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Crazy sweet then aggressive behavior in a cat

By: Dr. Jon Rappaport

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Our question this week was:

We have a two-year-old Calico that is day and night. She can be very sweet and loving then, without warning, she becomes EXTREMELY violent to the point of occasionally drawing more than a little blood. I am a very observant person and usually can read an animal's warning signs but these are so out of the blue and unprovoked! She's been this was ever since we got her, though; she used to spend more time in "sweet" mode. What can we do about this? We despite her behavior we love our little girl.

Thank you,

Tanya and Da


Answer

Hi Tanya and Da – thanks for your email. The first thing that comes to my mind is "cats do that". Many cats will have "petting aggression" or just "Stimulation aggression". They are quietly sitting there then boom – they turn on you and act aggressive. Sometimes the signs are very subtle to know when they will turn.

A wonderful behaviorist, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, wrote an article on just this thing. Dr. Dodman tells you the warning signs, as I've known them. He writes:

Alpha cats also exist in the domestic situation and may attempt to control the behavior of others around them, including their owners. Petting is an act that may induce aggression in such headstrong cats. An alpha cat will jump up on his owner's lap and allow himself to be petted – but only for a little while. When he's had enough, he'll glance sideways at the hand that is petting him and begin to switch his tail from side to side. This is the writing on the wall that heralds an imminent meltdown: From acceptance to flat-out rejection, suddenly your cat is swatting, biting, and perhaps even rolling onto his side so he can attack you with all five sharp points simultaneously.

Petting-induced aggression is difficult for owners to fathom since many affected cats seek attention initially and appear to enjoy the physical contact. But these cats have a threshold for the level of physical contact they can tolerate.

Petting-induced aggression is expressed toward compliant owners. Cats with this penchant are often also aggressive to their owners over resources such as food, toys, or resting place, and may use aggression as an attention-getting mechanism. They may show aggression in response to annoying interventions, or if forced to do something they don't want to do.


Dr. Dodman also has some great tips on how to deal with this. Go to Petting Aggression in Cats and read the bottom of the article.

Best of luck!

Dr. Jon




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