What To Do If Your Cat Starts Attacking You

ginger cat lying on a mat biting the arm of a man

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a cat bite it might be easy for you to think of the feline perpetrator as an aggressive creature, acting out of malicious intent. However, the term ‘aggression’ can be very misleading. Cats are not

‘aggressive’ by definition. Aggression is an emotional state which cats enter in certain specific contexts. And it’s the nature of the context that determines what strategies cats use by way of a response.

Whether the ‘aggression’ happens on a regular or ad hoc basis, it’s important to understand what can be done to manage it. The way you can do this is to learn what a cat’s motivations are when it performs the behaviour for example: 

A cat might be fearful of people as a result of not receiving appropriate socialisation as a kitten and see all approaches by humans as a threat that they must protect themselves against.

Ginger cat hissing when hand gets too close

Perhaps the owners used their hands and/or feet when playing with a cat as it was growing up and it now views these extremities as fair game!

Black kitten playing with owners' fingers

A cat may use aggression to deter unwanted attention or to control situations.n

Ginger and white cat cowering against a wall

It’s possible that as a result of inherited maternal influences a cat may have a low threshold for frustration and may not respond well to new or challenging situations.

There are occasions where a cat may have seen another cat or bird that’s out of reach and in this adrenaline-fuelled state, redirects his confrontational and/or instinctive energy on to any human that happens to be within reach. Or a cat might be defending or establishing his territory.

Two cats sitting either side of a closed glass door staring at each other through the glass

When a cat is ill or in pain he might lash out to prevent unwanted human interaction. 

So how do we deal with a cat displaying this type of behaviour?

Strategies for Dealing with Cat Attacks

Firstly arrange a consultation with your vet to rule out a medical cause.

If your cat receives a clean bill of health, seek intervention from a behavioural specialist and avoid all physical interaction with your cat prior to receiving their advice.

Ignore any hissing or growling.

Protect your legs and arms.

Avoid any vocalisation, chastisement or other interaction with your cat following an aggressive encounter.

Avoid reassuring a cat that appears frightened.

Seek medical attention for bites and severe scratches.

Trim your cat’s claws (only if you are not putting yourself in danger).

Give the cat something to play with that they can kick and rake that’s bigger than the average cat toy for example a Honeysuckle Cat Kicker or Cuddle Cushion.

So the next time you’re bitten or clawed by a cat remember, there’s usually a very good reason!

Clare Hemington

Clare has worked in the field of cat behaviour for sixteen years. She is an accredited Cat Behaviourist and respected member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers. Clare believes that understanding cat behaviour is key to their overall welfare. Through consultation and education her aim is to share information with owners that enables them to give their cat a life that is as happy as it possibly can be. Clare is also founder and owner of Honeysuckle cat toys. Toys made from Tatarian honeysuckle wood which provide wonderful natural enrichment for cats.

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