Pet owners can’t figure out why cats are friendly one minute and aggressive the next. Cat bites are very common and probably occur more frequently than dog bites; however, they are infrequently reported. Aggressive cats can be dangerous, so attempting to resolve a cat aggression problem often requires a specialist who is trained in animal behavior medicine.
There are several types of feline aggression. The list below includes some of the most common forms.
- Redirected Aggression– When a cat is aroused into an aggressive response by a person or an animal, but then redirects this aggression onto another person or animal, this is called redirected aggression For example, if two family cats have a spat, the losing cat may walk up and attack the family child.
- Territorial Aggression– Cats are highly territorial animals and usually only feel the need to defend their territory from other cats. Territorial aggression in cats isn’t commonly directed toward people.
- Aggression With Petting– This behavior isn’t well understood, even by experienced animal behaviorists. Some cats will suddenly bite while they’re being petted or held. For whatever reason, petting, which the cat was previously enjoying, apparently becomes unpleasant. Biting is the cat’s signal that she has had enough. Cats vary in how much they’ll tolerate being petted or held. Although people often describe their cats as biting “out of the blue” or without warning, cats do generally give several signals before biting.
You should become more aware of your cat’s body postures, and cease petting or stop any other kind of interaction before a bite occurs. Signals to be aware of include:
- The cat becomes restless
- The tail begins to twitch
- The cat’s ears turn back or flick back and forth
- The cats head starts moving toward your hand
When any of these signals become apparent, it is time to stop the petting or holding the cat. The best thing to do is put the cat down and stop petting her. Absolutely do not impose any physical punishment on the cat as she (or he) may bite. Physical punishment may make it worse the next time you try to pet her or pick her up.
If you want to try to prolong the amount of time your cat will tolerate petting, use a food reward. When your cat first begins to show an undesirable behavior (or even before), offer her a favorite tidbit of food. As you give her the food, decrease the intensity of your petting. In this way, she’ll come to associate petting with something pleasant and may help her to enjoy petting for longer periods of time. Each time you work with your cat, try to pet her a little longer. Be sure to stop petting before she shows any aggression.