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Types of Cat Aggression, the signs and how to combat

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by luisa, Aug 3, 2010.


  1. Quartermass

    Quartermass PetForums Member

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    What to do about growling.

    I needed to move Johnny's bowl. He'd picked the Lily's Kitchen food out of it and put it on the ground, so I picked the food up, put it back in the bowl and moved it away from where it was onto a towel. Johnny growled really quite loudly, I've seen videos of cats fighting and it's the same growl I hear just before they attack. He didn't attack though.

    I'm not sure if I should back off when he's growling, or if I should challenge him when he growls. I don't want to upset him more, but I do want to make sure he doesn't think he's in charge. This time it didn't amount to anything as I was just moving his bowl, but if it happens again should I be picking him up and moving him away from where he was as a way of challenging his behaviour, or is that going to make it worse?
     
  2. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Johnny's growling was food connected. Cats are very protective of their food. You touched Johnny's food when he was still eating and you moved his bowl, so he thought you were going to take it away from him. That's why he growled at you in warning to stop touching the dish.

    We must be respectful of our cats' protective feelings towards their food and not intervene or touch the food once it has been given to the cat to eat. You may not like Johnny making a mess but it he wants to drag it off the dish on to the floor to eat it then he should be allowed to do so. To expect him to have table manners like a human has is being anthropomorphic. .

    Some cats like to take mouthfuls out of the bowl onto their cat mat and eat the food off the mat. This is natural behaviour. Raw fed cats often take their meat out of the dish to eat it. Mine do it all the time. If you put a cat place mat under the dish, it is easy to give the mat a once over with damp kitchen paper when the cat has finished eating.

    But mostly cats are tidy in their eating habits and may only need to take food out of the dish to eat off the floor if the dish is too small for them to eat from in comfort, or if the food has been served to them not cut up or mashed. If you served Johnny his meal in a cup again like you did recently then he probably scooped it out with his paw and placed it on the floor to eat it in comfort. Who could blame him ? .

    I very much doubt he would attack you, as you are his provider. He feared you were going to take away his food that was all.

    You must never challenge him if he growls at you over food. Instead stop what you are doing and examine your own behaviour. I think every time you would find it was your behaviour that caused him to growl.

    Please try to understand that living with a cat should not be a battle of wills or a struggle for supremacy between human and animal. Johnny is not "in charge". You, as the big powerful human are always "in charge" because you have the ultimate power to reject Johnny, throw him out of your house etc etc. He is always going to be at your mercy.

    Living harmoniously with a cat is a question of the human being trying to see things as the cat sees them, compromising on certain things, and allowing the cat to exhibit as many of his natural behaviours as possible, so he can be himself. Growling to protect his food is one of a cat's natural behaviours.
     
    #102 chillminx, Dec 10, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
    Summercat likes this.
  3. Quartermass

    Quartermass PetForums Member

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    I didn't find your response in any way helpful and the tone of it read as if I'm being cruel to my cat.

    You've been helpful with all the questions I've had but the overall tone is as if I've been mistreating Johnny. That is not the case.

    Edit : Sorry that was a bit uncalled for - but all the same I'm not trying to be cruel to Johnny. Any time I have doubts about something I'm asking first to make sure I'm not cruel.
     
    #103 Quartermass, Dec 11, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  4. QOTN

    QOTN PetForums VIP

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    Growling is an instinctive behaviour. So is hissing. Cats are born with these sounds in their repertoire. They do not always mean what you think they do. A new litter of kittens, only a few days old with their eyes still shut, will hiss really loudly at somebody looking fondly into their box.

    There is always one kitten in the litter who is very protective of toys or food and growls loudly even if nobody is anywhere near them. Please do not think Johnny is being aggressive. He was probably the growly kitten in his litter. Don't take it personally. In any case growling between adult cats is usually only a warning. My cats start growling if they hear a strange noise and it is a signal for all the others to leap to investigate.

    My old lady always growls at my vet when he takes a blood test. He says she doesn't love him any more but immediately he has finished she is head butting him and purring again. It would never occur to her to be aggressive. She is just telling him off.

