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All Creatures Small
Animal Hospital

Ph: 608-741-7064

3434 E. Milwaukee St.,
Janesville, WI 53546

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All Creatures Small Animal Hospital

Feline Aggression

Aggression is a serious and dangerous behavior problem for cat owners. There are many different types of aggression. Making a diagnosis, determining the prognosis (the chances of safe and effective correction) and developing an appropriate treatment plan are usually best handled with a veterinary behaviorist. In some cases medical conditions can contribute to aggression. Before a behavior consultation your cat must have a thorough physical examination and blood tests to rule out organ dysfunction. To treat aggression, it is necessary to determine which type of aggression your cat displays; fear, territorial, parental, play, redirected, predatory, petting-induced, pain-induced, social status, medical or learned. Also determine in what circumstances the pet is aggressive and whether the aggression is toward family members, strangers, other pets in the household, or strange pets. Keeping a diary can be particularly useful. More than one form of aggression may be exhibited. Behavior modification techniques and/or changes to the pet’s environment will be necessary to correct most aggressive problems. Drug therapy can be a useful part of treatment for some forms of aggression. Fear aggression: what is it and how is it diagnosed? Fear aggression arises when a cat is exposed to people, other animals, places or stimuli (e.g. noises) that the cat is unfamiliar with, or to situations previously associated with an unpleasant experience. Although many cats may retreat when fearful, those that are on their own territory or are prevented from retreating because they are cornered, are more likely to fight. If the stimulus (person or animal) retreats or the pet is harmed or further frightened in any way (e.g. a fight, punishment), the fear is likely to be further aggravated. In addition people or animals that do not approach in a calm, confident or friendly manner are more likely to be met with a fearful response. Fear aggression toward family members might arise out of punishment or other unpleasant experience associated with them. Many cases of fear aggression are seen as combinations or complicating factors of other forms of aggression (territorial, maternal, redirected, etc.). Fearful body postures in conjunction with aggression are diagnostic of fear aggression. Behavior therapy perhaps in combination with drug therapy can be used to treat most cases of fear aggression. Play aggression: what is it and how is it diagnosed? Play aggression is commonly shown by young cats toward people or other pets in the family. Overly rambunctious play along with grabbing, stalking, pouncing, nipping or biting of people or their clothing are common signs of play aggression. Although it is a normal behavior it can lead to injuries. If handled incorrectly it could lead to more serious forms of aggression as your cat matures. Territorial aggression: what is it and how can it be treated? Territorial aggression can be exhibited toward people or other animals (usually other cats) that approach or reside on the pet’s property. Territorial aggression can occur towards cats outside of the home, but also towards cats that live in the household. This may be with the addition of another cat, or when resident cats reach social maturity at 1-2 years of age. Since the person or other animal entering the property may also be causing fear or anxiety, territorial aggression often occurs in conjunction with fear aggression. Treatment is covered in a separate handout on territorial aggression. Predatory aggression: what is it and how can it be treated? Predation is the instinctive desire to chase and hunt prey. Predatory behaviors include stalking, chasing, attacking, and ingestion of prey animals, but may occasionally be directed at people or other pets. Although the desire to chase can be reduced by using desensitizing and counter-conditioning in the presence of the stimuli, this is a very dangerous form of aggression, which must be prevented. If the behavior is directed toward small pets in the home, confining those pets to a room where the cat does not have access is best. If the behavior is directed to animals outside, then keeping the cat indoors is a solution. Predatory aggression may be part of play aggression in young cats.


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All Creatures Small
Animal Hospital

Ph: 608-741-7064

Hospital Affiliations:

American Veterinary Medical Association Rock Valley Veterinary Medical Association Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

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