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My Pet World: How to deal with unexpected cat aggression

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I took in a 10-year old indoor/outdoor cat who needed a home. I am a senior and she is the only pet, but I have had cats before.

After about a week, she started becoming acclimated to me and the condo. I was told she could not be picked up and held. She allows quick head and belly rubs and has become a lap and bed cat at her discretion.

The problem is, she attacks me mostly on the arms by leaping at me without warning. She has drawn blood several times. I know not to provoke her and pet her only when she is sitting quietly on my lap. I cannot see any obvious reason for her quick, unexpected mean behavior. Minutes later, she will approach me as if nothing has occurred.

Can you give me any ideas what to do in this case? I've given her the calming chews, but I don't know if they are effective.

- Karen, Bristol, Connecticut


Dear Karen,

Feline aggression can be scary and yet is a fairly common problem reported by cat owners. Cats are sensitive to their environments and may react aggressively if overstimulated (through petting) or are afraid (through poor early socialization or stressful living conditions).

Redirected aggression, which happens when they see a stimulus, such as an outdoor cat or squirrel that they can't get to, also can result in a sudden attack from an agitated cat. Most cats will settle down over time if their owners learn to watch for what bothers them.

First, rule out a health problem with your veterinarian. Cats who are in pain will sometimes attack their owners. Have a vet come to the house so the cat is not stressed with a trip to the vet.


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