July 27, 2016


We get asked a lot of questions, and we welcome them with open paws!

Knowledge is power when it involves feral cats, spay & neuter programs, and charity organizations.  We thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the most common questions, and start conversations with some new ones.  If you have a question or suggestion, PLEASE leave us a comment or contact us.

Q. What is a feral cat?

Answer: Wikipedia says, and we agree:
…a cat that has been born into wilderness or has not had human interaction for a significant period of time and is self-sufficient.

Feral cats aren’t always “mean” or “crazy” or “full of infection”.
Scared, yes.  Defensive, yes.   More likely to carry disease than your indoor cat, yes.

Q. Can I pet a feral cat?

Answer: We don’t recommend finding out!
Honestly, we highly advise against it.  Some abandoned cats can learn to trust a human over time, but true born-into-the-wild cats will never become tame.  If you’ve been feeding a stray/feral cat, you know what we mean by that.  If you ever want to see a feral cat in “action”, we recommend doing a ride-along with one of our dedicated trappers!

Q. How are you different from the SPCA?

Answer: SPCA, as you likely know, stands for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals & Kitty Cat PALS stands for Prevent a Litter Society.  While we BOTH work to prevent cruelty, the SPCA deals with owned, tame and abandoned cats.  We deal with feral and untraceable abandoned ones.  That means no tattoo, no microchip.

We work with the SPCA to help identify, resolve or aid in a cat-related situation.  The more cat people the better, we say!

Q. Where are all these cats coming from?

Answer: Unfortunately, in any community there are people who don’t spay and neuter their cats. Those same cats go outside and eventually have (or help make) kittens. Those kittens don’t get spayed or neutered either and the cycle repeats itself.

Even worse, people take those unwanted cats/kittens and dump them in the country to become someone else’s problem. Or,  people move away and don’t bother taking their cats.

Q. Why does it cost so much to adopt a kitten when I can get a free one on Craigslist?

Answer: There is no such thing as a free kitten!! Every kitten that come to KCP gets a thorough medical exam, medication if needed, vaccinations when old enough, flea and de-worming treatment, and of course food, litter and love. The only free part of that is the love.  Younger kittens may require bottle/syringe feeding of KMR – Kitten Milk Replacement. (It is purchased from one of the pet stores.) This is one of those items that we gratefully accept as a donation!  Our adoption fee also includes the cost of spaying/neutering.

Q. How do you trap a feral cat?

Answer: Patiently!

We have 3 different kinds of traps – none of which harm the cats if used correctly.

Live trap This is the most commonly used trap. It is set by our trappers, and visually monitored from a distance. Smelly cat food is placed at the far end of the trap  There is a pressure plate on the floor that automatically shuts the door once the cat steps on it. The trapper immediately throws a blanket over the trap to calm the cat. They are promptly transferred into a cage or crate.

Live Trap

Drop trap This one is right out of a cartoon! It’s a large metal square that is propped up on a post. It is often used for mother cats and her kittens because they can be trapped all at once. When the cats go in the string gets pulled and hooray – success!

Drop Trap

Kitten trap In a similar fashion to the drop trap, this box can catch multiple kitties at once. Made of plexiglass and wood, there is a door propped open by a nail. Food is put at the opposite end, and when the cat(s) goes in, PULL!  Transfer happens immediately to reduce stress.

Kitten Trap

That concludes part one of our FAQ’s. We’d love to hear your questions! Stay tuned for part two.

Kitten Care: Must-Know Tips for Raising Kittens

By Jennifer Sellers, Petfinder contributor

When it comes to raising kittens, the philosophy is pretty similar to that of bringing up children. If you provide proper care and training when they’re young, it increases the odds they’ll grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. So if you recently adopted a kitten, start incorporating this advice as soon as possible.

MJ the kitten
MJ the kitten.

