Causes for sudden aggression in cats

Does your cat surprise you by biting and scratching you when you least expect it? It could be anywhere, when you are cuddling them on the couch or when you just walk past them. It can be infuriating and quite frustrating enough for you to seek help from a behaviourist.

Aggression in cats is very normal. It is in fact one of the most common reason for constant visits to the vet or a behaviourist. Many cat owners are usually clueless on how to handle the problem as they are quite worried about any physical harm that might happen after being attacked by a cat. Cat scratches and bites are not to be treated lightly as they can cause serious infections.

What does an aggressive cat look like?

Before launching an attack on its victim, cats attain a posture that acts as a warning to anyone approaching them. So, it makes sense to observe their body posture. A defensive cat will appear small and position themselves in a protective manner. These are the signs you must look out for:

  • Crouching
  • Flattened ears
  • Hissing
  • Turning away from you
  • Raised hackles
  • Tucked head

You must keep in mind that a defensive cat may be suffering from anxiety or a fear of a particular situation which you are unaware of. They may unwittingly attack you even though you are not the cause of their anxiety or fear.

On the other hand, offensive postures in cats will make them appear big and scary. These are the signs you need to watch out for:

  • Stiff legs
  • Raised hackles
  • Moving towards you
  • Staring at you
  • Straightened ears
  • Growling
  • Stiff tail

If you notice any of the above signs in your pet then it is highly recommended to keep away from them till they settle as cats in the brink of aggression can be very fast and dangerous while attacking with their mouth and claws.

Causes for sudden aggression in cats

  • Fear aggression – Fear aggression is caused when your cat detects a possible threat and has no means to escape. This behaviour can be conditioned as a result of past experiences and you may not be entirely sure of your cat’s particular fear.
  • Aggression as a result of an underlying medical cause – Aggression as a result of a medical problem is quite common especially in senior cats with a calm temperament who become aggressive as a result of pain. Arthritis, dental disease, infections or trauma are the most basic reasons for your cat to behave aggressively when they are being touched in the affected area. Apart from pain, cognitive dysfunction, loss of sensory function or neurological issues can cause aggression in your pet.
  • Territorial aggression – This occurs when a cat feels threatened by an intruder who is claiming their space or territory. This behaviour is usually directed at other cats but humans and other animals can also be easily threatened by their show of aggression. So, you need to be wary and watchful when you bring home a new pet, introduce a new person to your home or move into a different neighbourhood.
  • Status aggression – This occurs when your cat starts bossing over everyone at home. Cats that constantly growl at you when you move them, block doors or attack you when you talk to others are just trying to be more assertive and bossy.
  • Redirected aggression – This is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable type of aggression. This can be seen when your pet is aroused by an external stimuli like the cat next door or a squirrel running past them. They are waiting to pounce on them but cannot as they are inside. So, if you walk right in front of them they are most likely to vent their aggression at you.

How to handle sudden aggression in cats?

The first thing you must do is to take your pet to the vet and have them professionally checked for any medial condition that might influence aggressive behaviour in them. If your pet has no medical problems then you need to work with a behaviourist who will identify the triggers of aggression in your cat and teach you methods to resolve them at home.

The simplest thing for you to do is to carefully watch for signs of aggression in your cat and stay away. Backing away and giving them space is a good way to avoid dangerous situations. Being patient and observant will help you tackle the issue successfully.

You can always post your queries at for further professional advice.

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