Cats in Conflict
Inter-male aggression is high on the list of commonly reported feline behavior problems
Jane Ehrlich examines some of the many types of feline aggression, one of the most
common behavior problems in cats, and tries to shed some light on this complex issue
nter-cat aggression is one of the most commonly reported behavior problems by cat owners, second only to feline marking behaviors such as urine spraying and middening (Magnus, Appleby & Bailey, 1998; Overall, 1997). The only cat owners likely to have not experienced this often convoluted issue are either those who have never had more than one cat at a time, or never shared their lives with a solitary cat who likes to roam the neighborhood. There are several distinct kinds of aggression in cats and, until you figure out the type being displayed, it can be hard to stop it. The good news is: you can. In the meantime though it is quite possible that you, your cat, another cat, or all three might get hurt. Cat bites and scratches can be incredibly painful, with both human and feline potentially requiring medical intervention. So the more you know about why the skirmish is happening, the better you can manage the situation. Several of the most common types of aggression (and they can overlap) include: Redirected Aggression: This one is easy to spot. The cat is looking out the window, sees a bird or cat he cannot get at, reacts, you happen to be near, and he goes after you. Chomp. Scratch. Or, he wants to pick a fight with your other cat or dog, you intervene and... you get it. Suggestion: if Noodles is reacting to outside cats, which is a perfectly normal response, block his view of the other feline in-
BARKS from the Guild/March 2015
terlopers. Cardboard and foil taped to windows (as high as the cat can stretch upward) are aesthetically unappealing, true, so consider translucent sheeting that sticks on merely with static at DIY stores. Make sure you do not approach Noodles when his ire is up. Let him cool down first.
Petting-Induced Aggression: This is your own fault, you know. Different cats have different thresholds for physical affection. Noodles does give a warning, when he has had enough. Watch his body language. The important word here is ‘beginning.’ His body begins to tense, fur begins to ruffle, tail begins to switch, pupils begin to dilate, ears begin to flatten. See? These are the signs. Stop petting immediately. Let him cool down. To lengthen the time he stays on your lap to be petted, give one more stroke each time. If he remains, treat. Love through the stomach. The jury is out about just why cats react so quickly and negatively to petting a little too long. Some feel that cats get lulled into a state of relaxation and their guard is down—then, when consciousness rears its head, the fight-or-fight response kicks in. It has also been suggested that seeing a hand come over the head alerts the survival response, and, jerked from his lull, the cat hits out. This alone is a good reason to learn just where Noodles wants to be petted—and how—not where and how you want to pet him.