Roblin Animal Hospital
Unit 104-4910 Roblin (corner of Roblin and Dieppe)

Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm
Saturday - 8:30am - 12:30pm

Roblin Animal Hospital/ Red River Spay and Neuter Clinic:

Feline Aggression


We will briefly discuss 5 main types:


o   Play

o   Fear

o   Territorial

o   Redirected

o   Petting Induced


Play: One of the most common. 

  • Is an intense form of normal cat behaviour that can be directed at people and other cats.
  • Associated with early weaning and or a shift to predatory behaviour, or rough play by the cat’s owners.
  • Important that kittens learn bite inhibition, preferably with siblings
  • Types of play in cats:
  • Social play (3 to 12 weeks of age).
  • Experience stages of social fighting (14 weeks and older) that develop skills necessary for hunting.
  • Kittens play becomes well developed at 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Exhibit independent predatory behaviour by 5 weeks of age
  • Play aggression may develop when the kitten’s mother or siblings do not correct it when it hurts them.
  • Critical learning period is prior to 6 weeks, up to 9 weeks of age.
  • Play aggressive cats crouch and hide, waiting for movement. They pounce, using teeth and claws, and quickly run away.
  • Here are some tips to help stop play aggression:
  • It is important to stop this behaviour by startling the cat with a loud noise or spray of water.
  • Startling can be very effective when it interrupts the undesirable behaviour.
  • Do not physically punish a cat with play aggression as this will reinforces the behaviour
  • Try and eliminate surprise attacks with a bell.
  • Only play with the cat using cat toys don’t play with your hands.
  • If the cat scratches you during play, startle the cat and stop the play
  • Increase the cat’s exercise!
  • Getting another cat often reduces play aggression
  • If play aggression continues, banish the cat to another room.
  • Keep your cats nails short.  Provide them with adequate scratching posts, even some with sandpaper.


Fear: Very common

  • Normal fear reaction: bite/strike, and retreat.
  • Abnormal fear: continual biting.
  • May be seen in cats with little or no human contact such as feral cats or due to a traumatic experience (esp. between 5&7 weeks).
  • Fear reactions occur when the cat is exposed to a stimulus that it finds fearful and cannot escape.
  • When a cat is behaving defensively it will:
    • Crouch
    • The ears will be flattened to the head
    • It may hiss and  spit
    • Fluff up its hair
  • External stimuli can cause a fear response.
  • The cat becomes aggressively aroused by an external stimulus.
  • If a human or another cat approaches the aroused cat, it may respond aggressively.
  • The cat may then become conditioned to associate that person or the other cat with fearful events and develop fear aggression.
  • Cats also may become fearful of people through the inappropriate use of threats and/or punishment.
  • Fear responses can vary.
    • May be directed at only one person or a specific situation.
    • Generalized to all people or every time the cat sees the other cat.
  • Prognosis - Variable
  • When short duration, and you are able to identify the stimuli, predict it, and control it, the prognosis is better
  • If the fear is long standing and has been occurring for a long time and may be directed to many situations and is a stimulus that is difficult to control, the prognosis is poorer.
  • Treatment - When a cat is aggressively aroused:
    • Isolate the cat so that it can calm down and people and other animals are not at risk
    • Careful when handling as this type of arousal may be damaging to handler.
    • Towel cat/ heard into isolated room to calm down
    • In some cases several hours or days may be needed for the cat to calm down.
    • Once the cat is calm, treatment is based on counter conditioning and desensitization to the fear-producing stimulus.  (food + fearful stimuli move closer together).
    • Desensitization programs are slow and when hurried may increase rather than decrease fearful behaviours.
    • Fear reaction may be so severe that desensitization is unsuccessful.
    • May need the addition of medication to decrease the fear response.



  • Is usually between other cats.
  • Most cat fights, 1/2 of-the fight is just posturing. It may sound and look like they are tearing each other up, then may find only 1 or 2 bites or scratches
  • Occur over territory and/or social status.
  • Cats do have social interactions and a social structure.
    • Threats between cats are  more covert, such as blocking access to locations, staring, and sabotage.
    • Chasing and overt aggressive threats such as growling, hissing, biting may also occur.
    • Cats show submission by crouching, turning the ears down and avoidance
    • One cat may end up living in a restricted area to keep away from the aggressor in territory disputes especially if resources are limited.
    • Cats may need to be separated.
  • Prognosis is poor but also dependant on the ability to control the environment so everyone has acc
  • Also being able to predict and avoid aggressive encounters is important.
  • Treatment -
    • Focuses on avoiding aggressive encounters, counter conditioning and the creating more than one resource station (ie food litterbox, etc)
    • Reaclamation of scent (towel rubbing from 1 cat to another)


Redirected Aggression:

  • Often can result in the most severe injuries inflicted on an owner.
  • Cat is stimulated to an aggressive state of arousal, and then directs its aggression to a person (or animal) which did not cause the arousal.
  • Aggression likely to be redirected: inter-male, fear-induced, territorial, defensive.
  •  Redirected aggression usually occurs when the aroused cat is approached or touched.
  • First, avoid the cat until it calms down.
  • Treatment-
    • If the aggression is being redirected toward a second cat in the household, the two cats may have to be separated
      • Re-introduce cat slowly.
      • Use food to facilitate calm behaviour.
      • Another possible way to re-introduce cats is with the use of a crate.
    • If the aggression is directed toward people:
      • You need to identify the source of the agitation to avoid it.
      • Treat the primary form of aggression ex territorial/fear.
      • Avoiding exposure can be achieved by confining your cat away from the doors and windows, where the stimulus might be seen, heard, or smelled.


Petting Induced:

  • Cat can be petted to a certain point, then bites/tries to bite.
  • The aggression appears to be unpredictable, but the cat will signal mood change by changes in ear position, pupil size, tail movement,etc
  • Treatment:
    • Cat to initiate contact, owner is not to pick up.
    • If cat initiates contact owner pets briefly, gives treat, then ignores (put off lap if cat jumped up/ owner may stand up).
    • Owner gradually can lengthen petting times.
    • Good behaviour is rewarded, bad behaviour AVOIDED!!
    • Owner needs to learn to observe for indicators cat is close to point of biting -- tall movement, ears, skin ripples, and vocalization
    • Stop petting immediately and ignore cat.


Other types, of aggression are: Inter-male, Predatory, Maternal, Pain Induced, Pathophysiological (rare), Idiopathic (cause unknown).