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Dealing With An Aggressive Cat

What makes your cat a pure joy one day and a ferocious feline the next? Cats are naturally emotional creatures that are prone to extremes. The key is in understanding why your cat’s behavior could become more aggressive.

• Accept his instinctive behavior. Climbing, scratching and playing are essential cat behaviors. Your cat may be scratching as a way of getting your attention and inviting you to play. Engage your cat in activities that channel his scratching, biting and jumping tendencies in more acceptable ways, such as chasing a stuffed sock. Your cat expends pent up energy and gets to enjoy your company.

• Learn to read your cat. Does your cat enjoy being petted, cuddled and otherwise manipulated by family and friends? If not, you must advocate for your cat before the claws come out. Explain to well-meaning friends that your cat has a limited tolerance for handling.

• Figure out the reason. Some cats are territorial and their behavior will become aggressive toward a perceived threat. Hostility can be triggered by a new addition to the household, such as a baby, a new pet or even new furniture. Often, isolating the cat from the “threat” and gradually re-introducing him into the environment will increase acceptance.

• Discipline consistently. Saying “no” in a harsh tone immediately after the aggressive behavior will reinforce your message, but you must do it each and every time your cat exhibits the behavior. If you only punish occasionally, your cat will not associate your actions with his bad behavior.

• Is fear a factor? A cat that’s stressed and fearful may react aggressively. Observe the cat closely to understand whether children, noise or other pets are bothering her. Providing a safe haven for the fearful cat, or changing the household routine, may reduce the anxiety and, ultimately, the aggression.

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