When the Claws Come Out
"Play aggression" describes the rough-and-tumble of two cats, or even a cat and a dog roughhousing. It's normal social behavior, as long as it doesn't get too rowdy, says Ilona Rodan, DVM, a board-certified vet in feline practice in Madison, WI.
Nevertheless, a cat may act truly aggressive when it's fearful or defending its territory, or if it's been hurt, says Estep.
When Catharine Hamm of Glendale, CA, volunteered to care for her vacationing mother's 9-year-old Abyssinian, she wasn't prepared to be a lion tamer. Little Mo, who was known for her surly disposition, was so frightened by the sudden change in her routine that she hid in Hamm's guest room for 2 weeks.
"The night I was to take Mo back to Mom's, I needed to put her in the cat carrier," Hamm recalls. "I eventually got her in, but it was like a 13-round prize fight." Hamm had to go on antibiotics to prevent infection in the 15 bites she received.
Despite Mo's less-than-winning personality, Hamm could have short-circuited some of the cat's aggression, says Estep. These tips would have helped her do so--and will help you turn your own tiger into "nice kitty."