Cats need to play. Play is vitally important to a cat’s mental and physical health, and it’s especially important for indoor cats. Even though cats may sleep up to 16 hours a day, when they’re awake, they need stimulation, and the best way to accomplish this is with play. In the wild, when lions, tigers and other wild cats aren’t sleeping, they’re either hunting, or teaching their young to hunt. And play is nothing more than channeling your domestic tiger’s hunting instinct into play.Continue Reading
Your two cats are best friends. They play together, groom each other, and sleep curled up with each other. Then one day, you take one to the vet’s for a check up. When you return from the clinic, instead of receiving a warm welcome, the cat who stayed home hisses and attacks the other cat. Your two former best friends have turned into sworn enemies, and your formerly peaceful home has turned into a battle zone.
Aggression between cats is always a distressing problem for the cats and the humans involved. Whether it’s play aggression, petting aggression, or redirected aggression, dealing with feline aggression is stressful and requires commitment, staying power, and the help of experts such as your veterinarian and/or a feline behaviorist.
The cause of on-recognition aggression is not entirely clear, and the bad news is that it’s not easily fixed.Continue Reading
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We recently covered petting aggression and play aggression in cats. Today, I’d like to address one other form of feline aggression, and it’s one that can be very frightening, as well as damaging, for cat guardians. This form of aggression is called redirected aggression, and it happens when a cat is agitated by an animal, event, or person it can’t get at. Unable to lash out at the perceived threat, the cat turns to the nearest victim. This may be another cat or pet in the household, or it may be the cat’s humans. These attacks happen seemingly out of the blue, and they can be fairly damaging to the victim.
Redirected aggression is not unique to cats. The human equivalent is the man who gets so angry he wants to punch someone, and ends up punching a wall instead.Continue Reading
Guest post by Harry Shubin
Next to failure to use the litter box, the second most common reason cats are given up to shelters is aggression. Last week we talked about petting aggression, when a cat is so sensitive that our failure to read her request to “stop!” petting sends her into overload and she gives us an urgent message to stop in the form of a bite.
What is play aggression?
There’s another type of aggression that is all too common, and that’s play aggression. If a petting aggression bite is our fault for not understanding our cats’ language, play aggression is our fault for not understanding our cats’ brains.Continue Reading
When I first adopted Allegra in April of 2010, she came to me with some behavioral challenges, namely, play and petting aggression. Most of her play aggression was directed at me and demonstrated mostly by Allegra attacking my ankles every chance she got. The petting aggression manifested in a typical pattern of low tolerance for extended petting sessions.
These issues intensified after Amber passed away. I found myself with a single, high-energy only kitten (Allegra was seven months old at the time) while grieving the loss of my 12-year-old soul cat. I knew that one fairly simple fix would have been getting Allegra a playmate closer to her in age and temperament, but I wasn’t ready to even think about a new cat at that time. So I had to step up and work with Allegra and be her substitute playmate.
I consulted with Marilyn Krieger, the cat behaviorist who has a regular column in CatFancy magazine. Marilyn advised me on how to enrich Allegra’s environment and increase vertical space. She also introduced me to the concept of play therapy. I learned a lot from that consult, and began working with Allegra. Continue Reading
Things have been really interesting around here! My mom and I are still getting to know each other, and I love how she wants to make sure I’m happy. I want her to be happy, too! But sometimes, I think the things I do to try and make her happy actually aren’t such bright ideas. I don’t really understand why she doesn’t think it’s totally cool when I stalk her when she walks down the hall and attack her ankles. I also don’t understand why she doesn’t think it’s fun when I nip at her hands to let her know that I’ve had enough petting. Doing those things is soooo fun! But I’m starting to get a clue that maybe it’s not okay to do these things, because when I do, Mom stops talking to me, won’t even look at me, and just walks away from me. I don’t like that at all!
The other day, I did something so amazingly cool, I couldn’t wait for Mom to see! I chewed off the edge of the big dresser in the bedroom! It was so much fun to nibble on it, and it felt really good on my teeth! Wee! I worked at it really really hard, and managed to make it look like a work of art, if I do say so myself. But when Mom saw it, she wasn’t impressed at all. In fact, she got pretty mad. I could tell when she said “Oh no, Allegra!” in a voice that didn’t sound loving to me at all – and believe me, I can tell the difference, because Mom sounds loving almost all the time, so when her voice changes like that, I kind of know I’m in trouble. She told me I shouldn’t be doing that, and then she sprayed some stuff on it that she says is called Bitter Yuck. She said I might not want to chew on that spot again, or I’d be sorry. Okay fine, whatever! Well, I waited a little while before going back to chew on the dresser some more – I’m not stupid, I’m not going to do it right in front of her! It tasted a bit odd – but the chewing was so much fun, it was worth the weird taste in my mouth. Mom got really exasperated with me and taped some stuff called Sticky Paws around the corner I’d worked so hard to chew off. Again, she told me I might not want to chew on it again, as the stuff would stick to my mouth and feel really awful. Hmmm. Okay. Whatever! Of course I tried again. Did you really think I wouldn’t? It was really interesting, I managed to pull the sticky stuff off, spit it out, and then proceded to chew on the wood some more. I was pretty pleased with the result – but Mom wasn’t ready to give up on making me stop. You have to give her this – she is persistent. I watched her rub a lemon on the area I’d chewed so nicely. Some of the juice dribbled on the floor, so I investigated. YUCK!!! Major yuck!!! I’m sad to say my work of art will not be completed – that stuff just tastes too nasty even for me to persevere.
Then, the other night, Mom was on the phone for a long time. I heard my name mentioned a lot during that time. After she got off the phone, she told me that we’d be making some changes to cure me of some of my “undesirable behavior.” I have no idea what that means. It sounded very grown up and something humans would say when they’re trying to sound important. I wasn’t too worried about it. That night, Mom spent a longer than usual time playing with me, and then, she fed me an extra meal just before she went to bed. How cool was that! If that’s the kind of change she was talking about, I’m on board with that! The next day, I got new toys! Wee!!! Now mind you, when I first got here, I thought for sure that I had landed in kitty paradise. There were so many toys! But now, there are even more! How lucky can one kitten get! I got a new play house, and a Kong Kickeroo. I also saw her stash a bag of stuff in the closet, so I’m thinking there may be more new toys! And I was right. Last night, she brought out a really fun toy that has me somewhat puzzled – I just can’t get the little mouse out of it, but I’m going to keep trying! I know there’s more in that closet, I just know it. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to open those big closet doors…. but you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go play in my new playhouse now! Wee!!!
A note from Allegra’s Mom: I was becoming increasingly frustrated with watching Allegra be a sweet little kitten 80% of the time and then turn into devil kitten the remaining 20%. She’s a little play aggressive, and she tends to bite when she gets overstimulated. I knew the basics of how to respond to this type of behavior, but I wasn’t making much headway, so I decided to consult The Cat Coach. Marilyn Krieger is a nationally recognized and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and has been successfully solving cat behavior problems since 1990. Offering both on-site and phone consultation sessions, Marilyn’s expert advice solves diverse cat behavior problems. Marilyn is the resident cat behaviorist for Cat Fancy Magazine and their web site, catchannel.com. I’m sure Allegra will keep you posted on future developments as a result of Marilyn’s recommendations!