aggressive due to changes in how one cat smells, such as after
visiting the vet or taking a bath.
Fear or territorial protection
Cats can also be territorial against humans. If you cat suddenly
growls or swats at you it may be cause it feels you’re
encroaching on its personal space or area. This can sometimes
happen if its grown fond of a certain area or furniture item that
you’ve started to use more often. Cats are also not friendly to
visitors sometimes for the same reason. This protection is a
defense mechanism to avoid danger and one that slowly over time
you can ease them into being okay with you living in the same
Calming an Aggressive Cat
Now that you’re aware of why cats are aggressive it’s time to
learn of the strategies that can be used to calm them down.
Generally there are two approaches: Leave the cat alone or ease
them into the situation.
Leaving a cat alone works when you know their behavior is
warranted. For example a recent mother cat that’s aggressive
around her kittens is perfectly normal and there’s no need to
intervene. Give the cat its space.
If your cat is blurring the line between playing and aggression,
then it’s helpful to try and de-escalate the stimulus you’re
providing when you notice the cats getting aggressive. The other
approach is to redirect their energy to something that isn’t you.
For example, you could offer them a stuffed toy that your cat
takes a hold of instead of leaving it jumping on you to release
When it comes to territory, cats will try to defend their space
and assert authority. This will apply even to humans. It’s their
nature but there are ways to mitigate this. For example, try to
set zones within the home for your cat and respect it. Always try
and make sure where you cat eats, sleeps, or poops is
inside this zone. Over time, your cat will grow to understand
that the area is its space, while the rest of the home is shared
with others. When introducing other cats into the home, make sure
they don’t wander into this zone and provide them with their own
that’s not close by.
Sometimes, preventative methods don’t apply and an aggressive cat
can be harmful to both itself and others. If your cat is quite
aggressive and begins fighting or attacking other cats or humans
then try to startle them with a loud noise or a similar
distraction. This will temporarily pause its activities. You may
also try and console your cat by approaching but its important to
leave them alone and not touch them until they calm down. When
they’re calm, they’ll naturally approach you again just like
Remember that any form of behavior modification whereby you’re
scaring your cat can cause it to respond in fear. If you punish
them for being aggressive when they play with you then this may
cause them to stop doing so in the future. Rather, treat such
cases in a way where you don’t scare your cat but disengage and
walk away to let them calm down.
Seeking Veterinary Care
With all this being said, sometimes abnormal patterns of
aggression can be due to medication conditions. Cats can’t
communicate what’s wrong with them in a way we understand and
this means they may display aggressive behavior as a way of
dealing with their health issues. Conditions such as FIV,
hypertensions, trauma, dental disease, and even diabetes can
cause aggression in cats. Because of this, if you notice
aggressive behavior that can’t be explained, visit a vet
How to Treat Redirected Aggression in Your Cat?
As the owner of a cat who exhibits signs of redirected
aggression, life can be quite tough. Redirected aggression is
defined as the aggressive behavior displayed by a pet cat, when
it experiences over-stimulation, fear or over-arousal. The cat’s
aggression is usually aimed at the human owner or anything that
is close by. For instance, another pet could end up facing your
cat’s wrath.So, why does this happen?Well, as stated earlier,
something has triggered your cat. It could be another pet, prey,
or even something as mundane as a doorbell. The cat, as a result,
becomes agitated. There have been stories of cats destroying
curtains because they could detect odors on the owner that
reminded them of the vet’s office, which they obviously weren’t
too fond of.Dealing with this sort of thing certainly be a tough
challenge. But, with these tips and strategies, you can make a
Safety comes first. So, if your cat is in a bad mood, don’t try
to pick her/him up or pet him/her. They are too upset to be
bothered by you. The only thing that’s going to happen when you
do this is that your cat’s going to attack you and you don’t want
that.So, keep away.
You don’t want your cat hurting anybody else nearby, so make sure
he/she is separated from prospective victims. What you can do is
place items such as pillows or cardboard around the aggressor. If
you have another pet, make sure he/she is kept in another room or
any other safe location.
Positive reconditioning involves using something that your cat
likes to distract him/her from this sort of aggression. For
instance, there have been cases where owners have used food to
deal with their cat’s redirected aggression. This has often
worked.You can also distract your cat with his/her favorite toy
or any other such item.
Talk to your vet and see if they can prescribe something that can
calm your cat down. There are anti-anxiety drugs such as diazepam
that can offer some relief. However, make sure you discuss
everything with your vet. Never do this without your vet’s
approval and supervision.
Take it Seriously
Redirected aggression is a big deal and ignoring it can only make
things worse. Talk to your vet immediately and seek their advice
on the issue. In fact, ignoring it can make the aggression worse
and lead to some serious harm.Your cat is also under a lot of
stress, which is one of the reasons why he/she is acting this
way. This kind of stress can also cause over-grooming and hair