It seems aggressive when a cat hisses or swats at you, but anger isn't necessarily what they're communicating, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch by The Dodo's on-staff veterinarian, says. Instead, common aggressive behaviors, like hissing, biting or attacking, are sometimes expressions of fear, anxiety, pain or an underlying illness or injury.
Cats are known for being mysterious and hiding their emotions well, but we get you want to understand your cat as much as possible. Dr. McCullough decodes what it means when cats hiss, bite or attack so you can stop this behavior and get your cat the help they may need.
Many people assume that when a cat hisses, they're expressing aggression, but that's not always the case. "It is a sign that a cat feels threatened, and it is a defensive act often used to try to defuse a situation," Dr. McCullough explains. If your cat is hissing, take them to the veterinarian to ensure they're not struggling with an underlying illness, injury or pain.
Sometimes cats bite or attack to express fear or say that they want you to stop petting them (especially if subtle signs were ignored). Biting or attacking can also be because of improper socialization, leading to inappropriate ways of playing, Dr. McCullough explains. But, cats that bite a lot and are experiencing other changes in their health could mean they're struggling with an underlying condition, including:
Cats' biting and attacking behavior isn't necessarily permanent, and there are some ways to get them to stop, Dr. McCullough says. Here’s what she suggests:
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If your cat is acting aggressive, Dr. McCullough explains tips to limit and stop this behavior:
“Male cats that aren't neutered are more likely to roam to seek out females that aren't spayed, fight with other male cats and spray strongly scented urine,” Dr. McCullough explains.
Don’t worry about your best friend’s behavior changing much after they’re spayed, Dr. McCullough says. When female cats are in heat, they’re usually affectionate to the point of being pushy and being spayed decreases this behavior.
The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.
Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash