Whether you are or aren’t a cat person, it’s likely that you have come across at least one mean cat in your life.
Why are cats so mean? Is it possible to make a mean cat nice? What should you do if your cat is being aggressive?
These are all commonly asked questions that have relatively simple answers.
There are two main types of aggression in cats: fear aggression and territorial aggression.
Fear aggression is most common in insecure cats, and the most likely causes of those insecurities are declawing, bullying, and under socialization.
Declawing is the number one cause of fear aggression in cats, to find out more about why and how declawing causes kitties to feel insecure, check out this PawedIn article.
Another common cause is bullying, if you cat is being bullied by another cat, the family dog, children, or anyone else he will start to feel extremely insecure.
Most cats will tolerate being bullied for a while, but at some point they get tired of it and will start defending themselves.
They will start by scratching, but if that doesn’t help (or if they are declawed), they will progress to biting. If biting also doesn’t help, the cat may simply enter a state of mind that is extremely aggressive as a means of coping.
He will lash out at anyone and everyone who approaches him, and at that point it can be very hard to get the kitty to snap out of it.
Under socialization can also cause fear aggression, if you have ever been around a feral, or wild cat and they hissed at you, it’s because they see you as a predator and they don’t trust you not to kill and eat them.
While it is possible to socialize adult cats, the prime time for socialization is when kittens are between three to seven weeks.
If they have no exposure to humans during this period it is unlikely that they will ever be completely acclimated to life as a pet when they are adults, but it’s not impossible.
If you are interested in helping shelters to socialize cats and kittens, here is information on volunteering.
If you believe your cat is fear aggressive try to pinpoint which of the above causes leads to your cat’s insecurities.
If it is declawing, there unfortunately, isn’t anything you can do to remedy the cause, but taking your cat into the vet for regular check ups for her paws can help as can adding in a kitty joint supplement like Cosequin.
This supplement can help with any residual pain your cat is feeling from her declaw surgery and either prevent or aid in the treatment of arthritis. When your vet checks your kitties paws be sure to have them do radiographs every 2-3 years.
While your vet will more than likely tell you this is unnecessary, there are countless cats that experience bone regrowth after declaws and need reparative surgeries later in life. Pain can definitely cause fear in your cat and having fragments of bones on your toes would be very painful.
If you believe the cause of your cat’s fear is bullying do your best to make it stop.
If the bullying is coming from a human it should be relatively easy to stop, but if it is coming from another cat it can be challenging. Making sure there are lots of vertical perches like cat trees and shelves can help, as can adding hidey boxes like Catty Stacks.
It’s important when choosing hidey boxes for a bullied cat that you choose ones with two entrances. This will keep the aggressive cat from cornering the bullied cat inside the box and will give the bullied cat peace of mind knowing it has an escape route.
For the undersocialized cat there is nothing you can do to solve the cause, but adding hidey boxes and vertical perches can help this type of fear as well.
After you have completed everything mentioned above it is time for you to start phase two of the cat rehabilitation plan.
Start making your presence (or whoever the cat is aggressive toward) a positive one by giving your cat a special treat when she is near you. If your cat likes wet food try that, if she prefers lunch meat or treats those are fine too.
If you find your cat likes meat, but you don’t like the feel of lunchmeat a great alternative is trying jerkies. What’s so great about these is that there are many homemade recipes that are good for both cats and dogs.
meat jerky can be given to any carnivourous animal. If at first your cat won’t let you anywhere near her it’s ok, start where she is comfortable by gently tossing the treats, or if that causes her distress simply place them on a dish and walk away. She will begin to associate you with positive things and will slowly begin to gain confidence around you.
Another important thing for all cats is exercise. This is especially important if one of your cats is bullying the other because the most common cause of bullying in cats is due to excess energy.
So get a fun cat toy like “the Da Bird” and be sure to use it with your cats. Try not to overwhelm your fearful cat by waving it in her face, instead have the feathered end lay on the ground and slowly twitch it. When she starts to chase it make it seem as lifelike as possible without terrifying her.
She will likely be having so much fun she will forget she’s scared, but there is always the chance she could remember during play and start hissing at you, if this happens have her favorite treats ready to give her just in case.
Hopefully with that regime your kitty will begin to show signs of improvement in just a few weeks. Keep a kitty journal of her progress so you can look back on what you have accomplished together!
The most challenging form of aggression to solve in cats is that of territorial aggression. Cat’s can be very protective of the things they love, such as people, places or certain objects.
If you ever saw the video of Tara the Hero cat saving the little boy from the neighbor dog you have witnessed territorial aggression, while this isn’t always a bad thing, as in the case of Tara, it can be quite terrifying when it happens to you.
If your cat is exhibiting territorial aggression be sure she is spayed or neutered.
The hormones in an unaltered cat can often cause this type of aggression, so getting them altered can help. If your cat is already altered the next thing you need to do is figure out what the cat is protecting and from whom.
For example, my cat Lance takes territorial aggression to a new level. Most of the time he is the nicest, sweetest, most laid back cat in the world, but if there are kittens in the house he immediately takes on the role of their protector.
I, unfortunately, found this out the hard way when I brought home foster kittens last year and my Golden Retriever tried to play with them. Lance heard their meowing and immediately went full on Terminator on my Golden.
I literally had to throw a blanket on Lance and hold him down so my dog could escape his craziness. While this might seem crazy to you and me—especially since Lance loves my Golden—to Lance he was protecting the kittens.
Try to figure out your cat’s trigger like I did with Lance and if you can remove it.
If you can’t, begin exercising your cat two to three times a day with toys he likes. A tired cat is much less likely to be aggressive than one that has simply been laying in the sun all day.
While your cat’s aggression may seem random and crazy, there is always a reason behind it. Take some time to carefully observe your cat and you will more than likely be able to figure out what it is.
Every cat can benefit from more vertical climbing space, perches, and hidey boxes, so invest in some of those and do your best to keep your kitty exercised.
If you do that as well as following the guidelines in this article your cat should start to improve in just a few weeks!