This is a question I am often asked. There are a lot of reasons why cats turn on their owners and the most common reason is the owner!
Kittens learn how to behave from their mother and littermates. If kittens are taken away too soon, they miss out on some vital training. Through play they learn the consequences of over-rough play. Overly enthusiastic biting and scratching is rewarded with either the same being done to the rougher kitten or the game being suspended or finished. The kitten soon learns that he must moderate his behaviour if he wants to continue having fun.
When kittens are old enough to be taken from their mothers they should be properly socialised at this stage. Now it’s up to you, the owner, to continue the training.
Illness and Stress
If your cat is normally quiet and gentle the first thing you need to consider is if the cat is ill or stressed. Cats hide illness and stress very well and a trip to the vet is a good idea to rule out any hidden problems.
Pain can cause aggression. Once again a trip to the vet is necessary especially if you have no idea what might be causing the pain.
Cats are more sensitive then we may think. Simple things could cause them stress – a new pet, a new baby, house renovations, new furniture – the list goes on.
If the cat is frightened or stressed the natural reaction is to either run or defend itself. If the cat feels cornered – for example when you realise that something is wrong and go to comfort your cat – the cat may lash out. You get a fright and this stresses the cat even more.
The best thing to do if your cat gets stressed is to leave it alone and wait for it to come to you. Keep your voice soft and, if you can make eye contact with the cat, give it lots of slow blinks to show the cat that you are not a threat.
A new kitten is a great source of fun. Kittens are so playful that it is very easy to over-stimulate them. Playing is an important part of a cat’s life but there must be boundaries.
Tiny kittens are very sweet and rough play with spitting, growling, biting and scratching can be very amusing. How can something so tiny be so ferocious? Unfortunately, adult cats are not so amusing when they are playing rough and can even be dangerous.
To keep your cats as cuddly and gentle as possible, it is up to you, the owner, to set boundaries.
If your cat is already aggressive, there are still some things you can do to modify its behaviour. Using fishing rod-like toys that keep your hands and feet well away from the cat while playing, can teach the cat that it can have fun without savaging you. Some cats love chasing a laser dot. This again removes you from the danger zone while allowing the cat to have its fun.
Stroking and Petting
Cats have different tolerance levels for the amount of stroking and petting they are willing to put up with. We love our cats and our natural reaction is to reach out and touch them. Some cats are happy to accept all our fussing over them while others may only be able to cope with small doses at a time.
Some cats have parts of their bodies that are more sensitive than others – paws, tummies etc. Time and patience is needed to help the cat overcome these sensitivities but it must be remembered, that all cats are individuals and some may never get used to it.
To reduce aggression you need to get to know your cat and to learn to understand its wants and needs. By doing this, you will open up the means to help your cat live a fuller, healthier and happier life. It will increase the bond between you and your pet and improve harmony in your home.