Some cat behavior is more immediately obvious, for example an inside cat being upset over seeing a cat in his yard. However, there are situations such as a sudden change from purring to biting that are perplexing to say the least. All aggression whether seemingly misdirected or redirected, is as a result of a perceived threat. When we get kitties from the shelter/pound, we don't always know their history. This can pose a challenge because in some cases, if the cat was hurt or otherwise threatened as a kitten, he may have learned that reacting in an aggressive manner would end the harassment. Even though he is now in a loving home, he might still react based on fear as that is instinctive to him.
Sudden shifts in moods
Sometimes cats will bite when they have had enough petting. What startles humans is that this reaction seems to come out of nowhere. If you play close attention, you will begin to see a pattern – your cat will purr happily up to a point, and beyond a certain threshold point, she will suddenly get overly playful or bite. As you recognize this pattern, you will learn to stop at the very first warning sign.
[Gaby's Roxie and Andy having a disagreement]
Gaby's Roxie and Andy having a disagreement
This can be evidenced by your cat's ears flattening against her head, or a slight involuntary movement or a general sense that she is tiring or becoming restless. At this point, do not force interaction and simply stop petting her. This is usually enough to calm her down. Later, when she initiates it, you can have a short petting session again.
Some cats and kittens in particular, love to hide and then attack an unsuspecting human's feet. This is just your cat showing off her hunting skills. You will sometimes see cats stalk and pounce on each other as well. If cats do not have each other to practice their hunting skills on, they will seek out the humans in the house. Anything that looks remotely like a prey animal or bird is usually fair game such as the sash on a robe or your hand dangling by the side of the sofa or bed as you sleep.
Some cats are mousers and prefer toys that can be dragged along the floor while others prefer bird-like objects that flutter or fly. You will notice a difference in your cat's interest level based on whether she prefers hunting birds or mouse. Of course some cats are more versatile and love both so be prepared to buy or make lots of different types of toys.
By playing with toys such as a shoe lace tied to a wooden dowel which is then dragged along by the floor or just an old neck tie swept along the floor, your cat will find a nice outlet for her hunting needs. If toys aren't enough, get her a playmateSmile
It is important to not give your cat mixed signals so never offer your hand as something for her to attack as she will then consider it acceptable to play with your hand or other parts of your body such as your feet. Use a pen or chop stick or some other inanimate object if you want your cat to bat at something, never your fingers or hand. With some cats though it's okay to use a toy like Hand mittens
Aggression toward other cats
Outside cat bothering inside kitty
If an outside cat makes his presence known, close the window coverings and coax your cat to play with you in a different part of the house. You can give him some catnip if it makes him happy. Let him take a whiff of a bottle of Lavender hydrosol to calm him down. The flower essences Aspen which addresses fear and Holly for jealousy will also go a long way in helping him feel better. See our flower essence article for more ideas as well as dosing information.
As for the outside cat, go out at a time when your cat is asleep or otherwise occupied, and if there is a particular window/door s/he seems to spend more time near apply a mild scent e.g. diluted apple cider vinegar in that area to confuse them a bit. The idea is for them to smell more similar to each other even through a closed door cat noses being what they are, or at least less foreign. On the outside area, you can also include some cayenne pepper so it acts as a deterrent.
If the outside cat sprays the front door or any other part of the house, wipe of the door with vinegar and/or an environmentally-friendly enzyme cleaner. After it is dry, dab vanilla extract (food-grade, not concentrated oil of any kind because essential oils are harmful for cats) quite generously on there plus some on the inside too like near the threshold etc. You can also spray this on the outside (not inside because of the essential oils in it) - Australian Bush Flower Essences' Calm & Clear Mist
Aggression toward kitty "siblings"
Sometimes if proper introductions aren't made at the outset, the pecking order doesn't quite get worked out properly. This leads to lingering issues, or rather unresolved ones which can later cause a cat to "misbehave" in some way.
To get to the bottom of why your cat is being aggressive, you'll have to dig a bit e.g.:
- How long has it been going on? If it's new, what change occurred in the household at that time e.g. person/cat moved in/out? - In a situation where a favorite person or animal is no longer there, a flower essence to help with abandonment or sadness can help. Also Walnut is helpful for transition issues. If on the other hand, a new person/animal moved in, then an essence e.g. Holly which helps with jealousy, might be better indicated.
- Is there a particular animal your cat picks on? What is the underlying dynamic there? Is it jealousy? That would call for a different essence than say general rough play.
- If none of the above are the case, and you just have a naturally high-strung cat, Lavender flower essence can give excellent results.For example, with young feral cats/kittens who are overwhelmed by new sights, sounds inside a house and "act out" for lack of a better phrase. Or cats/people w/ adrenal burnout where a person is tired and wired at the same time, so can't sleep but has no energy.A cat with a lot of baggage could well benefit from Lavender because the aggression is just disguised fear, dread, and fatigue.
- If your cat is upset but not necessarily jumping around attacking other cats and dogs or displaying hyperactive behavior, I'd skip Lavender, and look at Sunflower as well as Violet. The latter is excellent for cats who seem to get lost in a group where the others have stronger personalities causing these guys to hang back. Meanwhile, they're feeling under-appreciated and unloved ready to act out at the first chance.
For cases where the aggression is general in nature and not specific to a person/animal, Tiger Lily and Vine from FES brand are good choices.
Sometimes it is very difficult to determine the underlying cause or reason for aggressive behavior. If you find yourself not being able to answer any of the above questions, then the following formulas from Green Hope Farms might be worth a shot - Anxiety, Jealousy, and Outburst:
This company makes alcohol-free essences, which is super for kitties.
Is your boy cat trying to "sexually harass" your girl cats? If so, the FES essences Snapdragon and Monkshood work very well.
The cat being picked on
For the target of the aggression, you might want to think about an essence that will give the cat more self-confidence e.g. FES essences Sunflower and/or Larch by either FES or Bach.
[Barrie's April and Oberon demonstrating lack of aggression]
Barrie's April and Oberon demonstrating lack of aggression
To read more details about each remedy, here's a summarized guide from my favorite essence company - FES
Another favorite of mine is Australian Bush Flower Essences' Confid Essence which I've used for among other cats, Missy my yielding too-sweet and polite cat.
If you'd like help with a behavioral issue, click here for a consult.
- Last Updated: 17 November 2013