When choosing a family pet parents of youngish children might consider
that a cat is the safer option. Everybody has heard or read stories of
vicious dog attacks, right?
Though aggression in cats is actually quite common it doesn't tend
to have sell newspapers so parents may not be aware that it is as important
to oversee a child's interaction with a cat as it is to keep watch when
it plays with the family dog.
Aggression in cats can be caused by fear, over-stimulation (petting
or play) or redirected annoyance and frustration induced for example
by the cat observing a strange neighbourhood cat, trespassing on its
territory through a closed window.
Fear-aggression where children and cats are concerned can be brought
about by the child being too rough with the cat or kitten. 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.
Redirected aggression can seem to spring from nowhere.
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 kittens are how they learn
and practise skills that are essential for their healthy development.
That is of
course all very well for a furry bundle of littemates but when your
cat or kitten decides to play fight with your foot, those teeth and
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. Having one kitten who takes
in slinking along the back of the sofa and pouncing on the back of
my head when I am vegged out watching t.v., I can vouch for
the soundness of this advice.
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
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.
Nevertheless, as a mother of two small children, I understand completely
that it the proof is almost always in the pudding. After weeks of
extricating an over-excited kitten from my son's
sweaty clutches and repeatedly
showing him how to hold the little cat gently, it wasn't until he
received a scratch on the back of the hand that my boy learned respect
for little teeth and claws.