As with any living being, a cat can become aggressive for many different reasons, such as fear, pain or lack of social abilities. A cat can also exhibit two types of aggression: an aggression due to displeasure or a predatory aggression when in the presence of another animal. What should you do when faced with an aggressive cat? Here are a few steps to follow.
Controlling and calming an aggressive cat
- Reacting during an attack: If your cat suddenly becomes aggressive by biting or clawing you, you can attempt to place your hand onto the scruff of his neck, as long as this does not put you in any further danger. Do not lift the cat up by the scruff of the neck, as this would be painful for an adult animal; direct pressure is usually sufficient. This position is similar to the way a mother cat carries her young, and can help relax a stressed cat, since cats do not usually respond to voice commands in the same way that a dog would. This technique should not be confused with a punishment; it is a quick solution to an attack that does not hurt the cat, and only seeks to redirect his focus.
- Step back and try to understand the reason for the aggressive behaviour: Once the cat has calmed down, step away from the cat and go into another room so that your cat realizes that his behaviour was unacceptable to you, and try to determine the cause for this sudden aggression. Cats may become aggressive after a sudden noise or movement, in situations where they feel pain, or as a reaction to the presence of other cats, whether it is during mating season or in a quest for territory.
- Have your cat examined by a veterinarian: If the behaviour becomes a regular occurrence, an appointment with a veterinarian is in order, regardless of whether or not you have a suspicion as to the cause for the aggressive behaviour. Any change in your cat’s behaviour should be noted, since pets have a limited number of ways to let us know when something is wrong, and cats in particular are very good at hiding their discomfort. Your veterinarian can help determine if there is an underlying health issue that could be affecting your cat’s behaviour, alleviating any pain or discomfort.
- Contact a cat behaviour specialist: Since communication between cats and humans can sometimes be difficult, a cat behaviour specialist can help decipher the problem and solve the underlying issues. By analyzing your cat’s behaviour and by asking you questions, a cat behaviourist can help you recognize any existing bad habits, but also help you to create a positive and enriching home environment, as well as counsel you on how best to socialize your cat.
To help calm and control an aggressive cat, it is best to follow a step-by-step approach: stop the attack, step back and observe, and visit the veterinarian. Always visit your veterinarian before speaking with a behaviourist.