Aggression: Types and Treatments
Controlling aggression early before it becomes unmanageable.
Cats are semi-domesticated animals that revert to their wild instincts—including aggression—in times of play, social interaction and stress. Aggression should be dealt with early on—long before it escalates or becomes unmanageable.
Play aggression can stem from a kitten being orphaned or weaned at too young an age. Mother cats are very stern with their kittens and teach restraint in play that humans cannot communicate to cats. Play aggression can be distinguished from other forms in that it will resemble hunting activity: Cats may hide and pounce on anything that moves, including you! Although your cat is only practicing capturing prey, he or she may become overly exuberant, using teeth and claws.
They best way to curb this behavior is to provide a lot of activity that will allow the cat to focus its energy on appropriate objects—like play prey. Never play aggressively with your cat and never physically punish him or her for this behavior, as it will only serve to reinforce it. Instead, try giving your cat toys that are interactive: hanging toys your cat can bat at or laser toys to chase.
Misdirected aggression occurs when a cat is highly agitated by another animal. This happens when an indoor cat becomes bothered by a cat on the outside. The indoor cat will feel threatened by the presence of this other cat and frustrated that he or she can do nothing to defend its territory—you or another household pet may become innocent victims of this frustration.
The best way to manage this aggression is to avoid it by trying to predict when it might occur. Close the curtains and remove children and pets from the room. Allow your cat time to recover before attempting any interaction with him or her.
Status-related aggression involves conflict in the hierarchy of a multi-cat household. In a home with multiple cats it’s important to provide each cat with its own personal space. Provide one-on-one attention with the cats in their particular favorite resting spot in the house. Separate litter pans and feeding areas may also be necessary.
Still, territorial disputes can be common—and can become very aggressive. If they do, the cats may need to be kept in separate rooms with closed doors and then slowly reintroduced to each other. After complete separation for a period of weeks, the door is opened slightly so that the cats can investigate each other. Switch the cats’ rooms several times during this time so that each cat can become acclimated to the other’s scent. Switch their bedding and food bowls as well. A common toy that is placed beneath the door may help the cats begin to play together. This may need to be a very slow process—give your cats the time they need to learn to live together peacefully.