1) Don’t Treat Your Kitten Like an Adult Cat

Just as a human infant has vastly different needs than a teenager, a kitten will have care requirements distinct from those of a fully matured cat. In addition, you should consider a kitten’s various stages of development when caring for her:

  • Under eight weeks of age. At this early age, a kitten should still be with her mother and litter mates. Because kittens this young are unable to regulate their own temperatures, they rely on one-another’s body heat to survive. In addition, they are still developing vision and leg coordination. If you adopt or foster an orphan kitten in this age group, special care will need to be taken, including bottle-feeding the kitten for every two hours up to four weeks of age and possibly helping your kitten pee and poop. It’s best to consult with a veterinarian for specific instructions and advice.
  • Eight to eleven weeks of age. Kittens are usually weaned by eight weeks and should be eating kitten diet, which needs to be energy dense, rich in protein and highly digestible. Whether choosing dry kibble or wet food, be sure it is formulated for kittens. Other big changes will start occurring during this period as well. As your kitten begins developing complex motor skills she will become a force of nature — running, jumping, playing and exploring. This is a delightful period of kittenhood, but also one that can be dangerous to your kitten if she isn’t appropriately supervised.  Start setting boundaries for your kitten and keep her in a safe, enclosed room while you can supervise her.
  • Two to four months of age. This is a phase of rapid growth for kittens in which they’ll have almost three times more energy than an adult cat. They’ll need three to four individual meals a day during this time. According to Vetstreet.com, these meals should be minimum 30 percent high-quality protein.
  • Four to six months of age. Kittens in this age group are reaching adolescence and, thus, sexual maturity. Talk to a veterinarian about having your kitten spayed or neutered before your kitten reaches this stage to avoid unpleasant habits like territorial spraying and accidental litters. (Learn more about spaying and neutering here.)

2) Reward Good Behavior and Socialize, Socialize, Socialize

The socialization and training your cat receives during kittenhood will affect how well she will likely interact with people and other animals when she’s older. “I remember the first time I fostered kittens and how worried I was about scaring them,” says Jane Harrell. “What I didn’t know was that that was a critical socialization period for them and not exposing them to things made them more nervous as adults. Now when I foster kittens I do everything I can to get them exposed to as much as possible – loud noises, walking on leashes, strangers, you name it! It all helps them become better-adjusted, healthy adult cats.” Just makre sure your kittens have a positive experience out of any socialization exposure you provide them.

As a new kitten’s parent, it will be up to you to guide her and show her that the world is a wonderful place. Consider trying some of these training and socialization methods:

  • Kittens will generally use litter boxes by instinct, however you can help teach her to use it by placing her in the box after meals and play sessions. Make sure the litter box is always available to your kitten and cleaned frequently
  • Pet her frequently
  • Get her used to weekly combing and grooming. (Learn more about cat grooming)
  • Introduce her to toys
  • Allow her to experience different walking surfaces (carpet, linoleum, etc.)
  • Take her outside on a lead or in her carrier (It can be very dangerous to allow a kitten outside without one.) However, before providing any outdoor exposure be sure your veterinarian has administered the proper vaccines and enough time has passed for your kitten to build immunity.
  • Give her objects to explore, such as boxes and paper bags
  • Play loud music and make noise
  • Have friends over and ask them to play with her and give her treats
  • Provide appropriate scratching alternatives (such as scratching posts) and reward her with toys, praise or treats when she uses them
  • Do not allow her to bite or scratch during play. If she does, redirect her attention to a toy.
  • Expose her to other cats and kittens (as soon as they’re up to date on vaccinations, of course!). There are even kitten socialization classes; do an internet search to see if any are available in your area.
  • Take your kitten on car rides, giving her treats the whole time, and get her used to her carrier. (Check out these tips for getting your cat to like his carrier.)
  • Reward friendly behavior with treats or praise.
  • Do not reprimand bad behavior, instead, ignore her when she displays inappropriate behavior.
  • Challenge your kitten to think by teaching her tricks. (Learn how to teach a cat tricks.)
  • Always be patient

