Why Do Cats Attack?

My cat bite last week made me wonder why do cats attack?  I thought that if I could help educate people as to the reasons why cats might attack, it could help us all to avoid such attacks in the future.  You may have seen stories in the news about cats that have attacked their owners and even held them “hostage” in their own homes.  Yes, those things do happen, but they are rare.

According to the ASPCA, there are approximately 85.8 million cats owned as pets in the United States alone.  Around 44% of all US households have a dog, and 35% have a cat. It’s important to remember that most domesticated cats if properly socialized, will never attack or bite their owners unless they are provoked. But also you need to understand that cats are animals that can be subject to mood shits and affected by such factors as hormones, stress, or changes in their environment.  And even if your cat has never acted aggressively before, there is a first time for everything, so never say never!  After call, cats can be unpredictable.


Please don’t get me wrong, cats are gorgeous creatures and I’ve owned and loved many cats throughout my life.  But I just want you to be aware of what can happen, and the warning signs to watch out for.

Common Causes of Aggression

Petting Aggression:  I talked about this in my last post because I’ve experienced it firsthand, and have talked to many other people who have had the same experience.  Petting your cat can cause them to become over-stimulated or even uncomfortable, which is why they may turn around and bite when you’re petting them.  Watch out for the warning signs such as their skin twitching, vocalizations, changing positions, or swatting their tail.

Fear:  This is the most common reason of all that your cat may become suddenly aggressive.  You may not even be aware that there is anything for them to be fearful of, but cats can become startled over even a simple thing.  Check out this video to see what I mean.


Protecting Their Territory:  Cats are very territorial and will protect what’s theirs from other animals and humans as well.

Mamas Protecting Their Young:  A female cat with young kittens is naturally going to protect her babies.

Pain-induced:  A cat in pain is likely going to lash out.  This is possibly what caused my client’s cat to attack me.  The owner explained that Ms. Tabby had recently been treated for a severe case of kidney stones and apparently hadn’t been feeling well ever since.  Anyone who has ever suffered with kidney stones knows all too well the excruciating pain that it causes.  They told me Ms. Tabby had been grumpy ever since.  So who can blame her?  She probably just wanted to be left alone to do her own thing and I got in the way.

Unprovoked:  Although rare, some cats seem to become aggressive for no particular identifiable reason.  Bottom line is, cats can be unpredictable.

Heed the Warning Signs

You are probably familiar with most of these, but here are the things you need to watch out for that will signal you it’s time to back off:

  • Fur stands on end
  • Ears back
  • Growling
  • Hissing and spitting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tail twitching
  • Skin twitching
  • Tail tucked down
  • Crouching


Bottom Line

Just like dogs, cats come from wild ancestors.  Even domesticated cats still have that predator and prey instinct which can cause them to become defensive.  But if they are raised by people who treat them with love, kindness and patience, they can become the loving pets that we want them to be.

So go ahead, love your cats, spoil them, pamper them, but be aware of the warning signs to avoid an attack.  What has been your experience with cats?  Please share your stories in the comments.  Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *