1887

Aggression in cats

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Abstract

Although aggression is more readily associated with dogs it is also a significant behavioural problem in a feline context. Owners most commonly approach the veterinary practice with concerns over aggressive behaviour toward family members or other cats in the same household. This chapter deals with societal effects of aggression, the behavioural biology of aggression, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, follow-up, prevention.

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Figures

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19.1 Percentage of cats showing each category of ‘undesirable behaviour’ in the general population survey ( = 113). (Data from R. Casey.)
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19.2 Numbers of cats in ‘undesirable behaviour’ categories referred to a specialist centre over a 6-month period in 2000 ( = 61). (Data from R. Casey.)
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19.3 In this interaction, two cats are using a combination of body language and vocalization to prevent escalation of the confrontation into physical violence. The ears are particularly expressive, indicating defensive motivation in both cats, and the weight distribution indicates that both individuals are preparing themselves to be able to swipe with their front paws in a defensive action. (Courtesy of A. Lummersheim.)
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19.4 Feline visual communication signals help to differentiate between an alert non-threatened cat , a fearful and defensive cat , and a confident aggressive cat . Reproduced from by the UK Cat Behaviour Working Group (1995); plates 3,4,5,6,7,16 and 17; by permission of Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), Wheathampstead.
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19.5 Defensive strategies: The crouched body posture, dilated pupils and fixated stare are signs of a negative state of emotion which is likely to make this cat defensive if approached rapidly. Slow cautious approach will be needed to avoid inducing an aggressive response. The dilated pupils, tense body posture and backward-rotated ears combined with the stiffened whiskers indicate the negative emotional state of arousal of this cat. (Courtesy of J. Hudson.) The hunched and tense body posture, and selection of an inaccessible resting location, suggest that this cat is retreating from potential threat. The position of the ears indicates that the cat is scanning the environment for auditory information and the dilated pupils also illustrate the negative state of arousal of this individual.
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19.6 Passive signs of conflict. Using visual threat, the cat on the table intends to move the cat on the windowsill to a safe distance without the need for physical confrontation. In this encounter between two strangers, the grey individual is displaying tense body posturing with mobile ears searching for information. It is avoiding eye contact with the other individual, who in turn takes a wide berth and moves slowly and deliberately so as to avoid inducing a chase response. In this encounter between two cats in the same household, each cat is displaying tense body posturing and defensive ear positioning. The black and white cat is avoiding eye contact, while the tabby and white appears ready to launch a paw strike and if necessary roll over to release the other paws for defensive action. (Courtesy of A. Lummersheim.)
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19.7 Coping strategies. In situations of social tension between cats, height can be used to provide more options for distancing from one another and avoiding outright confrontation. (Courtesy of A. Lummersheim.) This shelter cat has retreated to an inaccessible and elevated location. Attempts to retrieve the cat will increase its perception of being threatened and increase the risk of defensive aggression in response.

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