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Feline Aggression

Resolving Feline Behaviour Problems

CAT AGGRESSION ISSUE?

Scroll down to examine seven forms of feline aggression with corresponding treatments.

For information regarding issues unrelated to aggression click here.


Predatory Aggression

Description:

Stalking, chasing, killing, and retrieving small game. Usually elicited by quick movements and is normal feline behaviour.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (prevention of access to prey). Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Fear Aggression

Description:

Scratching, hissing, growling, biting directed to humans or other animals; defensive posture (ears back, body hunched) or combination of attack and defensive postures (ears back, back arched, piloerection). Usually elicited when cat is approached or reached for (especially when cornered) or when punished.

Treatment:

Treatment involves desensitization and/or counter conditioning and management (isolate fighting cats outside of sessions. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Territorial Aggression

Description:

Swatting, chasing, and attacking, progressing to relentless pursuit of another cat. Often occurs when a new cat is introduced to a home or when a resident cat reaches behavioural maturity. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Treatment:

Treatment may involve counter conditioning and/or habituation , occasionally medication.<

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Inter-Male Aggression

Description:

Scratching, hissing, growling, biting directed to another male cat; usually preceded by ritualized threat displays. Often related to territorial or competitive situation.

Treatment:

Treatment may involve counter conditioning and/or habituation, occasionally medication. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Play Aggression

Description:

Scratching and (usually inhibited) biting associated with stalking, pouncing, hopping sideways; directed to people. Often elicited by moving stimuli; may be directed to only one person in home; usually only one cat in home.

Treatment:

Treatment often involves management (avoid situations that elicit the behaviour), redirection of play, or punishment. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Pain Elicited Aggression

Description:

Scratching or Biting. Elicited when a person attempts to groom, medicate, or manipulate painful area.

Treatment:

Treatment involves habituation and/or counter conditioning, treating the cause of pain, and management (avoiding eliciting pain. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Redirected Aggression

Description:

Scratching, biting redirected to person or animal other than that which evoked the initial aggression. Elicited by interference when cat is threatening, fighting, or is afraid.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (avoidance of interference), habituation and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist NatDorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Note: Most of this information originally appeared in Symposium on Animal Behaviour, in Voith VL, Borchelt PL (eds): The Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, vol. 12, no 4. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co, 1982. Modifications have been made.


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