My cat always attacks me. Why?
Aggression is a natural part of many animals’ survival instincts – it can come from fear, pain or even something thye learned from you. Here are some tips if your cat is prone to aggression.
When kittens grow up they learn social skills from their littermates, often through play fights with one another. Dr Catheryn Walsh from Greencross Vets Robina Village
says it is through feedback during this play that cats learn the boundaries of aggression: if a kitten is bitten too hard it will let their littermate know about it by reacting appropriately.
“Unfortunately when humans become involved in this play, they have a tendency to unconsciously reinforce aggressive play behaviour, so the kitten doesn’t learn how to play fair,” she says. For example, an owner may play with their kitten by grabbing and rolling it, and then letting the kitten bite or scratch their hands.
“The game then ends, and the kitten now thinks that attacking hands and arms is how they are meant to play with their owner,” she says. “Soon, all human hands and feet become potential play targets.”
Not so cute anymore
Dr Walsh says while this behaviour may be tolerable when your cat is small, once the kitten grows up into a strong adult with sharp teeth and claws, the cat becomes labelled as “naughty”.
“However, this is in fact how they have been taught to behave,” she says. “The situation may seem particularly scary when you are ambushed in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom, and your cat has decided it’s playtime.”
Prevention and fixes
Dr Walsh says the best way to prevent this behaviour is to ensure that human body parts are never included during games with your kitten. Instead, use toys, such as ones that are attached to a stick. Providing your cat with a playmate may also reduce their desire to play rough with you. Finally, don’t forget to reward your cat for good playtime behaviour.
Remember that your local Greencross Vets
are here to give advice if you notice that your cat has behavioural problems or is habitually aggressive.