We will briefly discuss 5 main types:
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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
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.
- If the aggression is being redirected toward a second cat in the household, the two cats may have to be separated
- 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
- 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).