Dealing with an aggressive cat? 4 calming tips

15 November 2023 - 3 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS on 3 November 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Aggressive kittens

In the realm of feline companions, the phrase "fighting like cats and dogs" can sometimes lean heavily on the "cats" side.

When faced with an aggressive cat, the claws really come out, making peaceful coexistence feel like a whisker away from impossible.

Fortunately, you don't have to hide from your cat to get some peace (admittedly, I may have done this a time or two with one particularly rambunctious kitten).

Training and calming an aggressive cat requires a blend of understanding, patience, and well-timed interventions. Before you give up and re-home your furry little ball of fury, paw-se and explore other ways to restore harmony to your household.

Causes of cat aggression

The first step towards curbing feline ferocity is understanding the root causes of aggression. Cats may exhibit aggressive behaviour due to a LOT of (sometimes barely noticeable) triggers:

In other cases, the roots of your cat's aggression go deeper—even into genetics. Certain breeds, like the Siamese or Bengal, are known for their feisty attitudes, which might manifest as aggression.

On the other flip of the paw, one study indicated that kittens separated too early from their mothers and littermates may miss out on vital socialisation lessons, including how to play gently and interpret other cats’ signals. This early separation can lead to aggression or other behavioural issues down the line.

In these cases, you might have to work a little harder to overcome some of those aggressive tendencies, but it's rarely impossible. Here are some tips for helping redirect your cat's aggression.

Tips for calming an aggressive cat

1. Head to the vet first

If your cat's aggression seems to come out of nowhere, a trip to the vet is a good starting point. Pain or discomfort can turn even the sweetest kitty into a growling menace. A thorough check-up can rule out or identify medical issues that may be triggering aggressive behaviour.

2. Make your cat feel safe

If fear or sudden household changes (hello, new screaming infant!) are causing your cat to lash out, think about ways to give them security. Creating a sanctuary for your cat isn’t just about physical comfort; it's about meeting their instinctual needs.

Ensure your cat has a quiet, comfortable place to retreat when the world becomes too overwhelming. This should include a litter tray, food, water, and some of their favourite items (toys, beds, etc.). Additionally, providing ample high perches and hiding spots can help your cat feel more in control of its territory.

3. Banish your cat's boredom

Engaging your cat in regular play and exercise can be a game-changer when it comes to managing aggression.

Interactive play sessions with toys like feathers on strings or interactive puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation and physical exercise. It also enhances the bond between you and your furball, fostering trust and companionship.

If it's safe, leash training your cat for outdoor explorations or providing a secured outdoor enclosure can offer a new world of sensory stimulation. The fresh air and new scenery can be both exhilarating and exhausting for your adventurous feline.

4. Use positive reinforcement, not punishment

Training is a crucial part of reshaping aggressive behaviour. Employing positive reinforcement techniques can teach your cat to associate good behaviour with rewards.

  • Reward-based Training: Reward your cat with treats and praise whenever it displays calm behaviour or responds to commands.

  • Clicker Training: A clicker can be a great tool to communicate with your cat, marking the exact moment of good behaviour.

  • Time-out: A brief time-out can also help your cat calm down if it gets too aggressive.

What if nothing works?

If the fur continues to fly despite your best efforts, it might be time to seek the help of a professional animal behaviourist. They can provide personalised strategies and support to help manage your cat's aggressive tendencies.

A paw-sitive outcome for all

With patience, understanding, and the right approach, taming an aggressive cat is a realistic goal. Your efforts can transform a hostile feline into a peaceful companion, making your home a haven of tranquillity once again.

Check out our previous posts on managing separation anxiety and training your cat to stop scratching and biting for more insights on nurturing a peaceful feline friend.

Oh, and cat insurance can come in handy. At ManyPets, we don't cover the cost of treating behavioural issues, but we can help reimburse you for the cost of sudden medical illnesses or accidents.

Remember, every cat is unique, and what works wonders for one might not work for another. It's all about finding what works best for your furry companion and ensuring a perfectly peaceful coexistence.

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.