Managing Cat Aggression without Medication

Cat aggression can occur for a number of reasons, and is often normal in context. There are simply some situations in which any cat may become aggressive. You should know what circumstances are likely to trigger cat aggression so that you can manage and prevent it.

Types of Feline Aggression

Cat aggression falls into several categories. Some types of feline aggressive behavior include:

  • Predatory aggression. This is normal behavior for cats, and includes stalking, chasing, killing and retrieving game. Cats engage in predatory aggression when they perceive the presence of prey.
  • Fear aggression occurs when the cat is afraid. Cats exhibiting fear aggression will strike a defensive pose; they may put their ears back, and hunch or arch their backs. They may also scratch, bite and hiss.
  • Territorial aggression happens when a new cat comes into the home or yard, or when a kitten in the family reaches adulthood. Swatting, chasing, attacking and pursuing another cat or cats is typical of territorial aggression.
  • Inter-male aggression occurs between male cats and is usually secondary to territorial aggression or may be competitive in nature. Male cats may perform threat displays, scratch, bite, hiss and growl.
  • Play aggression may be directed to one or more cats or people in the household and occurs when the cat is in a playful mood. Examples of play aggression include inhibited biting and scratching, stalking, pouncing and hopping.
  • Pain-elicited aggression occurs when a person attempts to handle a cat that's in pain, and usually results in scratching and biting.
  • Redirected aggression occurs when a person or another animals interferes with a cat who's exhibiting aggressive behavior (usually fear-based). In this case, the cat redirects his aggressive behavior toward the person or animal who has interfered.

Ruling Out Underlying Medical Conditions

Cats who are ill or experiencing pain may become aggressive. Before you consider any type of behavioral therapy, make sure your cat receives a thorough veterinary exam to rule out illness or injury. If your cat's aggression is pain based, treating the medical condition should eliminate the aggressive behavior.

Managing Feline Aggression

In order to manage your cat's aggression with behavioral therapy, you'll need to observe him closely. Determine what situations, animals or people trigger aggressive behavior in your cat. If you can't avoid these triggers altogether, you might consider consulting a veterinary behaviorist.

Undesirable forms of aggression, like territorial aggression, inter-male aggression and fear aggression, can be treated by animal behaviorists. Veterinary behaviorists desensitize animals to the situations that inspire aggressive behavior, through a process known as habituation. They can also counter-condition cats to respond to situations in a more desirable way.

Some forms of feline aggression shouldn't, in fact, be managed; predatory aggression, for instance, is normal and allows the cat to hunt its prey. (If you'd like to stop your cat from hunting, attach a bell to his collar). Play aggression is another type of aggression that usually doesn't cause a problem; allowing your cat to play, and participating in games with your cat, can keep him fit physically and mentally.