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Cats are predators and predatory behaviour comes naturally to them. However, when that behaviour is directed at you in a way that makes you feel threatened, it’s a problem. Aggression has different solutions, depending on what caused it in the first place. Let’s look at each type.

Dominance in territorial aggression

This is when cat feels that its status or territory is being usurped by other animal, often a fellow cat. The offending cat uses force or intimidation to control others and to possess whatever it desires. The aggressive cat will hiss at, chase, or physically attack the intruder.

Cats are, at best tolerant of others attempting to share their domain. You are perhaps the only exception to that, because most cats see their owners as big, hairless cat parents. Remember that your cat has the same territorial instincts as any wild feline. Your home is its territory, and any time another creature comes around, it will initially be seen by your cat as an intruder. Some level of aggression, at least in the beginning, should be expected if you bring a new pet into the house. Though it may not escalate past hissing and swatting, it could, and you need to be prepared for that.

Apart from territorial concerns, your cat may want to express its dominance over the including animal (or person). Whenever two or more adult cats get together, for instance, they will immediately begin working out who is the more dominant of the two. Kittens are better at tolerating others of their own kind because they still have found memories of being part of a litter. Once they are 4-5 months old, though, the more solitary mindset of an adult cat kicks in, making dominance contests with other cats more likely.

Rarely will a cat be overtly territorial or dominant over a human. When it does happen, it’s a sign of an extremely pushy cat.

Fighting like cats and dogs

Cat-to-cat aggression is often limited to some posturing, hissing, and perhaps a few well-timed swats from the more dominant animal. Cat-to-dog aggression can be more serious, for obvious reasons; most dogs are larger than most cats and may respond to a cat’s dominance or territorial aggression by turning on their prey or by invoking their own territorial, dominant inclinations. If either of these happens, it could be curtains for the cat. If the dog in question is friendly one, it may trustingly get too close to a wary cat and gets scratched. Though this usually doesn’t have dire consequences, the dog’s eyes can be seriously hurt.

Dealing with dominance or territorial aggression

Try the following if you have a dominant or territorial kitty:

  • Have your cat neutered before six months of age. Whether your pet is a male or female, leaving it unneutered will only encourage territorial and dominance disputes, as well as create tension between you and the pet over issues of marking, scratching, and roaming.
  • Keep your cat indoors as much as possible. Allowing it access to the outdoors will ensure that it will eventually get into fights with other cats, causing your cat to view any other cats as dangerous and threatening. Once that happens, you never be able to successfully socialize it with other animal.
  • Keep your cat’s home environment as calm and predictable as possible, avoiding traumatic episodes such as a group of small children suddenly chasing it or the neighbour’s Labrador retriever rushing in to say hi.
  • Socialise your cat as early on as possible. Allow it to be around different adults and responsible children right from the beginning, as well as any other pets you may have in the home (provide they are not aggressive). If you want your cat to get along well with another cat, or a dog, consider raising them together. Two kittens, raised in the same home from the time they are 8-10 weeks old will get along far better than an established adult and a new kitten or adult cat. Likewise for a dog-cat combo; raise the puppy and kitten together and odds are they will be the best of friends.
  • Choose a kitten that seems to interact with its littermates in a reasonable way. Avoid overly dominant, pushy kittens that seem to bully the others, as well as the kittens that shrink away from any contact. Pick one that shows curiosity, yet knows when to back off. Also, make sure not to take a kitten that was separated from its mother and littermates before the eighth week, so you can amount of early socialisation with its siblings.
  • If you’re adopting an adult cat, be sure to observe its behaviour closely before you make your decision. Is it in with other cats or by itself? Does it have any fresh (or old) scars on its body? Offer the cat a toy or treat, then take it away and watch the reaction. If the cat shows any possessiveness, move on to next cat.

Dr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com