In some circles cats have a bad reputation for being either aloof or hostile when the vast majority of felines are affectionate. Indeed sudden fear or aggression is typically a sign that something is wrong with the cat. There can be an underlying medical problem or a social situation that causes the change in behavior. Watch for the signs in your cat, and modify the behavior accordingly.
Causes of Aggression and Fear
Petting-induced and play aggression are the types of behaviors you have probably seen all along if your cat is prone to them. However, sudden-onset aggression is usually a response to fear. If you have introduced a new animal or human into the household, this is a likely trigger. However, cats are very territorial animals, so the sight of another animal outside is often enough to trigger aggression as well. In addition to the above, fear in cats can be caused by a loud noise or by a stressful event.
If your cat suddenly starts acting aggressive or fearful and displays problematic behavior, a trip to a local veterinarian, such as Cats Only Veterinary Hospital, is the first step. There may be an underlying medical problem.
If your cat is prone to petting-induced aggression, it’s a matter of paying attention to her warning signals. When she stops purring or starts twitching her tail, stop petting her. For play aggression, never allow your hands to be toys. If she attacks playfully, redirect her to an appropriate toy.
Once you’ve ruled out medical conditions, look to changing your cat’s behavior. If your cats suddenly start fighting, separate them temporarily. Hopefully once the agitated cat calms down, she’ll stop attacking her companion.
Once the cats are calmed down, introduce them back to each other slowly, and make the experience pleasant. Feed them, play with them and pet them both when they first get back together. Both cats will learn to associate pleasant feelings with the presence of the other cat. This procedure also works with the introduction of a new pet, or even a new human.
If your cat is prone to sudden aggression or anxiety, it may be helpful to have medication on hand. Talk to your veterinarian about getting a prescription for benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax or Librium. These medications work by interfering with the activation of fear networks in the brain, according to the ASPCA. Such intervention can be very helpful for cats who seem to be seriously struggling with their reaction to external stimuli. For maximum effectiveness, though, the medication should be combined with behavior modification.
Some cats are more prone to anxiety than others and look to their pet parents for guidance. Keep your cat healthy and secure, and she’ll reward you with her natural affectionate behavior.