3) Make Preventive Care a Priority

To help ensure your kitty has a lifetime of good health, start early in providing her with preventive care:

  • Schedule an appointment early. No matter what, schedule your kitten’s first vet appointment within a week of getting her. Early and frequent vet visits will help socialize your kitten with the vet and help the vet establish a baseline for your kitten’s health.
  • Ask about intestinal parasites, fleas and heartworm. Have a veterinarian check your kitten for worms and intestinal parasites, and have her de-wormed, if necessary. And while heartworms aren’t as much of a problem for cats as they are for dogs, some kittens may be susceptible, so also ask your vet if he or she recommends a heartworm preventative. The biggest parasitic threat to your kitten, however, is fleas. You can start administering topical flea preventatives when your kitten is around 8 to 12 weeks of age — although some brands are formulated for kittens as young as 4 weeks old.
  • Ask which vaccinations your kitten needs and how often: Preventive care for kittens may include vaccines for feline leukemia, rabies and distemper. These shots are usually first administered when a kitten is around 8 weeks of age, with boosters given every few weeks until she reaches 16 weeks of age. After that, your veterinarian can set her up on an adult vaccination schedule. He or she may also recommend additional vaccinations.

6 Reasons Your Cat is Peeing Outside the Litter Box

By Carol McCarthy

If your typically fastidious cat is ditching the litter box and peeing just about everywhere else in the house, it can easily become a problem for pet parents. Between the constant cleaning and the strong smell, a cat that is not using the litter box properly can be a source of frustration. But why do cats pee outside of the box and what can you do about it? Here are some common causes of litter box problems.

Medical Issues

Health problems might be causing your cat to pee outside of the litter box, says Dr. Cathy Lund of City Kitty, a feline-only veterinary practice in Providence, Rhode Island. This behavior could be the result of a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or diabetes. Other health problems that are painful or simply make your cat feel “off” also could be to blame. For example, an older cat with severe arthritis might have trouble getting into a box with high sides or a cover, says Lund.

“Anything that changes a cat’s feeling of wellbeing can create a change in behavior, and in cats that means litter box habit changes,” she says.

With that in mind, the first step for any litter box problem is to consult your vet, says Dr. Neil Marrinan of the Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut. “Simple blood and urine tests can exclude most medical causes,” he says.

An Unclean Litter Box

“I use the analogy of a Porta Potty,” Lund says. Who wants to use one of those when it is dirty, and you can smell it before you see it, she says. The same is true for litter boxes. If you are lax in keeping the litter box clean, your cats will find somewhere else to go.

Marrinan agrees that the litter box “experience” is almost always a reason for cats peeing outside of the box—even when a medical issue is present. “The trick is making the litter box the first and only place they go—regardless of why they started to pee elsewhere,” he says.

To keep your litter box clean, it’s important to scoop the litter every day—or multiple times a day if you have multiple cats in your home. Refresh the litter and do a deep cleaning of the box every few weeks. Keep in mind that the feline sense of smell is much stronger than ours, so a box that seems “clean enough” to you might still smell disgusting to your cat. This is especially true in multiple cat households. Smelling your own waste is one thing, being forced into close proximity to someone else’s is an entirely different problem.

A Hard to Reach Litter Box

In addition to litter box cleanliness, the placement of the box could cause your cat to “go” elsewhere. A box that is in a basement can be a problem for an older cat that has trouble with stairs or her eyesight, Lund says.

In addition, the box should be in a relatively active area of the house. While pet parents often don’t want a litter box in the living room, removing it too far from social areas may make the box hard to find or unappealing to your cat. “Generally you want litter boxes that are out of traffic but not at the end of a scary, trappable tunnel,” says Marrinan. Along the same lines, litter boxes that are next to machines that make loud noises or odd vibrations—such as the spin cycle of the washing machine—can be a “no go zone” for cats.

