I’m known for having a happy, gentle temperament. It’s part genes, yes, but a good part is because of my interactions with the humans closest to me. Could the same go for cats who are aggressive? A study shows that a cat’s treatment by their humans can certainly indicate whether a cat is going to be aggressive.
The good part is that humans can go a long way to reduce their cats’ aggression, if they learn what to do. So let’s see what goes into a cat who’s aggressive, and how to change that.
What starts off kittens on the wrong paw
Some kittens start off aggressive because they are bottle babies, are onlies, or otherwise have very limited interactions with other kittens. Basically they don’t learn social skills or how to play nice. These little guys can become tiny delinquents who grow up into troubled adults. Of course this doesn’t happen to all bottle baby kittens, but it does take a lot of work for humans to play mom and siblings to these guys.
When humans bring the cat home
Once a kitten or young adult cat finds a home, their new humans can either improve their temperament — or make it worse. Here is the key takeaway of the study: that humans who punished their cats for misbehavior found themselves dealing with a lot more hostility and aggression from their new family members.
Cat punishment doesn’t have to be physical to do damage
Of course the great majority of you reading this know not to hit, scruff or physically threaten a cat. But yelling at a cat is also stressful for them, and causes them to be fearful.
Always remember these two things: as a big creature who weighs 10 times what your cat does, your very presence indicates a certain amount of danger; and your cat’s motivations and way of thinking are different from yours. A cat doesn’t see what they’re doing wrong. They just see a huge being that is scaring them. Wouldn’t you want to either flee or fight back under those circumstances? Any sort of punishment is no way to build trust and a loving relationship with your cat.
If not punishment, then what?
The best way to overcome a cat’s aggressive behavior is to reward positive actions. Praise and treats for spending time with scratchers instead of the sofa will encourage your cat to spend more quality time with the scratchers. Create a comfy cat-centric space for your cat to hang out instead of angrily pulling them out or off of the areas you wish they’d avoid. Generously reward your cat for using the new spaces.
These are just a couple of examples. I’m sure you can adapt more to your situation. The bottom line is the less stress you can cause your cat, the less you do things that appear threatening to them, and the more you can do to be their companion, the fewer reasons they’ll have to be hostile or aggressive.
Your cat will never be a perfect angel. Neither will you! But if you work together instead of against each other, you’ll overcome behavior that you thought was ingrained.
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BellaDahrma an BellaSita Mum says
What a grate post Summe
Mee admitss mee ISS an aressive cat….an semi-feral as you know. BellaSita Mum has dun efurrythin gyou suggested. Mee iss so pampurred reelly.
Deepsite her best effortss; mee can go a bit ‘haywire’ as shee callss it an mee does get aggressive…i
When your tipss due not werk; BellSita Mum DOES raise ehr voice an hollerss a FIRM “NO!”
It iss pretty much THE only way to settle mee down. If mee triess to bee nippy or go aftur her feet (a reel BIG NO-NO here); shee will go rite to bed an cover her feet under blankit.
Mee stopss beecause mee knowss shee iss seereuss.
Mee preveeuss ownerss were not nice to mee an tott mee to bee ruff an used their pawss as toyss…this iss a hard habit to brake.
An beein aressive iss diffycult to overcome two…
BellaSita Mum ALLWAYSS apawlogizess if shee has to holler an xplaness. An there are treetss….wee keep werkin on this….
Fur Everywhere says
Such an important message! There simply is no need or reason to be yelling at a kitty. Positive reinforcement is a much better way to do things and helps build a stronger bond with your cat. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this important information!
Cathy Keisha says
I’ve always been aggressive and TW kinda takes issue with blaming her and Pop. I’m better now then I ever was. I still can’t resist bare arms like Pop has when he lies on the bed to rest his back. He keeps saying “no” and I keep advancing on him. TW has to throw a toy or something to distract me. She’s always punished me by simply walking away from our play. The few times she yells, I think she’s playing. I don’t think they encourage me but accept who I am.
Melissa & Mudpie says
Wonderful points, Summer! I’ve never had an aggressive cat but I’ve known a few in the neighborhood.
Great information, Summer. We’re very fortunate. Ava is about as close to a perfect angel as a cat can be!
Great info, esp for inexperienced kitty paerents.
Ellen Pilch says
Great post. I think Drake is so aggressive to other cats because his previous owners had him declawed. I wish there was a way to help him with other cats.
Pat K says
I agree. Good ideas here.
Great information, thank you very much.
Katie Isabella says
I have been saying that off and on for years in hers and I in my blogs occasionally. ALl of the cats who lived here including Katie right now are very very loving because you are right. Love your cat– and they WILL love you back. Treat them softly with kindness, and don’t punish! And if you keep expecting human logic from them, you will lose every time. Treat them with love gentleness and kindness and you will have a loving soul mate in your cat
Brian Frum says
That was good information, I’m glad none of us are aggressive.
Excellent understanding Summer. If only more humans could know this.
Eastside Cats Blog says
We’ve been working with Sweetie to eliminate her biting.
She has only four teeth, so no harm is done, but her reaction to hands shows that some human played with their hands with her.
As she is deaf, her reactions to things are because she is startled.
However, when she lays across my chest to purr and nap, my heart swells with love for this tough-as-nails cat.
Mickeys Musings says
Those are very good points that you make Summer.
I am sure most kittens and cats don’t want to be aggressive.
It is up to humans to guide them with care and affection.