Educational Articles

Cats + Behavior

  • Aggression is defined as threats or harmful actions directed toward another individual and can include threat displays, lunging, growling, snarling, snapping and biting. In animals, aggressive behaviors are a means of communication.

  • This type of behavior in cats is usually quite confusing to owners. Initially the cat acts like they enjoy the physical contact and may even purr and rub against the person. However, after a variable period of time, the cat may become agitated and turn and bite the hand that is petting them.

  • Under stimulation, an excess of unused energy, and lack of appropriate opportunities for play can lead to play-related aggression. This may be exhibited as overly rambunctious or aggressive play, which inadvertently leads to injuries to people.

  • Redirected aggression occurs when a cat is aroused by another animal, person or event, but is unable to direct aggression toward the stimulus. For example, your cat is sitting on a windowsill and sees another cat out on the property.

  • Territorial aggression is aggression that is exhibited toward people or other animals (usually cats) that approach or reside on the pet’s property. Aggression can occur toward outside cats or to cats that live in the same household, especially new cats coming into the territory.

  • In order to ensure that there are no injuries and that all introductions are positive, a desensitization and counterconditioning program is the best way to ease or re-introduce a cat into a household.

  • Punishment is the application of a stimulus that decreases the chance that a behavior will be repeated. It must coincide with the undesirable behavior, and must be unpleasant enough to deter the cat from repeating that behavior.

  • With mild or minor behavioral problems, clients are often able to correct the problem by means of reward-based training, as is outlined in the other handouts in this series. However, when problems are more serious, it is easy to make the problem worse rather than improving it.

  • This is a broad topic that includes a variety of therapeutic options including herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, nutraceuticals and supplements. There are few controlled studies to show that any of these treatments are effective in pets.

  • Displacement behaviors are usually normal behaviors that are performed at an inappropriate time, appearing out of context for the occasion. Displacement behaviors arise from situations of either conflict or frustration. Conflict refers to the situation in which an animal is motivated to perform two or more competing behaviors (e.g., approach or withdraw, greeting but fear of being punished).