Try placing the box in a nearby hallway, bathroom, or office with easy access to a garbage can. The proper litter box set up will offer your cat privacy and peace and quiet, but still be easy for your cat to find.

The Type of Litter

Pet parents have a variety of litters to choose from, but not every type of litter will work for every cat. Some clay litters, or litters made from corncobs or recycled newspaper may not “feel good on the foot,” says Lund.

Lund also notes that kittens learn what type of litter they prefer from their mothers at about three weeks old. So using a different litter than the one that was used when your cat was a kitten, or deciding to switch the type of litter your cat is used to, could be at the root of litter problems. Pet parents may have to try a few different types of litters to find the one that works best for their cats.

Multiple Pets in the Home

Peeing outside the litter box happens more frequently in a household with multiple cats, particularly if one is a bully who prevents another cat from getting to the box, Lund says. To address this, always have multiple litter boxes in your home and place them in multiple rooms, Lund advises.

If you have a timid cat in your home, be sure to devote a space and a litter box to her that other cats cannot access easily. Lund says you may also want to avoid covered litter boxes if you have multiple cats. Covered boxes may make some cats uneasy because they can’t see if another cat is coming in, she says.

Stress and Anxiety

Even in cases with an environmental or medical cause, the behavioral component remains a factor, Marrinan says

An anxious cat might pee elsewhere as a way to relieve her anxiety because the smell of her own urine makes her feel safer, Lund says. Outdoor cats lingering in your yard may also cause stress for your cat—who might choose to pee near the front door as a possible response, Lund says. Cats use a special type of urinary behavior (spraying) to mark their territories, which they will do more when they feel stressed.

Getting to the Bottom of Litter Box Problems

Unfortunately for cat owners, there is no quick-fix solution to litter box problems, and each instance has to be addressed based on your cat and your home. “You really have to treat these things holistically and make sure you are covering all the bases,” Lund says.

If you are keeping your litter box clean and have it set up in an easy-to-access place with your cat’s favorite litter, make sure to consult with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. If your cat’s health checks out, you may also want to call on a cat behaviorist to help you work through the litter box problems with your cat. With a little bit of time and energy, you’ll restore harmony to your home and stop your cat from peeing outside of the box.

Aggression in Cats

Aggression is the second most common feline behavior problem seen by animal behaviorists. Although cat aggression is sometimes taken less seriously than dog aggression—perhaps because cats are smaller and don’t pursue people to bite them—aggressive cats can be formidable. They have five potential weapons (their teeth and all four clawed paws) compared to a dogs’ sole weapon of his or her mouth. Cats can bite and inflict severe lacerations, which are painful and can easily become infected. They can also cause cat scratch fever, a usually benign but potentially serious infectious disease that causes flu-like symptoms. Fights between cats rarely result in fatalities, but they can lead to infections and result in considerable veterinary expenses for cat parents. Aggressive cats can be risky to have at home and can pose a real danger to family and visitors.

What Is Aggression?

Aggression is threatening or harmful behavior directed toward a person, another cat or other animals. Virtually all wild animals display aggression to guard their territories, defend their offspring and protect themselves if attacked. Aggression refers to a wide variety of complex behaviors that occur for different reasons under various circumstances. In pet cats, aggressive behavior can range from cats who hiss and avoid the target of their aggression to cats who attack.

Understanding Cat Body Language

Understanding what cats are communicating through their body language is essential for cat parents. It enables them to more accurately “read” their cats and understand their feelings and motivations for doing what they do. It also helps them respond more effectively to behavior issues like aggression.

Body language is made up of cats’ body postures, facial expressions, and the position and carriage of certain body parts, like ears, tail and even whiskers. Cat body language is more subtle than dog body language and can be harder for people to interpret. Knowing the basic postures and what they mean can help cat parents deal with problems more effectively and enjoy their cat’s company more fully because they can understand a common language.

