Owner-Directed Aggression: Reccuring Problem Cat Behaviour

Typical Defensive Body Posture

Aggressive behaviour towards owners and family members is very common in cats, especially in single-cat households. Cats that have been obtained from pet shops and/or not properly socialised with people, those that are early weaned and indoor-only cats appear to be more likely to show aggression problems. Very often aggression is associated with a stress response and it may potentially lead to relinquishment and euthanasia of the cat. Therefore, preventing and treating owner-directed aggression has significant benefits for the welfare of the cat and the quality of the cat–owner bond . Various types of aggressive behaviour have been documented from the most common one to the very rare ones such as:

  • Misdirected predatory behaviour
  • Petting-related aggression
  • Fear-related aggression
  • Redirected aggression
  • Maternal aggression

Aggression may also be due to an underlying disease or medical condition, although this is less common.

As a general rule of thumb, there’s a few rules every owner needs to observe in regards to its pet cat aggressive behaviour:

  • Learn to interpret the body language ( eg. flicking of the tip of the tail )
  • Optimise the environment: You could for exemple provide access to elevated places, set up a safe zone and offer hiding spots for your cat.
  • Never punish your cat, it only exacerbates the problem.
  • Try to encourage appropriate play: You can use small mobile objects such as balls, or even a simple lenght of ribbon.

In severe cases and/or cases involving feral cats, referral to a specialist behaviourist is well recommended.

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