NOTE: We no longer see exotic pets. We recommend Exotic Animal Hospital of Orlando (407-286-3484) & Winter Park Veterinary Hospital (407-644-2676)

Has your cat been exhibiting aggressive behavior lately? Far too many cats are relinquished to shelters (and often euthanized) because of behavior issues, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to learn about types of cat aggression to better understand what’s going on.

Types of cat aggression

Cat aggression often falls into one of the following categories:

  • Predatory/play-related aggression: Most common among cats that were weaned from their mothers too early, cats experiencing predatory or play-related aggression didn’t have as much (or any) playtime with their littermates, and, as a result, never learned to bite inhibition.
  • Medical-related aggression: Various medical conditions, including pain, hyperthyroidism, cognitive dysfunction, dermatological conditions, and more, can lead to aggression in cats. Cats on certain medications may also experience behavioral changes.
  • Petting aggression: Some cats love to be petted. Others enjoy it, but only on their terms and for a duration with which they’re comfortable. Most cats who are about to reach their petting limit will exhibit at least one warning sign (see below) before losing their cool.
  • Territorial/resource aggression: Cats are territorial. When they perceive something as belonging to them, they may feel compelled to guard and protect it. Resources a cat might defend include scratching posts, food bowls, toys, and even people. A new visitor or pet in a cat’s home could also lead to aggressive behavior.
  • Fearful/stressful aggression: Whether a cat is afraid of some unfamiliar noise or is feeling anxiety or stress because she just arrived home after being boarded during a vacation, cats that feel fearful or anxious are more likely to aggress.

Warning signs of cat aggression

Watch for the following warning signs that your cat might be on the verge of attacking.

  • Whiskers and/or ears held flat or pointing directly down or straight out
  • Hair standing up on the back of the neck
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flashing tail
  • Hissing or growling
  • Backing into a corner and crouching into a small position or trying to look as large as possible

Behavioral issues can be some of the most difficult to deal with as a pet owner because there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to treating them. It can be a game of trial and error and require patience and consistent work to solve them. Learn more about our behavioral consultations here. If your cat is exhibiting aggressive behavior, contact us for help.