how to deal with an aggressive cat

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Aggression is one of the most common and serious feline problems that give cat owners a hard time often when the cat has already advanced his aggression intensity.

An aggressive cat can be more dangerous than a dog despite the animal size difference.

So how to deal with an aggressive cat?

An aggressive cat can use a total of five ‘weapons’ to scare off or fight the opponent. He can use his mouth and the four claws leading to serious bites and scratches.

Most animals display aggressive behavior when offended, anxious or fearful and they normally do so to protect themselves and their territory, and guard their children among other reasons.

Mild aggression behavior in cats is quite normal and is displayed when the cat is triggered to an extent that he fights for his safety.

However, if your cat is displaying abnormal aggression even on petty issues, you need to consider ways of addressing the problem for your safety and for all who interact with your cat.

Despite the reason that triggers this behavior in your cat, the tips that I will take through later in this article are generally effective in all scenarios.

House Cat

The effects of combating an aggressive cat can range from minor injuries to more complicated infections like a cat-scratch disease in humans.

Aggressive cats can also fight each other but rarely do they result in serious injuries.

Body Language in Cats

It is recommended that every cat owner should try and understand their cat’s body language at least on a medium level.

Cats will always communicate by sound and body language. Cat’s sound includes meowing, yowling, hissing, and growling.

The body language, on the other hand, is shown by how the cat adjusts certain parts of his body, facial expression, and general body posture.

An aggressive cat will use a combination of sound and body language to pass his message of dissatisfaction before resorting to fighting or fleeing. 

You can hence see that it is important for a pet parent to know their cat’s body language since it is important to resolve your aggressive cat behavior problems.

2 Types of Aggression in Cats

There are two types of aggression shown by cats, offensive and defensive.

Defensive Cat

1. Offensive Aggression

During offensive aggression, your cat will try to make himself look big to scare you or the other cat. The postures adopted by cats in this type of aggression may include a combination of the following:

  •   The cat stands straight in a stiff manner.
  •   Directly watches the opponent while moving closer.
  •   Small eye pupils
  •   Pointed ears
  •   Piloerection of his fur
  •   The cat will combine sound language like growling.

If your cat exhibits these postures of aggression, avoid touching him completely and do not punish him. Try as much as possible to create a calm environment and you can even slowly walk away from him if things are escalating.

2. Defensive Aggression

In defensive aggression, your cat will take on a small and humble-like posture to protect himself from the opponent.

Genius Dog 300 x 600 - Animated

The body postures of defensive aggression in cats may include a combination of the following:

  •   The cat covers his tail around his body.
  •   Piloerection of his body fur.
  •   The cat tries to escape from the opponent by looking sideways.
  •   The pupils are dilated.
  •   He will crouch.
  •   Releases his claws out and strikes once in a while
  •   He might hiss with his mouth opened and spit.
  •   He might pan out his whiskers facing forward.

In extreme situations, an aggressive cat will scratch the opponent regardless of whether it is aggressive or defensive.

7 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Aggressive

The following are the main reasons why a cat might exhibit aggressive behavior. It can be one of them or a combination of two or more.


Without a doubt, pain is a major cause of aggression in cats. When the cat shows hostility to humans, it is often that the human is responsible for inflicting some pain on the cat.

A cat in pain will produce a hissing sound with levels depending on the pain inflicted on him.

If you notice your kitten is suddenly becoming aggressive, you need to rush him to the vet for a check-up.

Cats have the habit of hiding sickness which might turn out to be dangerous if left unchecked. If your cat is experiencing pain in specific areas of the body, he will be aggressive in a bid to prevent you from touching the area.


An environment that creates stress and anxiety in your cat will make him aggressive in his behavior.

A stress-causing environment can be one where the family members are always in quarrels and fights or where you have too many cats in the house with no decent place to keep them.

Stressed Cat

Other reasons that cause stress and anxiety in cats include;

  • Unfair punishments from owners
  • Lack of enough food, water, and toys.
  • Very complicated routines or none at all.
  • Loud noises for long hours.
  • Staying in a cat carrier for very long.
  • Bringing a new cat home.

