Aggression between cats is sometimes overlooked as typical behaviour, but in reality there are many reasons why this happens.

In this article we will look at the types of feline aggression that occur and why. If you’re worried about your pet’s behaviour, you should contact your vet for further advice. They may refer you to a specialist.

Why is my cat aggressive?

Feline aggression can be quite serious. With sharp claws and teeth for weapons, cats can inflict damage upon one another. Even humans! Scratches and bites can become infected, and the aggressed cat could need antibiotics or painkillers from a vet.

So, why is your cat displaying this behaviour? Firstly, it is important to eliminate any underlying medical causes.

Medical causes

According the Australian RSPCA (Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal), the following medical issues could be responsible for a cat’s aggressive behaviour: brain disorders, liver disease, epilepsy, poor hearing or sight, pain-inducing disease (e.g. arthritis) and hormone imbalances. Your vet will be able to rule these out or make a diagnosis.

Types of aggression

If there is no underlying medical issue, you can try to identify which type of aggression your cat is displaying. This will help you to understand the problem and potentially find a solution.

Maternal aggression

A female cat will wish to protect her litter from other cats. This behaviour should subside once the kittens are weaned.

Play aggression

This is commonly seen in kittens who chase, pounce, bite and appear to attack each other as a form of play. Some older cats may engage in play aggression too. Kittens normally learn how hard to bite so as not to hurt each other, but cats who are not used to playing with others may not have learnt this subtlety.

Defensive aggression

This occurs when a cat attempts to defend themselves. It could be the result of an attack or fear-invoking situation. Typical behaviours includes:

- Crouching with the tail and legs underneath the body

- Flattening of the ears

- Rolling to the side

Redirected aggression

Sometimes, cats lash out unexpectedly because they are worked up over something else. They redirect their aggression because they are unable to manage the issue itself. For instance, if your cat sees another cat in their territory out of the window, they may become stressed. They may then direct this stress onto another person or animal in the vicinity.

Territorial aggression

If an intruder invades a cat's territory, the cat may show aggressive behaviour. This can be especially problematic if you are introducing a new cat into your home. Even human visitors. Female cats can be just as territorial as males.

Inter-male aggression

When cats reach social maturity, around the age of 2-4, they may show male-to-male aggression. This can be related to mating prospects and/or social ranking. Because there is a hormonal component, the first step toward alleviating this aggression is to neuter the cats involved.

Tips for avoiding feline aggression

  • Avoid territorial aggression by slowly introducing a new cat to your current cat. It is their territory and the new cat may be seen as an intruder. Try to do this in stages: separate them at first and monitor behaviour as they are gradually introduced. You can even rub a sock or wash cloth on both cats and then leave it by their seperate feeding areas so that they become used to the new scent.

  • A pheromone diffuser such as those produced by FELIWAY® can help to calm cat aggression.

  • You can distract cats from a fight with loud noises such as a clap or raised voice.

Is your cat aggressive towards other cats?

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