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Types of Aggression in Cats

Aggression can be scary – not only for the victim but also for the one displaying the behavior. Since cats prefer to avoid confrontation, engaging in an aggressive encounter usually means they feel backed into a corner.

In order to avoid actual physical encounters, cats do lots of posturing and use their bodies to communicate that they’re either big, bad cats who shouldn’t be messed with or else they’re trying to say that they’re not a threat. When the body language and other communication signals fail to stop perceived threats, that’s when cats may resort to aggressive behavior.

Cats aren’t aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive. There are different causes behind aggressive behaviors. You have to identify the underlying cause of the behavior in order to work toward correcting the problem.

One very important step in dealing with aggression, or any change in your cat’s behavior is to have her examined by the veterinarian in order to rule out any underlying medical cause. This is a crucial step that mustn’t be skipped.

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Aggression is serious and people or cats can quickly become seriously injured. Before dealing with a cat who is acting aggressively, seek the advice of your veterinarian. You may then be referred to a qualified, certified behavior professional. In general though, the best way to deal with an aggressive cat is to not deal with her at all – just leave her alone.

Below are some common causes of aggression:

Intercat Aggression

This happens when two or more cats have a hostile relationship with each other. This may be the result of two cats who have just come upon each other in an outdoor environment, cats who are challenging each other for status or territory, or as a result of a human bringing a new cat into an existing cat’s environment.

Intercat aggression can occur between unfamiliar cats or ones who have previously had a good relationship. In the case of an ongoing relationship, something can trigger the aggression. Intercat aggression can also be the result of redirected aggression.

The method of dealing with this type of aggression will depend on the underlying cause.

Redirected Aggression

This occurs when a cat becomes aroused and reactive as a result of seeing or hearing something that she can’t access. A common example is when an indoor cat sees an unfamiliar cat in the yard. She can’t get to the cat so she lashes out at a companion pet or nearby human.

Redirected aggression is easily misdiagnosed because you may never see the actual source of the cat’s agitation. The cat can stay reactive for quite a while. Additionally, depending on how severe the aggressive encounter was, the companion cats may stay hostile toward each other long after the initial episode.

Safely separating the cats temporarily is typically the best way to avoid the situation getting any worse.

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