Threats and aggression can be either offensive or defensive. An offensively aggressive cat tries to make himself look bigger and more intimidating, whereas a defensively aggressive cat adopts a self-protective posture and tries to make himself look smaller. The following are typical postures seen in feline aggression. A rule of thumb is to not touch, attempt to reassure, or punish cats showing these postures!

Offensive postures include:

  • A stiff, straight-legged upright stance
  • Stiffened rear legs, with the rear end raised and the back sloped downward toward the head
  • Tail is stiff and lowered or held straight down to the ground
  • Direct stare
  • Upright ears, with the backs rotated slightly forward
  • Piloerection (hackles up), including fur on the tail
  • Constricted pupils
  • Directly facing opponent, possibly moving toward him
  • Might be growling, howling or yowling

Defensive postures include:

  • Crouching
  • Head tucked in
  • Tail curved around the body and tucked in
  • Eyes wide open with pupils partially or fully dilated
  • Ears flattened sideways or backward on the head
  • Piloerection (hackles up)
  • In an anxious cat, whiskers might be retracted. In a fearful cat, whiskers might pan out and forward to assess distance between himself and the danger
  • Turning sideways to the opponent, not straight on
  • Open-mouthed hissing or spitting
  • Might deliver quick strikes with front paws, claws out

Overt aggression, whether defensive or offensive, includes:

  • Swatting, striking with paws
  • Biting
  • Fighting
  • Growling, shrieking
  • Scratching
  • Preparing for an all-out attack by rolling onto side or back and exposing all weapons: teeth and claws
  • In this position, your cat might attempt to grab your hand and bring it to his mouth to bite it

Classification of Aggressive Behavior

If your cat has been aggressive in the past or you suspect he could become aggressive, take time to evaluate the situations that got him upset. Who did he aggress toward? When and where did it happen? What was going on during the half-hour or so leading up to the incident? What was about to happen to your cat? Determining the answers to these questions can clarify the circumstances that trigger your cat’s aggressive reaction and provide insight into why he’s behaving this way. You need to understand the cause of your cat’s aggression and his motivation for it before you can help him.

Keep in mind that a number of medical conditions can cause or contribute to your cat’s aggression, including toxoplasmosis, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, abscesses, arthritis, dental disease, rabies, trauma, and sensory decline or cognitive dysfunction in older cats. The first step in resolving your cat’s aggression problem is to have a complete veterinary exam to assess his physical health.

Aggressive behavior problems in cats can be classified in different ways. A good way to understand why your cat is aggressive is to think about the function or purpose of the aggression. If you consider all the reasons why cats behave aggressively, you can determine what motivates your cat to do so and identify what he might gain from his behavior.

Between Cats

The most obvious and easily understood type of aggression between cats occurs between unneutered males. As males reach adulthood, they often begin to challenge each other for access to mates and territory. Tom cats who roam will get into threatening stand-offs and actual fights. They sit or stand stiffly, their hackles up, and stare at each other. Their ears are swiveled backward, and they often growl, hiss and howl loudly. One cat might eventually slowly leave, or one or both of them might attack.

Aggression between household cats is more subtle and complex than the conflicts between two outdoor toms. It can be so subtle, in fact, that cat parents don’t notice it. The aggressor cat postures, and the recipient makes himself look smaller and may break away to avoid the aggressor. The aggression can occur between females or between females and males. It can be related to physical size and activity (large cats often intimidate smaller or less active cats), to a lack of pleasant social experiences with other cats, to an accidentally learned association between the other cat and something unpleasant (like fireworks or thunder), or to a simple personality clash.