    I realise that Johnny is not an Oriental. If he were, you would soon get used to a continual stream of very varied vocal criticism. Perhaps he has some Siamese blood in his ancestry.
     
  5. Quartermass

    Quartermass PetForums Member

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    I don't have any real knowledge of cats other than what I've read online. The side of my family that did own cats I now realise were getting lots wrong, which is why their cats were aggressive.

    My concern with what I was worried was Johnny's aggression is because I've heard what can happen if it grows with dogs. I know cats aren't dogs... but they are pets and I wanted to check.

    I have a friend who's mother has badly raised her border collie puppy and it's continued aggression towards the grand children now mean it's going to have to be given away/adopted. My understanding is if it had been handled correctly it would have been entirely avoidable.
     
  6. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Sadly there are still ignorant dog owners who think the right way to train a puppy is to be aggressive and dominate it. :( Then the owner is surprised when the puppy grows up to be an aggressive dog. :rolleyes:

    I took the time to explain the logical reason for Johnny's behaviour. As you have not had a cat before I thought it might be helpful, and add to your knowledge about cat behaviour. Re-reading my post I can't see anything where I implied you are being cruel to Johnny. :confused: Do you think you could be reading things into my words that were not intended?
     
  7. eve.ashley

    eve.ashley Banned

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    I've decided to make a separate thread for my question and did not know how to delete this post.
     
    #107 eve.ashley, Oct 24, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
  8. Rosa Amor

    Rosa Amor PetForums Newbie

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    I own a 5 year old, tortoiseshell, rescue cat with a very fiesty temperament. She loves nothing more than to leap about outside catching prey. However she doesn't like the cold weather and I think she's getting rather bored. I have a few toys on strings and suchlike for her to play with but I suffer from ME and aren't able to play with her constantly. Few people could probably be able to entertain their cat 24/7.

    She's always suffered from a degree of play aggression, lashing out with her claws when she's demanding attention, play fighting or we're attempting to move her (I have to remove her from my bed sometimes as I'm currently bedridden and need some complete rest away from her for just a small part of the day). She comes from rescue and I think she never learned to sheath her claws properly as a kitten. Also, although she's very friendly and affectionate, she's very sensitive and lived in a family with of about 8 children (or something) and German shepherds before i rehomed her last year and I think it's scarred her. I also think boredom maybe exsasabating it. I've read the tips at the start of this thread about combating aggression but am wondering if anyone could give me extra help on teaching my cat to sheath her claws!?
     
  9. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi there, you can't really teach your cat to sheath her claws as such, but there are some measures you can take to reduce the damage she does with her claws:

    1/ have the pointy ends of her claws clipped every 4 to 6 weeks. Ask one of the veterinary nurses at your vet to show you how it's done so you'll be able to do it yourself after that. You will need to buy a pair of good quality pet nail clippers.:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harzara-Pr...316&sr=8-4&keywords=pet+nail+clippers+for+cat

    2/ don't allow your cat to play with your hands. Keep several toys near your bed which you can use to distract her. The Kong Kickeroo is popular, or the Yeowww catnip banana toy. Slip either of these between her paws so she can bite and kick them to her heart's content.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/KONG-Kicke...4839596&sr=8-1&keywords=kong+kickeroo+cat+toy

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Yeowww-Ban...1514839605&sr=1-2&keywords=yeowww+catnip+toys

    3/ if she does get her claws in you don't pull away as it will make her think it is a game. Instead keep still, and squeal loudly, then she should let go.

    4/ buy her two or three play tunnels, and fasten them together,, or space them around the room separately. Cats love these for hiding in and playing chase if you throw small toys, ping pong balls or screwed up pieces of baking foil into the tunnels for her. These long tunnels (120 cm) are the best IME

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Me-My-Pets...d=1514839986&sr=1-12&keywords=cat+play+tunnel

    5/ give her other things to do to amuse herself so you can rest undisturbed sometimes e.g. buy some Nature DVD's or record some off the TV, (birds and small rodents are most popular but my cats also like programmes about big cats). Put one of these on the TV for her when you want some time for yourself.

