Dealing With An Aggressive Cat

Cats can be very aggressive – either towards other animals in the house, or towards other animals that stray on to their territory, or even towards their owners. There may be a number of things you can do, depending on the particular problem and the way in which it manifests itself. Above all, do not give up – a cat can usually be trained to behave in a more acceptable way, which is less likely to upset your neighbours and visitors.

In an aggressive posture, a cat holds his ears up, but back, while his pupils narrow and his whiskers bristle forwards. Other body language includes a low, bristling tail which swings to and fro.

Q. Will neutering my cat make him less aggressive?

Unneutered male cats usually need to establish large territories and to defend them aggressively from other cats. They tend to roam away from home and to get involved in many fights. Neutering your cat will mean that he is less worried about defending his territory – and less likely to be aggressive.

Q. My cat is very old and sometimes becomes suddenly and violently aggressive, for no apparent reason. Why does she do this, and can I prevent it from happening?

This can happen with an older cat, though it is not common. When it does happen, it is usually caused by a mental disturbance and if your cat’s unpredictability makes things difficult, you may have to consider the wisdom of continuing to keep her.

Fighting occurs among cats within the household, you should take steps to ensure that the subordinate cat always has the opportunity to retreat to a safe place. If relations do not improve after a time, you may have to consider getting a new home for one of them.


When a cat is frightened, it will bite and scratch the nearest person. It is possible to train a kitten not to be aggressive to humans, but if the cat is already adult, this is more difficult. For this reason, it is often difficult to introduce an unsocialised stray into a household with other cats. Never try to pick up a cat that is frightened or angry, and do not punish it – this is likely to make matters worse.

Sometimes, if you have been stroking a cat perfectly peaceably, it may suddenly respond by attacking you and running off. This behaviour seems to reflect a switch from a submissive to a defensively aggressive role; it may suddenly feel it is being attacked and its natural instinct is to lash out. To avoid this, try not to over stimulate the cat and learn to recognise warning signs.

  • Catnip can sometimes make a cat react aggressively. If your cat becomes aggressive, it would probably be worth removing anything containing catnip.
  • Do not encourage games of aggressive play-biting and wrestling with your kitten. These can become a habit and, as its teeth and claws become bigger and sharper, you may regret it. Play with it gently, always speaking with a soft voice.
  • If you are intending to show your cat, accustom him to being penned and handled by strangers. Otherwise, he may embarrass you by reacting aggressively towards the judge.