You need to learn the early signs that cause anxiety which leads to stress in your cat. This measure is critical in ensuring that your feline friend does not develop into a dull and aggressive pet.

You should learn how to introduce a cat to a dog when planning to adopt a new cat. This will reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with a new environment.

Protecting Territory

Your cat will resort to offensive aggression to protect his territory from humans and other pets. If your cat sees other cats freely walking in your yard through the window, he will be upset and may try to combat them.

Cat peeping through a window

The addition of other pets in your household may also trigger aggression in your cat. The same applies when you have visitors and strangers who frequent your house.

If you plan on bringing new cats to your home, you need to watch out for the common warning signs when introducing cats.


Hormones can be a cause of aggression in your cat. Male cats can easily fight over a female cat on heat and that is solely biological.

A good way to reduce aggression during this period is by spaying or neutering your cat.

If your two male cats are fighting, it is recommended not to physically intervene because you might be a victim and the two cats will decide to pound on you.

You can distract fighting cats by using tasty treats and interactive toys.


Your cat might be aggressive if he cannot have the things he wishes. For example, your cat might be observing other cats and birds through a window while in your house.

If he cannot join other cats out to play and chase the birds, he will redirect his frustrations by becoming aggressive to the pets inside the house and humans also.

Frustrated Cat

A good way to address frustrations that may arise from immobility is by adding a cat door to strategic positions in your house. This will permit your cat to freely move in and out of the house at his pleasure.


Sometimes aggression in cats can result from petting; your cat will strike you with his claws for trying to pet him.

An explanation for this can be that you touched a place where your cat is experiencing pain and hence triggered him to fight back.

Also, your cat can be overstimulated by the petting such that it now turns to itchiness that needs to be avoided.

Cat Pet

In other scenarios, your cat might be sending a message to you that he is now satisfied with the petting session and you need to stop now.

Irrespective of petting-induced aggressiveness, it is important that all cat owners learn how and where to pet their kitties.

Biological reasons

Apart from the aggression caused by hormones, your cat can have chemical imbalances in his body that cause him to be aggressive in behavior.

This is similar to mood swings experienced in human beings because of chemical imbalances.

Nonetheless, cats rarely experience this reason as a cause for their aggression. Regular visits to the vet are very crucial because such cases can be identified early enough.

If your cat has this condition, then the vet will recommend antidepressant drugs which will help your cat a lot.

As we have seen from the above reasons, cats do not suddenly become aggressive without a particular cause.

Despite the reason that makes your cat have aggressive behavior, the procedure of dealing with him is quite standard and if followed well it will work.

8 Tips on How To Deal With an Aggressive Cat

To be sure that your cat is not being aggressive for medical and biological reasons, you need to visit a vet. There are some diseases including those affecting the central nervous system that may make your cat display aggression.

In this case, your vet will prescribe treatment for the disease and eventually handle the aggressive behavior. If this is not the case, you can try the following tips to stop a cat from being aggressive:

1. Just avoid the situations that you know will make your cat aggressive. If you have brought new pets into your house, it is very common for your cat to show aggression. In this instance, you need to take your time and get all your pets to play together to foster familiarization.

Many cats

2. If you know that your cat has been hit by something, avoid touching or petting him. Just give him time for the pain to go down.

Injured Cat

3. Do not give a treat to your cat when he is very aggressive. Instead, just wait until he has calmed down then give him a treat. This will inform the cat that you are not pleased with his aggressions and rather, calmness is rewarded.

Angry Kitty

4. Insert cat doors at strategic locations in your house. Your cat needs the freedom to move in and out of the house when at will.

Having a cat door will reduce the aggressive behavior caused by frustration and it will also reduce excessive meowing by your cat on the main door.

5. Always note the cats in your household that are aggressive to each other and separate them to prevent fighting. Ensure you have different resources (cat carriers, pet bowls, toys) for such cats.

To reduce the enmity between such cats, you can have a training session for both of them at the same time. Have them know each other’s capabilities and strengths which will, in turn, replace the hatred.

Cats Fight

6. Ensure that your cat has a routine that he follows every day. This will help him to be cognizant of what is expected of him at a particular time.

