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How to Manage Fearful And Aggressive Cats

Restraining Cats

Definition of Restraint
The purpose of restraint is to allow a test or treatment to be performed safely. If the pet is struggling excessively, it may be necessary to use Chemical Restraint (using tranquilization to reduce the need for forceful handling). The most important criteria is safety for the pet, owner, handler and doctor.

It is most helpful for the cat to learn as a kitten that the owner can hold it still at any time and the best option is to simply go along. Picking the kitten up by the scruff does not hurt, it calms by simulating mom carrying the kitten. If the kitten struggles and resists being held by the scruff, abandon that technique for that kitten.

Cats can attack with both claws and teeth and deserve our respect. Cats do not have the same aggression categories as dogs. Instead of dominant and fearful, their aggression in the hospital setting is divided into fear and escape motivated.


Fear Based Aggression
The body posture for a fearful cat is similar to a fearful dog. They try to appear as small as possible by flattening their body, ears and tail, and moving away or crouching. Fearful cats are much more likely to give warning before attacking than fearful dogs. They may growl, hiss or spit. This means business. Stop and get an experienced handler to restrain or retrieve the cat from the cage. If you must restrain a fearful cat, consider a cat bag, muzzle, large fluffy towel (cat burrito) or use chemical restraint.

Escape Motivated Aggression
This usually occurs while being heavily restrained. The cat will suddenly "explode" into a screaming ball of teeth and claws. This body language cannot be missed! If this occurs, you must first tell the other person "I'm letting go!" then do so.

Once the cat is no longer restrained, they will usually stop to reassess the situation, and they can be gently captured again (within seconds). If necessary, let the cat jump down as long as it cannot escape outside the building (herd it away from the door). It is safer to recapture when calm than to try to catch during this wild phase.

In general, the most gentle restraint possible works best in cats. Chemical restraint is often indicated. With all pets it is better to tranquilize than to use force and create a bad experience that will affect the behavior in the future.

Removing An Aggressive Cat From A Hospital Cage Or Kennel
A difficult problem is getting an aggressive pet out of a cage. Try to leave a leash on the pet, and tie to the outside of the cage. Use a coat hanger to loop a leash over the head, or use a large towel. If in doubt, call the doctor!

Our goal is to have every pet enjoy gentle handling each visit, and to distract it from pain with food treats, tapping the nose or pushing it along the table to divert attention.

The Golden Rule of Restraint
Do Unto The Pet The Way You Would Want Others To Do Unto Yours!

...::::::: Copyright 2000-Present  All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM  and Susan Tripp, MS, Animal Behavior Network and Associates :::::::...