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.