Fearful or Defensive

Fear aggression can occur when a cat perceives a threat, and it escalates if he can’t escape. The more threatening the person, animal, object or sound seems to the cat, the more heightened his fear reaction will be. Typical body postures associated with fearful or defensive aggression are a combination of defensive signals (such as crouching, flattening the ears, tucking the tail, leaning away or rolling onto the side, and pupil dilation) and aggressive signals (such as hissing and spitting, piloerection, growling, swatting, biting and scratching). Aggressive signals are especially likely to be displayed if a cat can’t escape the thing he fears. Often the best way to deal with a defensively aggressive cat is to simply avoid him until he calms down.


Animals of many species strive to expel or keep out other individuals from their territory, and cats are no exception. Both male and female cats are territorial, but males may defend larger territories than females. Cats’ territorial aggression is usually directly toward other cats, but it can be directed toward dogs and people, too. A cat can show territorial aggression toward some family members and not others and toward some cats but not others. Cats mark their turf by patrolling, chin rubbing and urine spraying. They may stalk, chase and ambush a targeted intruder while displaying offensive body postures, including hissing, swatting and growling. Some cats take a slow and steady approach in their stalking, while others immediately and aggressively give chase. A cat’s perceived territory could be the entire house or part of it, the yard, the block or the neighborhood.

Some of the most common situations that trigger territoriality are:

  • A kitten in the household reaches sexual maturity
  • A new cat is introduced into the family and household
  • Major changes are made in the cat’s family or environment (for example, moving or someone moving in)
  • Stray or roaming cats in the neighborhood enter a cat’s territory


Rough play is common and natural among kittens and young cats less than two years of age. Despite the playful intentions of a cat, however, when such play is directed toward people or becomes overly rambunctious, it can cause injury to people or damage household items. Play aggression is the most common type of aggressive behavior that cats direct toward their owners. It involves typical predatory and play behaviors, including stalking, chasing, attacking, running, ambushing, pouncing, leaping, batting, swatting, grasping, fighting and biting. It’s believed that through play with each other, young cats learn to inhibit their bites and sheathe their claws when swatting. The degree to which individual cats learn to inhibit their rough play varies, and those who were orphaned or weaned early might never have learned to temper their play behavior. Other factors that can contribute to play aggression are long hours spent alone without opportunities to play, and if pet parents encourage their cats to chase and attack people’s hands and feet in play.


Redirected aggression is probably the most dangerous type of cat aggression because the bites are uninhibited and the attacks can be frightening and damaging. Unfortunately, it’s also a very common type of feline aggression. Redirected aggression occurs when a cat is aggressively aroused and agitated by an animal or person he can’t get at (because there’s a window between them, for example). Unable to get to the trigger of his agitation, he turns and lashes out at someone—person, dog or cat—who is nearby or who approaches him. There can be considerable delay between the initial arousal and the redirected aggression, as long as hours. This is why cat parents sometimes describe this kind of aggression as unprovoked or “out of the blue.” They weren’t even aware of the initial trigger (for example, a cat outside who passed by 30 minutes before the attack). A redirected attack occurs only if an agitated cat is approached or there’s someone close by. The cat won’t go looking for someone to attack! It’s not a malicious or even intentional type of aggression. It’s almost like a reflex, done automatically without thought. This is why it’s never a good idea to break up a cat fight or approach an agitated cat showing defensive or offensive aggression postures.

Some common triggers for redirected aggression are:

  • Watching another cat through a door or window
  • Watching or stalking birds, squirrels or other prey animals
  • Smelling another cat’s odor on a family member, a visitor or clothing
  • Coming indoors after getting outside if the cat usually lives only indoors
  • Hearing high-pitched noises
  • Being frightened or harassed by a dog
  • Having a person intervene in a cat fight
  • Being in an animal shelter, surrounded by the sight, smell and sounds of other cats


Some cats enjoy being petted, held, carried and even hugged. Some merely tolerate these activities with their owners, or they like being petted but not carried. And a few don’t like being petted at all. Petting-induced aggression occurs when a cat suddenly feels irritated by being petted, nips or lightly bites the person petting him, and then jumps up and runs off. This type of aggression isn’t well understood, but behaviorists think that physical contact, like stroking, can quickly become unpleasant if it’s repeated over and over. Repetitive contact can cause arousal, excitement, pain and even static electricity in a cat’s fur. Imagine if someone rubbed your back but, instead of moving his hand all over your back, he rubbed in just one spot, over and over. That could quickly become unpleasant. Your cat might feel the same way: what started out feeling good is now irritating, and he wants you to stop. This type of aggression is more common in males than females. When your cat signals you to stop petting, the best response is simply to stop.

