In case you did not deliberately or accidentally step on your cat, the reason behind a cat swiping at you when you walked by is human-directed aggression.However, if your cat has been acting aggressively lately, it is also possible that he has succumbed to a medical condition that merits immediate veterinary attention.
Human-directed aggression is no simple matter. Left unchecked, it can develop into something worse. Furthermore, your cat’s behavior can put other people in your home at risk for scratches and bites. This is particularly important if you have kids at home who do not know how to properly interact with a cat.
What is human-directed aggression in cats?
Most people associate the word aggression with malice or ill-intent. However, that is not necessarily always the case when a cat exhibits human-directed aggression.
Aggression is embedded into your cat’s DNA. Remember, your pet is a natural predator and aggression is much as natural to him as playing and being social with you and other members of your household.
This is not necessarily a problem. Cats that are socialized and receive ample mental and physical stimulation rarely exhibit aggression toward their humans. More importantly, normal aggression is predictable and can be avoided through proper measures.
Aggression directed against you or another member of your household can be caused by different factors. These include fear or anxiety, frustration, social pressure, inappropriate play, and illness.
Types of human-directed aggression in cats
If you have ruled out illness as the main cause of your pet’s aggression toward you, then it is worthwhile to look into human-directed aggression.
Human-directed aggression can be broadly classified into two types: play aggression and status-related aggression. Correctly identifying the type of aggression your cat is displaying is vital in determining the type of corrective action that you will need to implement.
Although play aggression is fairly common in cats, especially the younger ones, this type of human-directed aggression is also the type that is easier to correct.
Play aggression is vital to the mental and physical development of kittens. Behaviors like pouncing, chasing, biting, and kicking are essential for a cat’s survival. However, kittens immediately learn how to control their bites and strikes. Otherwise, the other kittens will retaliate or ignore them.
This is why kittens must spend their time with littermates before getting adopted. Otherwise, they unintentionally hurt you while playing.
Play aggression is quite common in cats aged three years old and below as well as in cats that are often left alone in a home. Usually, play aggression is a symptom of physical and mental under-stimulation.
Signs of play aggression include:
- Dilated pupils
- Tense body
- Flattened ears
- Twitching tail
When play aggression is not corrected, it can progress into status-related aggression. Usually, this type of human-directed aggression arises because the cat wants to be in control of his humans as well as situations.
Cats that exhibit status-related aggression share a few characteristics. First, these cats are confident, often to the point that they are assertive.
These cats are like Jekyll and Hyde. One time they are sweet and then suddenly they become aggressive. They can also be aggressive toward some members of the family and polite toward people who stand their ground.
The symptoms of status-related aggression are similar to status-related aggression. However, cats that exhibit status-related aggression will also stare directly at their humans and hiss at them.
Correcting your cat’s human-directed aggression
Human-directed aggression does not occur every once in a while. If you do not curb your pet’s aggressive tendencies, things can spiral out of control.
If your pet has been exhibiting play aggression, here are a few things to minimize or completely stop this behavior.
1. Provide stimulation
Play aggression is often a sign that your cat is mentally and physically under-stimulated.
And to correct this issue, you need to invest ample time playing and exercising your cat. Invest in interactive toys, perches, condos, and scratching posts so that your pet can redirect his natural aggression and boredom.
2.An te his attacks
Although human-directed aggression seems to come out of the blue, a cat exhibiting this behavior often leaves clues.
Once you notice signs of an impending attack, you can startle your pet to prevent aggression toward you. You can say “No” loudly or use something noisy to distract your pet.
Attaching a bell to your cat’s collar is a simple but great way to alert you of your cat’s presence in a room.
3. Consider adopting another cat
If you have the resources and you do not mind the added responsibility, you should strongly consider adopting another cat.
Having two cats lightens the burden of providing stimulation for your pet. While at work, both cats can play with one another and release their pent-up energies, making both less likely to exhibit play aggression toward you.
4. Avoid rough play
You and your cat may like playing rough. However, this encourages your pet and makes him think that aggressive play is accepted behavior.
Correcting status-related aggression
The key concept in preventing and correcting status-related aggression in cats is showing him who is in charge. Here are the measures that you can implement to stop this aggressive behavior in your cat.
1. Do not engage your cat
As much as possible, avoid situations that can trigger aggressive behavior in your pet. Stop petting your cat before he gets too aggressive. Leave him alone when he is in his favorite spot.
2. Do not succumb to his appeals
When your cat tries to get your attention, whether for food, play, or anything else, ignore him. It may be difficult, especially at first. However, you need to train your cat to learn that interactions start and end on your terms, not his.
3. Train your cat
As previously mentioned, interactions with your cat should be done on your terms. You can achieve this goal by training your cat. And before each interaction, your cat should be in a calm and quiet state.
Train your cat to learn and follow simple commands like come and sit. You can do this by motivating his desire for food.
Whatever type of human-directed aggression your cat exhibits, do not berate or punish your pet. This will only worsen things for both of you.
Do not tolerate your cat’s aggression
Whether it is play aggression or status-related aggression, human-directed aggression should never be tolerated. Aside from being painful, cat bites and scratches can lead to bacterial infections that can endanger you and your loved ones.
Although your cat is hardwired to be aggressive, you can redirect his behavior toward something benign.
Image: istockphoto.com / Akeen Ranmal