Do you have a kitty who is a friendly companion one minute and an aggressive terror the next? Have you experienced nice bonding sessions with your kitty cat, during which your pet is purring and rubbing against you, but then all of the sudden he or she flips around and bites your hand? If so, you are very aware of the seemingly unprovoked cat aggression phenomenon.
My Personal Experience with a Mean Kitty
I had a terrible experience for about a year with one of my rescue kitties, who is now nearly 9 years old. I first met the soon-to-be-named Travieso (meaning “obnoxious” in Spanish) at the pound. He was a cute little black-and-white ball of fluff. When I walked back into the room full of caged kitties, Travieso announced himself with an ear-piercing meow, which was quite shocking coming from such a small kitten. Travieso was also relentlessly trying to get my attention by pawing at his cage. Who could have resisted that? I suppose I should have realized his behavior spelled trouble.
So began our adventure.
During the first week of our lives together, Travieso seemed to be transitioning into life in my small townhouse just fine. He was full of energy, very playful, and very affectionate—a seemingly normal kitten. We seemed to be bonding nicely.
However, our relationship gradually started to change as little Travieso started to exhibit signs of aggression. Travieso started to nip at my hand after I had been petting him for just a few seconds. He was also getting more aggressive—biting harder and using his claws. And then he started to attack me even when I wasn’t petting him. When I sat down to watch TV, Travieso would attack me for no apparent reason and bite me as hard as he could and then run away. This was much more than just kitten playfulness. He was obviously upset and angry, but I had no idea how to help him.
I started to resent and dislike Travieso. After a couple of particularly trying days, I made the decision to return Travieso to the pound. I loaded him up into his carrier and hauled him out to the car and we started driving. Each time I did this, though, my guilt got the best of me, and I decided to give Travieso one more chance.
The situation with Travieso did not improve for about a year. Travieso had devolved into a nasty kitty, with some serious aggression issues. Our days were filled with the cycle of Travieso’s attacks and my locking him in a bathroom to “teach him a lesson.” I don’t think the “time-outs” helped at all. In fact, they made Travieso worse.
This is Travieso as a kitten. He looked sweet and innocent, but he had some major aggression issues.
At about the one-year mark of living with Travieso, I decided I would adopt a second kitty. I’m not sure what gave me this brilliant idea. Things were not going well with my first cat, so adding a second one, for some reason, seemed like a good idea. However, this was the turning point for us.
Travieso was very unaccepting of the new kitten at first. Several times I thought he was going to do serious harm to the new kitten. For a couple of weeks, I tried to get Travieso to tolerate the new kitten. This involved a lot of frustration for all three of us, more time-outs, and several bouts of my wanting to return Travieso to the pound again.
But gradually Travieso came to accept the new kitten. It was almost as if the introduction of the second kitten into the house brought all of Travieso’s fear, anger, and uncertainty to a boiling point, and then he was able to calm down. This process took a couple of months.
Now it’s eight years later, and Travieso is a wonderful animal. He’s well-adjusted, loving, and accepting of people, including children, and other animals.
This is Nube, the second kitty acquisition, who helped Travieso work through his aggression.
Dealing with an Aggressive Cat
If you have an aggressive kitty, it is important to learn to recognize the warning signs that your cat exhibits before turning aggressive—laid-back ears, dilated pupils, twitching tail. Sometimes these signs are very subtle and difficult to detect. Since this is often the case, it is best to end petting sessions long before your kitty has the chance to turn aggressive. Never retaliate by hitting, reprimanding, or punishing an aggressive cat. This will increase the cat’s fear, anxiety, and agitation and make its aggressive tendencies worse.
I hope that I have offered some hope to those of you dealing with an aggressive cat. Travieso’s transformation from mean kitty to loveable, sweet kitty is still somewhat of a mystery to me. My gut feeling is that Travieso was not well-socialized when I adopted him. He had not learned to trust people or other animals. I think he was very scared at the pound and felt unsure of what life would have in store for him. He may have had a negative experience early on with a person. It took Travieso a little over a year to finally adjust to and accept his new environment and move past his intense aggressiveness. I think an aggressive cat requires its owner to show extra patience, love, and space for the kitty to learn to trust.
Here is Travieso as an adult cat. I have now acquired three more kitties, for a total of four cats. (I’m well on my way to becoming the crazy cat lady.)