Aggressive cat behavior towards visitors, guest, children, and babies can be stopped.
By Claude West (Cat Man)
Aggressive cat behavior is a common problem cited by owners. Cats are naturally programmed to hunt and defend themselves with their teeth and claws. In nature, cats need to pounce, scratch, claw, and bite in order to survive. Domesticated cats will retain some of these wild habits even though this is unnecessary to their survival in a human household.
In fact, cat owners cite biting as a predominant expression of aggressive tendencies and as the second most common behavioral problem among cats. There are several forms of behavioral aggression among cats, most notably, that between cats and other cats, and that between cats and humans.
Aggression towards humans, particularly babies and children, can be both frustrating and dangerous. Knowing the causes of such behavior will make possible solutions more apparent and effective.
Aggressive cat behavior is a result of several things:
- personality and/or temperament
- territorial issues
- medical problems
- new people, children, and babies living in the house
- change of access to rooms or going outside
Indeed, this behavior is a real problem, but with a little time and patience from owners, it can be stopped.
Many steps for addressing this behavior are most effective if taken when cats are kittens. An owner can deter feline hostility against humans and other cats at a young age by not encouraging rough play that includes biting and/or scratching.
Rough play can be deterred by using loud noises, such as the clapping of hands or rattling of pennies in a can, to redirect the cat’s attention. Another useful method involves withdrawing affection when an incident occurs instead of inflicting punishment. A cat used to affectionate treatment will quickly notice an owner’s lack of favorable attention and realize that bad behavior is boring.
An additional step that can be taken when cats are kittens to avoid aggressive behavior in the future is to accustom the animal to being touched at an early age. This step can also be taken with older cats with a bit more care. Start by petting the cat’s head and when it is relaxed. Avoiding sudden movements, continue to pet it along its back and tail. Talk to the cat while petting it and follow the session with a treat. The more a kitten is used to being touched early in life, the more unlikely it will be to develop aggressive behavioral tendencies, particularly against humans, later in life.
For older cats with behavior problems toward humans, try letting the cat get hungry, and then have the person their aggression was directed to hold a favorite treat. Allow the cat the approach the person on its own terms to develop a sense of trust and confidence. If the cat refuses to approach the person, start with an already-trusted family member administering the treat while the offending person is in the same room, or at least the house.
Other more general methods for dealing with aggressive cat behavior towards people, children, and babies, include keeping cats’ nails clipped, providing cats with lots of scratching posts and stuffed animals to play with, using a diffuser with calming pheromones, and introducing new cats to the household in stages.
The key to successfully stopping aggressive cat behavior involves more than cat training. While training certainly helps, the problem can best be stopped with time, patience, and the understanding that in order to overcome behavioral issues, a cat, much like humans, needs to overcome its fears.
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