My Cat is Attacking Me!
Clare Hemington DipCAPBT
I want to start off by saying that cats aren't aggressive for the sake of it. Aggression in cat isn't a diagnosis, so the term, which is used frequently, can be misleading.
So now we know what 'aggression' isn't, let's look at what it is.
It's an emotional state which a cat will show in certain challenging situations and the key to understanding what can be done to manage this problem is to understand what a cat’s motivations are when it performs the behaviour for example:
A cat might be fearful of people as a result of not receiving appropriate socialisation. The socialisation period occurs between the ages of two and seven weeks. If a kitten is exposed to male and female adults and to children during this time and is handled appropriately, they will usually turn out to be be sociable cats.
If however, they haven't received positive exposure during the socialisation period they are likely to forever view human approaches as threatening and frightening, and if cornered, may use the tools at their disposal to protect themselves.
Perhaps the owners used their hands and/or feet when playing with the cat when it was a kitten and now it's all grown up it views these extremities as fair game!
Inherited maternal influences such as the Mum not receiving adequate nutrition when she's pregnant may result in kittens that haven't developed properly either physically or neurologically. These are cats that may have a low threshold for frustration and may not respond well to new or challenging situations.
If your cat has a habit of sitting in front of your patio doors, watch out! If you happen to enter the room when another cat outside has caught his attention you might just find yourself the target of his adrenaline-fuelled state. He can't get to the cat outside and may well redirect his energy on to you instead. I've known people that have had to go to hospital as a result of one of these attacks.
The cat may be ill or in pain through injury.
He might simply be defending or establishing his territory.
If you find yourself at the mercy of an attacking cat here's what you should do:
Firstly arrange a consultation with your vet to rule out a medical cause.
If the cat receives a clean bill of health, seek intervention from a behavioural specialist and avoid all physical interaction with the cat prior to receiving their advice.
Ignore any hissing or growling.
Protect legs and arms.
Avoid reassuring a cat that appears frightened.
Seek medical attention for bites and severe scratches.
Trim your cat’s claws.
Give your cat something to play with that he can kick and rake that’s bigger than the average cat toy eg a Honeysuckle Cat Kicker.
Never punish a cat following an aggressive encounter. Avoid any vocalisation, chastisement or other interaction with the cat. Remember, what we see as aggression is usually fear.