Sudden Aggression in Cats (April 2019)

Sudden aggression can take many forms in just about any cat out there. For example, your cat starts jumping out and clawing at your feet, or is now biting when you try to pet her.

You may be wondering how this has come to occur, what the reason is, and what you can do to get your cuddly, loving kitty back.

There are many reasons why your cat may be aggressive and has changed their typical demeanor. Aggression in cats can become so severe that owners are injured, so it’s important for you to identify the cause and make some adjustments.

Causes of Aggression in Cats

There are numerous reasons as to why your cat may be aggressive at times. Identifying the reason can be difficult, but once you do, making the necessary adjustments can help calm the aggression.

Territorial Aggression

Cats are one of the most territorial animals out there. They will establish what is theirs and will defend it, tooth and claw. Once your cat feels another animal, or even another person, is stepping over their territorial line, it’s game on.

If you have a new animal in the house, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend who has recently moved in with you, your cat’s aggression may come from the fact that their territory is now threatened.

Unfortunately, some cats can become aggressive even just from seeing another cat through the window.

Smells, new people, and new animals are all triggers, which can cause minor to severe aggression in a cat.

In addition to that, there is also status aggression, which can occur from another cat in the home trying to assert themselves over the other. The disturbed balance will cause a rift. Even if you assert yourself over the cat, status aggression may be the end result.

Medically-Induced Aggression

Cats who are dealing with a painful medical problem can become quite aggressive, so it’s important to check with your vet if your cat is suddenly scratching and biting. There may be a scary, underlying problem that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible for the sake of their health.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of different medical problems that can cause aggression through pain.

Infections, dental disease, and even trauma can cause a cat to act out. Physical pain isn’t the only pain that will cause aggression – emotional and mental trauma will do just as much damage resulting in cat aggression, as well.

Predatory Aggression

Cats are predatory animals by nature, so it’s only natural that they seek the hunt. This isn’t generally classified as being aggressive because it’s literally a cat hunting for food, whether they’re fully domestic or not, but it can still clip humans in the heel.

Cats love to hunt, so if you see your cat on the prowl and get bitten or scratched as a result, try getting an interactive toy that allows them to hunt, play, and catch all at the same time. She’ll love it.

Fight or Flight Aggression

Cats who feel scared, trapped, or in danger will exhibit massive signs of aggression and lash out toward whoever is around them. Unfortunately, trauma can play a big part here.

If you have a rescue cat who was brutally abused, for example, their flight or fight response can come from almost nowhere. It’s unfortunate, but this will take more than a quick fix to correct.

If past trauma is not the issue, you will need to figure out what the cause is.

Blameless Aggression

Also known as redirected aggression, this type of aggression occurs when a cat is super stimulated for whatever reason and takes this excitement on their environment and the people in it.

For example, your cat goes crazy over a bird it sees in the yard. You walk by and get your ankle clawed up.

This can also occur during a petting session where a cat feels overly stimulated from the love they’re getting. This sounds weird, I know, but it happens. For example, you’re sitting there, cat on your lap, lovingly petting her, and then she turns around and chomps your hand.

This type of aggression can be corrected by redirecting said aggression further. If you see your cat getting all hyped up over something and you know one of your body parts is going to get it, grab a toy and engage her in some playtime.

Idiopathic Aggression

Don’t let the name fool you, this is a type of aggression that gets extremely violent and isn’t readily explained through a medical problem, past experience, etc.

Idiopathic aggression causes a cat to become increasingly aggressive and violent over a long period of time, which can also appear to be redirected aggression. Make no mistake, though, it’s different.

Cats who exhibit idiopathic aggression are tricky. The best thing you can do for them is accommodate as best as you possibly can. Try to play with her more, don’t irritate her when possible, things of that nature.

Motherly Aggression

Cats who have become new mothers can become extremely aggressive due to their motherly instincts. Even if you are trying to help her in taking care of her kittens, she can lash out at you to make you stay away.

Mother cats tend to become aggressive when they sense a threat, but even if you’re just trying to lend a hand, don’t take it personally. To ensure you don’t get mauled, avoid touching or handling the kittens for a few days after they’re born.

Remember – if the mother needs help, she’ll come to you if she trusts you.

Detecting Aggression Before it Occurs

To save yourself some pain from being bitten and scratched, there are ways to look out for potential aggression before it even starts.

Listed below are examples of defensive positions that may lead to aggression depending on what you do following them:

  • Tucked head
  • Crouching low to the floor
  • Curved tail that may be tucked in
  • Flattened, backward, or sideways ears
  • Open-mouthed spitting or hissing
  • Hackles up
  • Retracted whiskers
  • Fanned-out whiskers facing forward
  • Claws out, ready to strike

Here are some examples of cats who are ready in the offensive position:

  • Direct, wide-eyed stare with constricted pupils
  • Stiff, lowered tail
  • Upright, stiff stance
  • Hackles and fur up on the tail
  • Slowly moving toward their target in a low to the ground stance
  • Yowling, howling, or growling – sometimes all three

Either way, these positions are all clear signs that they are either already in an aggressive mood or that one is coming – and soon.

Speak to Your Vet About the Aggression

As I said before in one the points I made, their aggression struggle can be the result of a medical problem. Either way, your vet can offer more personalized advice based on your cat’s personality and them as an individual, in general.


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