What is it?
According to Dunbar and Bohnenkamp
(June 1986), cat bites account for
about 10% of all reported animal
bites to people with the primary pet
parent as most common victim.
are many different reasons why cats
show aggression. One common cause is
that people do not realize they are
teaching adult cat behavior when
they allow harmless, cute, tiny
kittens to play bite and scratch
them during the kitten's critical
socialization period which is before
10 to 14 weeks of age.
common reason is that people do not
teach the kitten to accept and trust
gentle human handling before 14
weeks of age.
body massage not only
teaches the cat that hands
are good things.
Gentling exercises teach
cats to trust
and allow routine
grooming, exams, treatments,
lifting or moving the cat.
aggression can be defensive or
offensive biting, scratching, and
ambush-like attacks on moving human
feet and legs. Most aggression is
fear-based or predatory behavior.
typically show defensive aggression
with a single, quick bite followed
by a quick retreat. Usually the cat
shows body posture warnings,
sometimes with hissing or batting
with a paw before aggressing.
show offensive aggression without
warnings by biting and scratching
repeatedly until the victim is
no longer available such as behind a
Aggression can also be associated
with petting. Some cats may solicit
attention but then turn and bite
after just a few minutes of petting.
Theories on why this occurs include
some kind of impulse control problem
or some kind of misdirected sexual
What to do?
Behavior changes are often the first
sign of discomfort and illness in
pets. Always rule out physical
causes for behavior changes first by
a thorough veterinary exam and
diagnostic testing. If you cat
gets a clean bill of health, then
consider a pet behavior history
analysis by a veterinary behavior
consultant and a customized behavior
to understand normal cat behaviors
and recognize body postures and
facial expressions. Never force
yourself on a cat. Back off if you
see your cat showing any sign of
your cat to exercise predatory
behaviors on toys not on humans.
series of hand feeding and gentling
exercises to teach the cat to trust
and accept gentle handling.
What not to do?
respond to aggression with any type
of aggression as this will only
reinforce the cat's perception of
you as a threat and cause the cat's
aggression to escalate.
try to resolve this problem without
the guidance of a veterinary
behavior consultant. Cat scratch
fever can be a serious illness in
humans and is more common that
Dunbar, I., & Bohnenkamp, G.
(1986) Biting and scratching.
Cats. Berkeley, CA: Center for
Applied Animal Behavior.
American Association of Feline
Practitioners. (2004). Feline