My cat attacks me out of nowhere – Why? Is she angry?
Have you ever been affectionately petting your cat, when all of the sudden the moment turned into a heated exchange? Hiss. Bite. Scratch. Claw. Your sweet Fluffy went from purring and making biscuits one second to acting out in aggression the next. What could possibly have gone wrong? Fluffy seemed to be enjoying the moment but now you’re left beaten and battered and you don’t understand why.
While the moment may have caught you by surprise, cat aggression never comes out of nowhere. Were you paying attention to Fluffy’s body language during your cuddle fest? My bet is that she was giving you multiple cues as to how she was feeling. Before we talk about why relations turned hostile, let’s learn to recognize the signs that precluded the assault so that we can learn to prevent these situations before they escalate:
- Dilated Pupils (widening/blackening of the eyes): The eyes are the window to your cat’s soul and a way in which they communicate their feelings. Sudden dilation of the pupils signals that your cat is excited or fearful. How do we tell the difference between those two emotions? Look for dilation in combination with some of the body language cues below.
- Tail Bristled/Fluffed Up: With this warning sign, Fluffy is feeling threatened. She is trying to give off the appearance that she is larger by having the hair on her tail stand on its ends.
- Tail Twitching/Thrashing: Unlike a dog wagging its tail, when a cat’s tail swishes back and forth, it usually means that the cat is feeling angry and irritable.
- Ears Back and Flat: These are signs that Fluffy is feeling anxious, scared, and defensive.
Now that we know how to recognize the signs of aggression, let’s learn why Fluffy literally bit the hand that feeds her. While Fluffy didn’t intend to act out maliciously, she likely became overstimulated during your cuddle session. During your love fest, she reached a point where she no longer enjoyed the interaction. Instead of taking the high road and walking away, Fluffy decided to put a stop to your unwanted love by hissing and swatting. She reached what we in the veterinary industry call her “kitty minutes.”
Kitty minutes are the precious few moments of time in which a veterinarian has to perform their exam before our feline patient loses their patience. These minutes vary from cat to cat. Therefore, it is important to learn how much interaction and what kind of interaction your cat will tolerate before they reach their kitty minutes.
Here are my tips for preventing cat-astrophic interactions between you and your feline fur baby:
- Know your cat’s limits and be respectful of them.
- Wait for Fluffy to initiate affection and keep your interactions short.
- Be aware of your cat’s body language. Look for the signs that she is no longer enjoying your interaction (dilated pupils, tail bristled and thrashing, ears back and flat). If you notice any one of these changes in your cat’s body language, this is your cue to stop petting.
Veterinary Disclaimer: Pain can also trigger aggression. It is very important to schedule a veterinary visit if your pet is showing signs of aggression. Be sure to rule out any medical reasons for their behavior.
To read more about your cats’ health and tips for making sure they are healthy and strong, read more in the Skoon blogs.