What should I do if my cat becomes aggressive?

Aggression is alarming behaviour directed towards a person or animal. When cats show signs of aggression – an important survival skill that has helped felines survive in the wild for centuries – it is important to first rule out why they are acting in this way. Chances are, if they are acting out of character, there is something wrong with them. 

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What are symptoms of aggression in cats?

Cats show they are distressed by doing one or more of the following:

  • Hissing
  • Biting
  • Growling
  • Clawing
  • Spitting
  • Scratching

Some cats will try to make themselves look bigger and more intimidating by staring, howling, stiffening their legs and tail, whereas others adopt a self-protective posture and attempt to look smaller. They may crouch, tuck their tail under their body or flatten their ears backwards. Generally, cats displaying these symptoms, should not be touched, reassured or punished.

Some behaviour that may appear aggressive is a natural part of play. It would only be if aggression was shown towards a human, that it would constitute a behavioural problem.

Reasons why your cat is showing aggression

A cat’s behaviour may change suddenly, taking the owner by surprise. Some of the less obvious reasons include:

Illness and chronic conditions

Owners should rule out any medical conditions that may be causing their cats to become distressed, by visiting their vet. Cats can become grumpy and may not want to be stroked if they develop a condition such as arthritis or poor eyesight.

While cats tend to hide their pain because this makes them vulnerable, the cat is likely to change its attitude for the worse. In this instance, you should take your cat to the vet.

Unfamiliar scent

Cats are often cross when they are disturbed by the scent of another animal, especially in their own territory. Territorial aggression can be displayed towards anyone, although mostly towards other cats in the form of hissing.

You can leave out a blanket or towel with the scent of the other cat or bring both cats when you need to go to, for example, the vet.

New pet or baby at home

A new arrival may not be welcomed into the home by your feline friend. Aggression in the form of growling and hissing can take place but usually regresses as they get used to the new baby or cat. threatening growling and hissing takes place.

One way to reintroduce cats is to expose them to each other for prolonged periods without letting them come in direct contact.

Redirected aggression

When cats are overstimulated, they can attack other pets or their owners. For example, if a cat spots a bird sitting in a tree, it is stimulated but unable to catch the bird, thereby redirects its aggression on an owner or pet in the home.

It can be difficult to treat this aggression but it helps to put the cat in a dark, quiet room, where it can calm down. Generally, cats do not redirect aggression unless they are touched or closely approached.

Maternal instinct

A mother may display aggression if she feels her kittens are in danger. Ensure she has a safe and secure place to be so that she doesn’t feel her family is in danger. During the first few weeks of the kittens’ lives, limit your interaction so the mother can tend to her new babies.

What should I do if my cat is aggressive towards other cats?

If your cat suddenly becomes aggressive and starts a fight, it can cause a problem. Mostly, cats start fights due to territorial possession or because they are scared.

Make sure your cat is not in pain or injured – which means a trip to the vet. Once you have established nothing is wrong, you should look for other reasons. Have you moved home recently or has your cat experienced a change in their routine? If so, this could be the reason for your cat’s aggression.

Things should go back to normal but if they don’t, seek advice from a vet.

What if my cat bites me?

If your cat becomes distressed enough to bite you, you should seek immediate medical attention. Cat bites can cause serious infection if left untreated.


So, we’ve given you the lowdown on what to do is your cat shows signs of aggression, but remember if you are concerned always consult your vet. 

Need cat insurance?

Cat insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your cat gets injured or falls ill.