Despite centuries of sharing our lives and homes with cats, many pet owners know very little about interpreting signs of anger, fear, or aggression in these creatures. The typical “Halloween cat” posture (arched back, raised fur, ears back, hissing) clearly indicates fear and/or aggression, but cats also use other postures and behaviors that are more subtle and easily missed. It may be impossible to avoid ever creating a hostile situation with a cat, but a few tips can help you (hopefully) avoid injury if you find yourself in such a situation.
What Are the Signs of Aggression in Cats?
Fortunately, most cats exhibit some sort of outward sign when they are unhappy or angry about something. Unfortunately, some of these signs can be very subtle and difficult to interpret:
In some cases, the signs of trouble may occur very suddenly and without apparent warning. For example, petting-evoked aggression occurs when a person is petting a cat (usually while the cat is on their lap) and the cat seems to be enjoying the interaction, but then suddenly strikes out at or bites the person.
The most logical explanation for this behavior is that some cats have a limited tolerance for being petted, so the best way to avoid this problem is to stop petting before that limit is reached. Unfortunately, the signs preceding the strike or bite may be very subtle—flicking the tail or ear may be the only indication of a problem. Understanding those behaviors for what they are may save the person from being injured.
What to Do
What Not to Do
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