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Top 3 Aggression Problems and How to Beat Them


aggressive_cat1.jpgCat to Cat Aggression

No one enjoys living in a house full of hissing, spitting and yowling cats. And no owner enjoys the vet bill that comes with taking care of bites and scratches. Owners should be aware that most inter-cat aggression occurs between cats of the same gender and increases during the mating season. Spaying and neutering, especially when done early, can decrease cat-to-cat aggression by up to 90%. It may not always solve it as cats can become angry with each other just like people, but it will help to resolve one underlying issue.

Cats usually establish their pecking order through postures and bluffs, rarely fights. These include stares, hisses and growls, and blocking access to food or attention. You should never allow your cats to “fight it out” as this can be dangerous and often only makes things worse. The cat at the bottom of the pecking order may need special attention and it’s important to keep them from being bullied.

Here are some quick ways to solve cat to cat aggression and restore peace in your home: Add more space for your cats in the form of trees, perches and hiding places. The more “all my own” spaces your cats have, the less desire there will be to steal someone else’s. If you have one cat that picks on another and will not stop, set up a magnetic cat door that will let the victim escape the bully. These can be set so that only the cat with the collar is allowed through the door. Don’t reward bad behavior; instead, distract an aggressive cat with a toy BEFORE they attack the victim. This is also a form of re-association. Rather than viewing the other cat as something bad, they begin to associate the other cat with fun. If the toy doesn’t work, use a can of air and let out a puff.

If these solutions don’t work it’s time to break out some of the heavier options. Try re-introducing your cats as though they are meeting for the first time. Isolate the bully and let the introduction happen on the victims terms. Seek help from a veterinary behaviorist. Allow them to be around each other only when you are in the room and able to devote attention to making it a fun and enjoyable experience for both pets. Interrupt negative behavior with a negative reward (air gun) and good behavior with a good reward (treat).

If these solution do not work or you have a bully cat that is consistently drawing blood and has an intent to kill the other, you may want to consider re-homing them. Don’t view it as a failure, it is simply giving your cat a second chance in a home where they may be happier as the only pet. Some cats simply do not get along with others.

Play Aggression

Play aggression comes in the form of you being attacked by your cat in a playful manner. It is best curbed at a young age where you can train a kitten not to use claws and teeth with people. Hands and feet are the most common victims of play aggression. It includes behaviors such as stalking, lunging, and alertness and though quite cute in a kitten, can be very painful in an adult. It is most prevalent in kittens that are alone and lack a companion with which to work out all their extra energy.

These kittens can often take on older and less tolerant cats, driving them to distraction. Here are some simple tips to keep you, your hands and feet, and your older cats sane. Give adults high perches or separate rooms where they can escape rambunctious youths. Use collars with bells so there is a warning. The bell eliminates stealth. If you can catch them in the act, a hiss from an air can or squirt from a water bottle will stop them cold. Play with your kitten to get all the excess energy out. The more you play, the less their need to torment everyone will be, and consider making playtimes at a specific time every day. Cats will come to expect this routine and save up their energy for it. Lastly, consider getting a second kitten to be a playmate. The two will rough house and have a good old time while leave you and your older cats in peace.

Status Related Aggression - The Who is in Charge in This House Problem

Status related aggression is one of the most frustrating for pet owners simply because the cat is giving mixed signals. It is the result of a battle of dominance between you and your cat. The cat is being a bully and expects that you will give in and be the victim. Petting aggression is another term for this type of aggression as it often manifests itself in requests for attention followed by a bite to the hand moments later. These same bites are used to stop you from doing things the cat doesn’t want you to do such as lift them or move them. Hitting your cat is never an option and in this case will only make the situation worse as aggressive bully cats view a physical altercation as a challenge.

Begin by educating yourself on the warning signs of an attack. A snapping tail, turned down ears, dilated pupils and growls all signal aggression. Rippling skin on the back is a sign of aggravation or irritation and any combination of these often signal “INCOMING ATTACK!” So, how do you deal with this?

The first step is to retrain the bully. You have to establish that you, not your cat, are in charge. Begin by simply avoiding situations that will give your cat a chance to bite. Bear in mind that aggressive behavior often becomes worse right before it gets better. Behaviorists call this an extinction burst. Don’t give up, you’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Next, identify the “petting threshold”, this is the amount of petting your cat feels is acceptable before they will bite you. Limit your pets to the back of the head and neck. Count the number of strokes before they begin to give off aggressive signals, then stop and stand. Allow the cat to fall off your lap and move on. You are controlling the encounter and this tells the cat that they don’t get to decide how much petting they will receive.

Next, take on teaching your cat that nothing they get comes without a price (except your love). Before feeding, call your cat so that they begin to understand that you control feedings. Before giving a treat, use a treat phrase that teaches them that you are in charge of the treats. They get food and treats because you are there, not because they are in charge. Remember that it is okay to bribe your cat off furniture! This keeps your hands away from biting range. Say “Move!” and then toss a treat on the floor or encourage them to chase a toy. Tip them out of chairs that are yours using an earthquake motion. And then begin simply saying Move! and giving a sweeping gesture with your arm. You’ve avoided moving in range and established control.

If you’ve had great success and wish to take on one last challenge, desensitization will help to increase their petting threshold. If your cat tolerates a few strokes before putting his ears back, spend a week adding just one more stroke to those three or four before stopping. Continue to add one stroke week by week and eventually their tolerance will increase and the biting will decrease.



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