    6/ Buy a bird feeder that you can fix to the outside of a window. Or close to a window. Fill it with nuts or bird seed. Choose a window that has a wide window sill so your cat can sit there comfortably.

    7/ Try some plug in calming herbal diffusers such as Feliway or Pet Remedy, in the rooms where she spends most time.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/FELIWAY-Cl...0525&sr=1-3&keywords=feliway+friends+diffuser

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pet-Remedy...0&sr=1-3&keywords=pet+remedy+plug+in+diffuser

    8/ if she used to catching and eating prey, consider giving her a treat of some raw food a couple of times a week, e.g. very fresh minced lamb or beef, or chunks of lamb, beef or turkey, from the supermarket. Or a chicken wing to gnaw on (which will be good for her teeth)

    Please let us know if any of these ideas help. :)
     
  10. Pam Brace

    Pam Brace PetForums Newbie

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    Hi Luisa
    Im wondering if you can help me figure out the next step with my cat.

    Backstory: she's a Torty that I got when she was approximately 6 months old in 2007. She has been moved around a lot since then. In the first year after I got her, a man I was dating physically kicked her (with his feet) out of the bed during the night. A year after I got her I also got a second cat - a male Bombay. She was mad and I have scars from it but she got over it and they have gotten along. But she has never been okay with anyone but me touching or petting her and hisses and swats when anyone else tries. I chalk it up to fear. Most people have been content to leave her be when i warn them of it. Her behavior seems worse towards men in particular.
    A few years ago, I moved in with a man and his six year old son for a few years. The fella could not touch her unless we were in the bed and it was her idea. Eventually she did become comfortable enough to sleep on him and let him pet her but only in the bed and only after a year and a half of living together. His so, though, she never got used to and the poor boy was scared of her. He would often call me over to get her out of his room or off his bed so he could use his bedroom because she would stand her ground and hiss at him, swatting at him a few times, scratching him a few times. Somehow we subsisted and she was not a factor in the relationship.
    Now I'm in a newish relationship with a man with three children (ages 11, 5, and 3 - a girl and two boys). She has hated him the most out of all of them. She's taken to sitting in the hallways and doorways and won't move when he approaches which results in a standoff with eventual hissing swatting and scratching. It makes him extensively angry which upsets me. And he's concerned for the safety of his young boys with her behaving this way. I've tried gel caps on her nails to prevent damage with the attacks but they have failed to remain in place. She's been provided with a cat tree and carpeted shelves to retreat to up high. We have tried having him give her treats when he comes over. She used to saunter over and eat them out of his hand them hiss and walk away. Sometimes she even approaches him and leans in to his leg but hisses when he reaches his hand down. And if he doesn't know exactly where she is and he walks by her she's likely to swat at him with little warning which is often when she's able to scratch him.
    We are currently in the process of moving in together and because he's concerned about her aggressive behavior potentially being directed at the kids, I took her to the vet and we started her on an oral SSRI solution given daily which requires me to hold her down to give it. We have increased the dose once and could go higher or even change medication if necessary but I'm not seeing any improvement. I have also tried Feliway Friends which has helped with her aggression towards my other cat (that has increased in the last year too; poor guy has crazy dandruff) but not with her aggression towards my boyfriend.
    I'm concerned I'm going to have to re-home her but with her apparent anxiety and aggression I doubt it would go well and I'd be better off putting her to sleep while she's with me, though the idea of doing either breaks my heart utterly.
    I'm short on time as the kids move in with my boyfriend in less than two weeks and he's been firm that if she acts that way with them then it will be time for a new home or other solutions.
    I'd like to know if you have any suggestions for me....
    Thank you
     
  11. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hello @Pam Brace and welcome :)

    Luisa, to whom you addressed your post, has not been on the forum for 7 years so I am afraid you are unlikely to get a response from her.

    I am very sorry to hear of your problems with your tortie. Torties as you may know have a bit of a reputation for their "attitude", and for being a bit feisty. Also they are often very bonded with one human in the household. Not that all torties are like that of course, but I assume enough of them are for them to have gained their reputation.

