How do I change my cats violent behavior?
June 29, 2008 10:08 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop my cat from violently attacking strangers when they come over?

So I've had my cat for a few years now and she's awesome and all but about two years ago my Grandpa came over and she went hysterical.

I'm not sure what about him triggered it, but she got really nasty and started hissing and howling at him. Anyway, now she does it to everyone she doesn't know, but the people she has met before (even like once) she doesn't have a problem with.

If you try to go near her when she is being like this she will back up and continue to hiss. Also toys and treats will not distract her.

It was never a big deal before cause she had met all my friends at one point or another before the "Grandpa incident" but ever since getting back from college I can't have other people that I've met come over without locking her up somewhere.

So what are my options to get her to stop this behavior?
posted by jModug to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your cat actually try and attack strangers, or does she growl/hiss/bite when strangers approach her or come into her territory? The latter behavior is VERY unusual for a cat -- almost all cats who dislike strangers react by avoiding them, and will only act aggressive when cornered or approached. Does your cat have a safe place it can go and hide when company is over? Can you put her food/water/litterbox away from the areas where company will be hanging out?

Making sure your cat has a "safe" place where she can escape company is the most important thing you can do for her wellbeing. Cats hate changes to their routine, and when faced with stressful situations, they need a place they can rely on where they can be comfortable and left alone.

If you've already got these things under control, my suggestions are to:

(1) Purchase a Feliway diffuser from a petstore or online. Feliway is undetectable to humans, but it truly seems to calm down anxious cats.

(2) Do not make a big deal or freak out about your cat's behavior. Don't fuss about before company is about to come over. Your cat can tell when you are acting "weird", and she's going to learn that when you act weird, it's time for her to act weird. I think sometimes when you predict your cat is going to flip out, they can feed in on that emotion and feel like there is a good reason to flip out. Stay calm and act the way you always do.

(3) Tell your friends and family not to bother your cat. Most cats will NOT attack unless provoked, even if they hate company. But a terrified cat is going to bite and scratch when someone tries to pick her up. Some people are just stupid about leaving unhappy pets alone, so it never hurts to just cover your ass and say nicely when they come in "Fluffy is really nervous around strangers, so please don't try and pet her or pick her up."
posted by tastybrains at 10:38 AM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whoops, in my first paragraph, I meant the former behavior is very unusual. It is not unusual for a cat to "attack" when it feels threatened with no escape. It is unusual for a cat to hunt out a person and attack them, unprovoked.
posted by tastybrains at 10:39 AM on June 29, 2008

well she attacks them as soon as they enter the door or if she's upstairs she will run down and start hissing at them. I mean she has her safe place for when she is scared cause she will hide under the bed, but she has never been scared of people coming in.
posted by jModug at 10:48 AM on June 29, 2008

>>(1) Purchase a Feliway diffuser from a petstore or online.
>>Feliway is undetectable to humans, but it truly seems to calm down anxious cats.

No do not purchase a Feliway. I found that it had no beneficial effect on my cats' behavior, but really interfered with my ability to breath. Unplugging the damn things fixed the asthma symptoms. When i subsequently googled the product I found that many other people had had the same experience. I don't even get asthma normally.
posted by w0mbat at 10:53 AM on June 29, 2008

Ok, well, I guess it's undetectable to most humans? My husband and I never had a problem with it, and it did seem to help our cats. So, as with anything YMMV, but if you don't have asthma (and my husband has asthma and never had a problem with it), I can't see how it could hurt.
posted by tastybrains at 10:55 AM on June 29, 2008

Feliway was like feline voodoo for our cats. It might not have worked for w0mbat, but it's worked for everyone I know who's ever tried it.
posted by Jairus at 1:27 PM on June 29, 2008

Has she been to the vet about this? There may be an anxiety issue going on here that could be remedied by kitty Prozac and the like.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:44 PM on June 29, 2008

Just FWIW, Feliway didn't do crap for our cats, but it didn't cause we humans any problems, either.
posted by wierdo at 8:47 PM on June 29, 2008

This sounds like "fear aggression", if you want a good search term to look up.

Feliway worked very well for my brother's fear-aggressive cat, at least to get her used to me, while I was catsitting her. I'm not so sure how well it will work for generalized fear of everyone, but my advice for application would be: about an hour before you expect the visitors, get the Feliway out, put it in the applicator in a socket in a small(ish) room where the cat likes to be, and put the cat in that room along with food, water, and a place to hide. If they're staying longer than an hour or so, open the door about halfway into the visit. This should, over time, calm the cat a lot to the presence of visitors.

Personally I found Feliway detectable, but not unpleasant in any way. You can get it from many vet surgeries these days, and they will let you have a sniff of it to see if you experience it as unpleasant or allergenic.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:43 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

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