Feline aggression can be surprising and distressing. It can be hard for many cat owners to understand why their companion is lashing out at them or how they can prevent the behavior in the future. It’s particularly distressing and perplexing when a beloved pet attacks one person and nobody else in the household — especially if the cat is normally affectionate and amiable. Cat scratches and bites can even be dangerous, raising the prospect of infections, blood-borne illnesses and complications that cause ongoing problems long after the injury. Fortunately, this kind of feline aggression can often be resolved with the right approach.
Why does my cat attack me and no one else? It may be that your cat can smell another animal on you or you’re treating the cat differently to the other people in your household without realizing it. If you’re the main caregiver for your cat, you may spend more time with her and therefore face more opportunities for aggression.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about your cat’s aggressive behavior.
- Why does my cat scratch and bite me, and only me?
- Why does my cat suddenly turn on me while being petted?
- Why does my cat seem to be afraid of me?
- How can I stop my cat from attacking me?
Fortunately, we have the answers you’re looking for. Read on to find out why you might be the target of feline aggression and what you can do to get your cat to stop attacking you.
Why does my cat attack me and no one else?
The possible reasons why your cat might choose to attack you while leaving everyone else alone are diverse. They range from fear and anxiety, behavioral problems, neurological or other health issues, or simply a mismatch of communication styles between you and your cat.
One common reason that a person might find their cat attacking them rather than anyone else in the household is that they’re the person who spends the most time with the cat. If you are the individual who takes care of feeding, grooming and playing with the cat, there are simply more opportunities for you to fall victim to kitty aggression. By managing your interactions with your cat more carefully, you can reduce or even eliminate cat attacks.
A cat may attack you to get your attention. She might feel left out or ignored when you’re busy and will get you to interact with her by lashing out. This tends to be counter-productive, of course, but the cat doesn’t understand this.
Cats sometimes attack a particular person because they pick up on a particular odor from that individual. If you work with animals — particularly dogs or other cats — this may trigger a fear response in your own cat. Cats are highly territorial and a whiff of an unknown cat or a threatening dog can generate a lot of anxiety, which is then directed towards you as the source of the smell. A similar thing can happen if you work with other sources of strong scents, such as perfumes, foodstuffs or even paint and building materials. Try changing your clothes and washing before you interact with your cat.
Some cats attack a specific individual because that person’s treatment is different from the rest of the household. You don’t have to be treating your cat badly for this to happen — some cats are just very particular about the way they like humans to interact with them.
If your cat attacks you when you’re stroking her, it may be that you’re giving her too much of the wrong sort of stimulation. If you stroke her entire body from nose to tail, she may find this pleasant at first but then “overload” from the sensation. If you see your cat’s tail twitching when you’re stroking her, switch to petting her head and neck or begin a different activity, such as giving her a toy to chase.
One common reason for a cat to attack you is that you invaded her personal space in some way. We’ll discuss the proper way to approach a cat in more detail later in the article.
Finally, it may be that you have done something to scare or upset your cat and haven’t rebuilt trust. You might not have meant to but because a cat’s mind works very differently from a person’s it’s possible to cause significant distress even if your intentions were wholly positive. Cats sometimes become averse to a person who has punished them for something or who has acted in a way that the cat found unpleasant.
How come my cat bites and scratches me during playtime?
It’s important to spend plenty of time each day playing with your cat. I would recommend a bare minimum of 15 minutes twice per day, once in the morning (before you leave for work is a good time) and once before bed so your cat won’t pester you. Allowing your cat to burn off nervous energy in this way can help with a number of issues, including aggression.
If your cat attacks you during playtime, take a look at the way you’re interacting with her. If she pounces on your hand or arm when you offer her a toy, switch to a teaser toy on a long string. Don’t let your cat pounce on your hands or treat parts of your body as toys. She’s apt to get carried away and attack you in more serious ways.
Ensure that your cat doesn’t become angry and frustrated during playtime. Allow her to catch the teaser toy now and again. If she never gets the satisfaction of a successful “hunt” she is apt to become fractious and irritable. This is one reason I’m not a huge fan of laser pointers as toys. If your cat enjoys chasing the dot around they are fine, but because there’s nothing to catch some cats will become frustrated with the game and take it out on you. Make sure there’s a payoff: a moment or two to chew on the toy or a tasty treat to help satisfy her hunting urge.
Avoid playing too aggressively with your cat. Don’t chase her around the room with an item she’s scared of or make a lot of sudden loud noises while you’re playing. If she becomes genuinely frightened, she may lash out.
How come my cat attacks me when I tickle her tummy or pick her up?
A cat who’s fine with being petted on one part of the body may not be keen on being petted everywhere. Pay attention to your cat’s responses and don’t assume that she’ll enjoy everything you do. For example, a cat may roll onto her back and show you her belly as an expression of trust. People misread this as an invitation to tickle her tummy and are rebuffed quickly and firmly. If you think your cat might really want a tummy tickle, slowly extend your hand towards her and see how she reacts. If she tenses up or fusses, back off.
Picking a cat up can be another source of stress, and thus aggression. Sometimes people who claim to be the only person their cats attack are also the only people in the house who insist on scooping their cats up in their arms and trying to cuddle them. Some cats absolutely love this and would happily stay in your arms all day; others are happy enough to be picked up for a few moments but will want to be put down before too long; and there are some cats who absolutely hate to be picked up and will immediately turn into spitting, scratching ball of rage.
Instead of scooping your cat up, initiate the lift by slipping your hands under her chest and applying a little upward pressure. If she seems comfortable with this, lift her up for a few moments. Keep an eye on her tail — this is your easiest warning sign that she’s becoming stressed. At the first twitch or wiggle, set her gently back down. She needs to know she can trust you not to hold onto her for too long.
How can I prevent my cat from attacking me?
Most cat attacks are the result of stress or fear. Try to find out if something is making your cat anxious and resolve it. For example: if there’s another cat or other animal in the house who bullies her, she may express her anxiety by attacking you.
Ensure that your home is somewhere a cat can feel comfortable and secure. Provide high perches and habitats where she can hide and peek out of; ensure that she has things to climb around on and explore. Give her a scratching post so she can keep her claws in good condition and exercise her muscles and tendons properly.
As mentioned above, make sure your cat has plenty of stimulation in the form of active play. You can also help her stay happy and entertained by providing puzzle toys that stimulate her mind. Something else that can help is a pinch of catnip once or twice a day. This herb has a calming effect on cats and may help with aggression.
When you interact with your cat, be calm, quiet and respectful of her personal space. Do not run-up to her suddenly or make loud noises. Keep your movements slow and gentle, and always pay attention to her body language.
Above all, never punish your cat for acts of aggression towards you. This will make the situation worse, not better. It’s unlikely that the cat realized she was doing anything wrong and she will not understand why you’re hurting her. She will come to think of you as a large and dangerous creature, given to smacking and yelling at cats. This will make her even warier and frightened — and thus more likely to attack you in future.