    I think it is a great shame she has to be dosed with a heavy duty drug like an SSRi, with its potentially harmful side effects (e.g. urine retention and resulting damage to kidneys ). Particularly as you say the drug is having no beneficial effect at all on her. :(

    She sounds as though she is quite an edgy, anxious cat and it she were mine I would take her off the SSRi and instead give her a supplement called Zylkene.. It is non addictive and has no side effects. It is very good at calming anxious cats. Give a course for a month, and then review. It can be given long term. If she weighs over 5 kg you can give 75 mg twice a day (mix the powder in her food), Otherwise it's 75 mg once a day.

    Also I would use Pet Remedy Diffusers throughout the home, rather than Feliway Friends.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/natural-st...&sr=1-4&keywords=pet+remedy+natural+de-stress

    I understand from what you say that Tortie is about 11 yrs old by now and therefore coming into her senior years. Probably what she really wants is a quiet, calm life, with a regular routine. At her age, with her history of being a bit feisty, she is quite possibly not going to be very tolerant of young children.

    Coming into their senior years, a cat is more prone to developing one of the chronic feline diseases. Has your cat been investigated with tests recently by the vet for Hyperthyroid disease, Chronic Kidney Disease, Diabetes Type 2, High BP or arthritis, any one of which could be causing her pain and discomfort and making her irritable. Cats are excellent at hiding pain, but it shows in their intolerant behaviour to others.

    Also, you mention you have another cat that Tortie does not get along with, and that he may have a stress-related skin condition. So there is another source of stress in the household to make Tortie feel even more unhappy and on edge.

    I appreciate you care about your cat and do not want to give her up. But in the current circumstances I'm afraid I don't see anyone in the home benefitting (least of all Tortie herself) from the current discord, with your partner and his children afraid of the cat and Tortie herself so constantly distressed you have had to dose her with antidepressants.

    Probably Tortie would be happier in a quiet home as an only cat and the ideal would be for you to find her such a home. However, against that possible solution is her age. Not too many people will want to adopt an 11 yr old cat I'm afraid (though some will).

    I certainly would not dream of putting a healthy 11 yr old cat to sleep unless she were to develop a serious chronic health condition causing her to have a very poor quality of life.

    Basically, unless you can find her a quiet, loving home as an only cat, your best way forward will be to compromise by making some adaptations within your home to accommodate her needs to make her happier, along with using the Pet Remedy and the Zylkene to keep her calm.

    What she needs is a room where she can go to get away from everyone, including your other cat. In the room she needs her food, water, litter trays, cosy bed, scratch posts. I am not talking about shutting her in the room, and therefore a cat flap fitted to the door will enable the door to be kept shut but for Tortie to be able to get in and out of the room whenever she pleases. The room needs to be a fair size (not a bathroom or a utility room).

    If there is no such suitable room exists in the house (which I understand may be the case in a large household,) then I would build her an enclosure in your garden, attached to the house, which she can access from the house through a cat flap on the door or the ground floor window. The enclosure should be protected in winter with perspex panels over the mesh, and heated to encourage her to use it. And equipped with cat trees, scratch posts, cosy beds, water and litter trays. This is the kind of thing I mean, you buy it as a kit. :-

    https://www.woodenart.org.uk/bespoke-outdoor-cat-run-cat-enclosure-cat-pen-bespokecatrun-woodenart

    Judging by Tortie's territorial attitude to your partner - blocking doorways, swatting at him when he passes, I am guessing Tortie does not go outdoors and this is partly why she is so possessive about her indoor territory. I assume that going outdoors would not be safe for her in your area, and therefore an enclosure will be the best alternative.

    Within your house I recommend utilising the vertical space to make some high up places for Tortie to sit and sleep, out of the reach of humans. Here are some excellent ideas you can adapt cheaply. Ready made inexpensive shelves can be bought from DIY stores or from IKEA.

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=c...Wip9PYAhXlK8AKHRXFAs8QsAQIJg&biw=1440&bih=826

    I do hope you manage to resolve the situation for your cat so she can feel content in her senior years. She may only have another 6 years of life left to her and it will be good to make those as comfortable as possible for her. :)
     
    #111 chillminx, Jan 12, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
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