Feline Fury – When Good Cats Attack!
When choosing a family pet, parents of young children might consider that a cat is the safer option. Newspapers are full of kids being bitten by dogs but whoever heard of a cat attacking a child, right? Though aggression in cats is actually quite common it doesn’t tend to cause as much damage or sell as many newspapers as dog aggression. However, in reality parents need to oversee a child’s interaction with a cat just as they would (or should) with a dog.
Aggression in cats can be caused by fear, pain, over-stimulation (petting or play) or is redirected annoyance and frustration induced, for example, by the cat observing a strange neighborhood cat trespassing on its territory through a closed window. A child yanking repeatedly on a cat’s tail would qualify in the plain old annoyance category.
Fear-aggression in cats
Children just don’t know when to stop, do they? They love that kitty so much they squeeze it too hard and the next thing you know… bang, scratch, bite, the cat shoots under the bed and the child is left in tears.
If the child habitually plays too roughly, pulls the cats tail or, like my son, insists on lovingly squashing the cat in a bear hug, not surprisingly the cat may eventually lash out in fear of getting hurt again. Generally speaking when the cat disappears under the sofa you know she has had enough. Pulling her out by the back legs or tail is a recipe for disaster. Observe the body language in cats just before they launch an attack on kids in these three videos. Note also that at the time of the attack, the parents (or adults in charge) were filming the incidents instead of giving any guidance on how to better handle the family pet.
Redirected Aggression in Cats
Redirected aggression seems to spring from no-where. Perhaps your cat is sitting at the window and as you pass by he lashes out at you. Actually, he wasn’t mad at you at all but at the feline he saw sauntering by outside the window. Prevented from dealing with the intruder gato-a- gato, your beloved feline friend just took his annoyance out on you.
Watching two kittens roll about the floor, bunny kicking and biting each other, you would not think of them as being aggressive. Engaging in pretend hunting and fighting games are how kittens learn and practice skills that are essential for their healthy development. That is of course all very well for a furry bundle of littermates but when your cat or kitten decides to play fight with your foot, those teeth and claws hurt!
Overly aggressive play is often seen in cats who have been left alone for most of the day. Perhaps with their owners out at work or off to school and confined to home, they are under-stimulated and bored.
You can address this by ensuring your feline friend gets plenty of play-time whilst discouraging him from considering any part of your anatomy a toy.
Petting Aggression in Cats
The last form of cat-owner aggression and certainly one you will want to watch out for with children is petting-aggression. If you have ever sat quietly reading a book while you absently stroked the cat in your lap only to receive a swift scratch or bite, then you have been a victim of petting aggression.
All other forms of aggression seem fairly logical in that we can understand the impetus of the attack – fear, over-excitement, redirected anger – but petting aggression is different. What would cause a cat who is settled happily in his owners lap to suddenly lash out? No-one seems to know.
Whatever the reason, petting aggression is avoidable. Cats give off clear signals when they are getting rattled and a petting aggression attack is imminent. Growling is kind of hard to misinterpret of course but you might also watch out for a twitching tail, ears laid back and that peculiar fixed, glassy-eyed stare. If you are sitting with the cat on your lap, simply stand up and let him roll off.
Teaching your kids to watch out for these signals will prevent them getting a sharp bite or scratch. Cat bites are both very painful and have a high risk of becoming infected so should be avoided at all costs.
If you have a cat that is prone to attacking the kids, you must first of all have him checked over by the vet (the cat, that is, not the kid ;)). There may well be an underlying illness or injury that is causing the cat to be less tolerant than usual. Cats can suffer a lot of pain before they start to show it. An infected ear, torn claw or any number of other painful situations may be triggering his aggression.
If the vet announces that all is well, you might want to try a few alternative remedies. Feliway is one which receives rave reviews including comments like ‘Miraculous’, and ‘Wish I’d bought Feliway a long time ago. While it may not work in every situation, overall satisfaction with this product are high. Same with the Back Remedy and other solutions chosen for you below. Generally these work by simulating the cat’s natural pheromones. This has a calming effect and helps your feline fury to deal better in stressful situations.