With careful observation of your cat’s communication signals, you’ll usually see warning signs, such as:

  • Quickly turning his head toward a person’s hand
  • Twitching or flipping his tail
  • Flattening his ears or rotating them forward and back
  • Restlessness
  • Dilating pupils

Pain-Induced and Irritable

Pain-induced and irritable aggression are triggered by pain, frustration or deprivation, and they can be directed toward people, animals and objects. Any animal—including humans—can aggress when in pain. So even a well-socialized, normally docile cat can lash out when he’s hurt, when someone tries to touch a painful part of him (for example, to medicate his infected ears), or when he’s in pain and he anticipates being handled because someone is approaching him. Cats with aggression problems should always be examined for underlying medical problems, especially painful diseases such as arthritis, dental pain and abscesses from fighting. Painful punishment is not only ineffective for changing cat behavior, it can also trigger pain-induced aggression and worsen other types of aggression, like fear and territorial aggression. Body postures will usually be defensive.


All mothers have instincts to protect their offspring from potential danger. Maternal aggression can occur when a mother cat (called the queen) with her kittens is approached by people or other animals whom she perceives as a threat. It’s more often directed and other cats, but it can be directed toward people, too. Queens can be quite aggressive when defending their young, especially in the first few days after birth. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid handling kittens during the first few days of their lives.


The classification of idiopathic aggression includes any type of aggression whose cause can’t be determined or explained through behavior history or medical exam. Cats with this type of aggression can attack their owners violently. They may bite repeatedly and remain in an aroused state for long periods of time. Redirected aggression must be closely considered and ruled out as a possible cause before a diagnosis of idiopathic aggression is made. These cats are dangerous, and pet parents of such cats should carefully assess their quality of life, as well as the safety of those around them.


Cats are predators, and predatory behaviors are completely natural and highly motivated behaviors for them. Many experts don’t classify predation as aggression because its purpose is to obtain food—unlike other types of aggression, which are responses to conflict. Cats are superb hunters. They use their acute vision and sensitivity to high-pitched sounds to locate their prey. They hunt insects, reptiles, rodents, young rabbits and birds. Most cats specialize in rodents, such as mice and voles, but a few become good at killing birds. When a cat detects potential prey, his predatory sequence of behaviors starts with silent stalking, watching and waiting for the perfect moment to strike (his rear end might wobble from side to side and his tail might twitch). Then he’ll finally sprint toward the prey and strike it with his front paws. If he’s successful, he’ll deliver a killing bite that all cat species use—he’ll bite the prey at the back of the neck to sever the spinal cord. If your cat likes to watch out the windows, you may have seen him become focused, twitch the end of his tail and move his mouth to make a strange chattering sound. When cats do this, it’s because they’ve detected prey that they’d like to hunt.

Always Work with Your Veterinarian

A medical workup is essential for all aggressive cats. Some cats behave aggressively because of a medical condition or complication. In addition to acute painful conditions, cats with orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality, adrenal dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, neurological disorders and sensory deficits can show increased irritability and aggression. Geriatric cats can suffer from confusion and insecurity, which could prompt aggressive behavior. Certain medications can alter mood and affect your cat’s susceptibility to aggression. Even diet has been implicated as a potential contributing factor. If a medical problem is detected, it’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to give your cat the best chance at improving.

Hetts, Suzanne. (1999). Pet Behavior Protocols. Lakewood, CO: AAHA Press.