Saturday, August 01, 2009

Are cats really aggressive?

Dear George,

We are quite disturbed that one of our friends is not allowed to play outside because he was “aggressive” with one of his mom’s friends. To protest and make our mommy “do something” about this stupid situation we decided to wrack the house (as you can see in this photo – and we are allowed (sic)!).

Here is what happened; let’s call our friend “Mister” (not his real name).

Two days ago a friend of Mister’s mommy pay her a visit.

So….they were talking for a while when M’s mommy went to the kitchen to make a coffee. M was sitting quietly in the living room with his mom’s friend

We don’t know what happened there, we don’t know if she tried to pet him or do something, all we know is that M attacked her really bad. She couldn’t really defend herself since she had one leg in a cast. M was taken to a vet right away.

He was okay but scared since everybody was scramming at him.

We think that this is not right. We know that this friend of M’s mom has a cat. Could be her cat’s smell that drove M crazy? We are really worried about his welfare.

He is a really sweet, big, purring guy! Our “mommy” is working on his mom to calm her down and make her ask for some advice before jumping to conclusions.

We thought to ask for your help! What do you think it could trigger M’s reaction? Can you ask Celia to help, please (with typing, of course)?

Love & hugs

Fluffy & Cayenne

Dear Fluffy and Cayenne,

It may be that Mister saw something through the kitchen window and turned on the human in what is called redirected aggression (because he couldn't reach what was outside). More likely he was scared. Most aggressive cats are frightened cats. It may be that the human did something which terrified him (which she didn't realise) and he lashed out from fear. Could the plaster cast have hit him without the human realising it? If it was a big bite or a big scratch, it is likely to be fear. We can't be sure because it is not clear what happened.

Tell Mister's human not to jump to conclusions that he is an aggressive cat. He may just - at that moment - have been a very frightened cat. She should wait to see if Mister does this to anybody else. Keeping us cats indoors has its downside. If she is going to do this, she need to think how to give him more to do in the house - details for keeping indoor cats happy are on

One bite doesn't make an aggressive dog and one attack doesn't make an aggressive cat. Get Mister's human to read Celia's website on aggression and email her via that if necessary. We cats don't attack humans because we are "aggressive". We attack them because we are terrified, because we are frightened and want to make a human keep its distance, because we are starved of hunting opportunities (if we are indoor cats), or just occasionally because we are super confident cats that have learned to bite humans to get their attention.

Punishing us doesn't work. It makes us even more frightened and desperate. Take time to analyse what went wrong, and change things so that we cats can be our calm and loving selves. When the cat human relationship goes wrong, the human has to change the situation. We can't.


PS. I added on a photo of a cat looking aggressive. She was actually terrified.


  1. Aggressive? What does that mean? I don't think I am.

  2. Fluffy and CayenneAugust 03, 2009

    Oscar, we don't really know!
    We don't think Mister was aggressive and he never was!
    Sometimes Cayenne is hissing or spitting (manners!) :-( but she is not aggressive. Sometime we put up a fight because we "want" attention, but our humans don't consider us aggressive. That's why we are concerned about our friend.
    Hugs & love
    Fluffy and Cayenne

  3. It's the same with bunnies. I would only bite if I were afraid or if I needed to be in control. I bit my dog Willow on her nose twice and didn't have a moments trouble with her after that. She still kept stealing my carrot though.

  4. Dear Fluffy and Cayenne,

    I think part of the problem is that humans unnecessarily anthropomorphize cats, and thus read all sorts of human motivations into our feline behavior. Thus, when we do something unexpected, they struggle to label it with what a human would think or feel that would cause a human to act in that way. The cat in the photo graciously provided by George looks, to me, absolutely terrified; but to a human, the half-closed eyes and open mouth with teeth bared look angry or aggressive, because that is what humans' faces look like when they get angry and are contemplating doing harm to someone or something. Humans need to understand their world as best they can with their limited intelligence, and so they overlay human experience onto everything---which can cause some unfortunate conclusions in regards to animals. Why, just today, I was obliged to gently close my teeth on my human's arm as she was brushing me. Her mother, who was visiting her at the time, piped up with, "Oh, dear, why is she biting you?" I wasn't. What my human and her mother didn't know previously was that I had a sore spot by my tail where I had bumped it earlier today. By closing my teeth gently on her arm, I was just telling my human that my tail was sore, and please could she not brush me there? But if a human does the same thing to another human, it's because they mean to bite, literally bite, and cause harm. It's very perplexing, I know, but we must give the poor dears the benefit of the doubt and gently try to correct them when they stray, using positive reinforcement. They like treats. Maybe Mister's human could give her human friend some tuna-flavored Pounce. I know that always does the trick for me.


  5. I bet it was the cast on her leg that scared him.
    Who would feel comfortable sitting next to a "block" of cement?

  6. I hope Mister's apes learn to understand him. All that screaming must have terrified him. Poor fella.

    This is a good argument for devocalising all apes. I can't think of many situations where an ape opens it's vast maw and doesn't make a delicate situaltion 9000 times worse.

    Visiting apes can be so difficult to control, they stare, which is rude and aggressive, they can't keep their grasping ape hands off of us and the rudest of them will try to pick us up.

    I've trained my apes not to leave visiting apes alone with me (being gorgeous, visitors always want to pick me up and maul me about) I take no prisoners if visitors are rude. The bitey is justice as far as I am concerned.

    Whicky Wuudler

  7. Fluffy and CayenneAugust 07, 2009

    Yes, humans do this to cats, but they do this with dogs and everything else.
    They really think they are superior! If you think about...anthropomorphism is SOOO characteristic to "apes" (as Whicky Wuudler calls them). They see themselves in everything :-)))
    We are lucky that our humans pay so much attention to us without trying to see themselves in us! Our mommy actually made Mister's mom to look at what happened in a complete different way. Mister's mom finally calmed down and M is ok now.
    Hugs & love
    Fluffy & Cayenne


Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online