7. Have plenty of playing time and training sessions with your cat. This should be well catered for in the routine and you need to ensure that it is followed.

8. Consult your vet if things are not working out well. Changing behavior in cats requires consistency and patients.

It is common for aggressive cats to persist with the behavior and in this instance, you need to reach out for further specialized training after consultations with your vet.


It is important to always observe and understand the body language of your cat. This helps in trying to know what your feline friend is trying to communicate to you.

Aggression can be well understood if cat owners spend much time with their cats and interpret their language.

From what I have shared with you in this post, you can also add some knowledge by watching this video by E’Lise Christensen where she shows how to deal with an aggressive cat.

Has your cat ever shown aggression toward you? Did you try the tips that are mentioned in this article?

Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading through my post.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a pet expert with more than 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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2 Responses

  1. I have a 3 yo male cat brought from the shelter about 3 months ago. He is extremely snuggly, plays hard, cuddles hard. He is very very smart, and understands human faces, he watches them, wants to be REALLY close to them, and they are the targets of his love and… frustration.

    If he is mad at me or doesn’t get his way, he will swipe, claws out, at my face. It is not playful, I swear, he’s mad . For example, I put a harness on him today to get used to it bc I think he may want to go outside, left it on a few minutes. He came over, I took it off. He butted my forehead w his, was cute for a minute, got close, and then swatted my face- got very near to getting my eye.

    This is a deal breaker for me. I almost had an eye taken out by a cat as a kid. I can tolerate most things, even if he were swatting at some other part of my body, but not my face. Anything, seriously, anything except that. He’s done this a few times in the last 3 months and it’s unpredictable. It will come “out ofnowhere” in the sense that he doesn’t give me any warning signs to protect my face. Snuggly snuggly, bite nose, HARD and not let go. Fine, fine, swipe.
    This was after weeks of things going great. We snuggled on the couch all night together. He’s not otherwise aggressive, he either wants to play or snuggle. This is having the effect of me not trusting him, wary of him. I thought we’d gotten past this, but apparently not.

    I don’t want that kind of relationship w my cat. And that’s hard bc he wants to be close to my face ALL the time.

    Apparently I’m not supposed to punish him, but what do I do? (I don’t get that, though- he seems to be punishing ME for doing something he doesn’t like, he really wouldn’t understand the reverse? ) Even giving him a time out doesn’t seem to help bc he’s mad at me anyway.

    At first he was more mouthy and batty as a way of communicating but he’s learned not to do that w the displeasure/ ignore like you describe. But the attack as revenge seems to remain.

    We can’t just not ever make him upset and frustrated, bc he gets into everything- he eats all human food so we can’t leave anything out. He gets into the garbage and now he’s learned to open drawers. Our pantry has a swinging door, it’s only a matter of time. Mostly I find it funny, but if he gets mad bc we take stuff away or thwart him that’s a problem.

    I can’t live like this. Skin heals to normal. Eyes do not. Today 1 cm lower and I’d be in the ER.
    I was resigned to taking him back to the shelter. Gave it more time, relaxed, now this.
    I don’t see any way of changing this. It doesn’t matter if we have more weeks and months of fine if the worst just happens next year.
    Is there hope here? I don’t want to take him back but this won’t work as it is.

    • Hi Annie, I totally understand your frustration. A few things I would recommend to do is first to do a full examination with a vet and make sure that your cat is healthy and has no underlying health problems, a good vet would also be able to give you some advise to try and fix these behavioral problems.

      Do you give your cat enough playtime to let his energy out? Allow him to run after toys, catch them and play around because sometimes we make mistakes by not allowing our cats to catch toys which results in aggression and behavioral problems. Get him some smart interactive toys, puzzle feeders or food dispensing toys that would make him busy for hours for example.

      Have you ever used calming pheromones at your home to help calm him down? You can try these and ask your vet which one is best for him.

      If all these don’t work I would recommend consulting with a professional cat behaviorist to try and fix your issue. In the meantime, you need to stay safe and create boundaries by not allowing him to get too close to your face to protect yourself. You can start doing that by redirecting his attention towards a toy or something further away whenever he tries to get close to your face. I hope these help!

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