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This session will focus primarily on the most common reason cats display aggression toward the people they live with: to solicit play and attention. Cats, by nature, are playful and busy. In a natural environment, they will spend time stalking and hunting prey 10 or more times a day. In a typical home, though, a single cat is alone 10 to 12 hours a day or more, and her humans may physically interact with her for less than 30 minutes a day when they are home. As a result, cats get bored, and spend their days waiting around for something (anything!) to move so they can pounce on it. When cats are with other playful cats, especially young cats, they will fling each other around and wrestle in rough play. With humans, flinging us around is not an option, so young cats with a lot of energy and not enough ways to burn it off may often resort to biting humans’ fingers or grabbing our body parts in play. Young cats are also easily over-stimulated, and owners may not know how to end play sessions leaving their cats calm and satisfied, rather than wound up. Aggression to solicit play and attention can be characterized by cats stalking their humans, pouncing, grabbing body parts and/or biting. To the owner, this behavior often seems to come out of the blue, and may be interpreted as “angry,” “dominant,” “crazy,” “territorial,” or a combination of several of these. Cats lack the bite inhibition that is often found in dogs, so these attacks can be scary and painful. Typical owner reactions, which may include yelling, chasing, throwing something, squirting the cat with water, wrestling with the cat, can inadvertently reinforce the behavior. The session will also discuss fear/defensive aggression. As a long-term problem, this is often the result of rough handling (including rough play) and/or lack of early socialization. As a short-term problem, it is often a sign of illness or injury. Typically, this kind of aggression is more specifically directed at a single person or a situation than is aggression to solicit play and attention. Finally, the session will touch briefly on the causes of redirected aggression directed at humans, and how to respond to it. Learning Objectives: Understand the causes of aggression to solicit play and attention. Understand the causes of fear/defensive aggression. Understand the causes of redirected aggression toward humans. Recognize the different presentations of these three types of aggression. Learn how to respond safely to feline aggression, regardless of the cause. Learn what types of reactions do and do not reinforce aggressive behavior. Understand how the physical layout of the cat’s living space affects aggression to solicit play and attention. Learn how to formulate a behavior modification plan to address aggression to solicit play and attention. Learn how to formulate a behavior modification plan to address fear/defensive aggression. Learn how to recognize and respond to redirected aggression directed at humans.
Sponsor:Pet Professional Guild