Ask A Vet: Help! My Cat Attacks Me


Cats can exhibit several types of aggression. The types are typically defined by the target of the aggression. Each type is managed differently and all aggression issues must first prioritize the safety of all concerned. Cats can be antagonistic to other cats, animals of other species and toward humans, their owners or strangers. Aggression toward humans is the most serious issue.

Because this issue involves the protection of a human being, it becomes an urgent priority. This type of antagonism produces the most damage to the human-animal bond and is the most hurtful, emotionally and physically. Because safety is at stake, involving your veterinarian is critical in these cases. There could a medical cause for the cat to react the way she is and only your veterinary team will be able to get to the bottom of it.

In the meantime, try to circumvent situations that are likely to precipitate aggression from your cat. Never punish your cat physically, as this can either teach him to fear you or escalate a confrontation. Don’t postpone calling the vet because early intervention is critical to avoid a long term habit. If you see an act of aggression developing, do something to startle the cat and redirect him without touching him. Sometimes making a sudden noise is enough to redirect aggression from your cat. Rattling a can containing pebbles or crinkling a grocery bag might do the trick.

Your vet will want to make sure there are no underlying reasons for your cat to lash out at you. Pain, from things like arthritis, dental disease or injury can make a cat react poorly. There can even be chemical or hormonal causes of violent behavior, like hyperthyroidism. Your veterinary team will describe a plan of diagnostics and examination to rule out many common cat disorders that can lead to aggression and then formulate a plan to treat it. If there is no medical cause and the aggression is strictly behavioral, your vet will either formulate a treatment plan for you or refer you to a veterinary behaviorist.

Aggression is no fun for either of you. To address it, eliminate possible underlying diseases before you immediately assume that your cat has a behavior problem. Once the medical contributors are addressed, if the problem persists, there are behavior modification protocols and medications that can restore harmony to both of your lives. Keep yourself and your cat safe and get some professional help.



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About The Author: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian and practice owner at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN.  She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to articles for Prevention magazine (April 2015) and Woman’s Day (Feb 2014 and June 2015). Her radio segment Chattanooga Pet Talk airs each week on all the local iHeart Media affiliates. She has a social media presence on TwitterFacebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication.  She has written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website,

Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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