ButtersHiRes 2 WebGot a feisty kitty that plays a little too rough (with your feet, perhaps)? Here are some tips on getting better behavior.

Playtime

  • Increase the amount of interaction playtime you have with your cat. (These type of toys can be purchased at Tri-County Humane Society’s store; all the proceeds go back to the animals.) Interactive toys should always be kept out of the animal’s reach if it’s unsupervised.
  • Always use a toy to distract the animal. If you can predict the cat’s attacks, toss a toy in front of you to attract the cat’s attention away from your feet.
  • All family members should avoid rough play with the cat.
  • Consider a young feline companion to help give your older cat some exercise. Two is better than one!

Overpetting

Have you ever been petting a cat, enjoying the interaction, then all of a sudden the animal nips (or worse) at you? This isn’t uncommon, and usually the cat gives you a warning that he or she is about to strike:

  • The look. Most cats stiffen a bit, twitch their tails or turn their heads quickly as you’re petting them. Their pupils are often dilated.
  • Good with the bad. If your cat’s threshold for petting is low, try combining a meal or treat with the petting. If your cat can handle very little attention, only pet him or her once or twice before offering the snack.

Physical Pain

Cats can lash out when they’re in physical pain, which is why some veterinarians take special measures to ensure their safety.

  • If you need to medicate an infected ear or change a bandage, you may choose to use a towel restraint or similar tool.
  • Ask an expert. If your cat is acting unnaturally aggressive, schedule a vet’s visit right away.

Anxiety Around Strangers

  • If your cat is nervous around strangers, have the guests slowly enter a room – maybe they can poke their head in first. Ask them not to look directly at the cat. If the cat doesn’t appear stressed, offer a treat. Then the strangers (aka your guests) can move closer into the room, and you can repeat the process.
  • If your pet continues to be anxious, consult your veterinarian. An anti-anxiety medication or product may be necessary.

Redirected Aggression

  • A cat may become intensely aroused by a loud, startling noise, the sight, smell or sounds of another animal, or unfamiliar people or places. That could lead to yowling, growls, stares and more unpleasantness. After one of these incidents, it’s best to put the cat in a dark, quiet room. If handling the animal is impossible, the owners may need to leave the home for a few hours. The cat needs time to calm down.
  • If the cat has multiple episodes of redirected aggression, the owner may need to consult a behaviorist or vet for information. Or call Tri-County Humane Society at 320-252-0896.

Momma on Edge

  • Momma cat can be particularly protective of her new litter, especially against unaltered males. Maternal aggression is most problematic the first three to four weeks after birth.
  • Manage the aggression by leaving Momma Cat and her kittens mostly alone for the first few weeks if all are healthy. Later on, Momma Cat can be lured out of the nursery to be entertained with food or play while others socialize with the kittens.
  • Don’t forget to spay Momma Cat after the kittens are weaned.

Guarding One's Territory

  • If your cat gets aggressive when other people visit, consider asking your guests to wear freshly laundered clothes so the cat doesn’t smell the other person’s animals on his or her clothes.
  • If the cat still gets upset when visitors come, he or she may need to be confined during the visit.

Source: Adapted from information by Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

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