September 2012 Issue

When Aggression Has a Physical Basis

Its emergence in older cats calls for special concern because they typically mellow with age.

Your cat is shy but generally sweet natured and affectionate. Imagine your shock, then, when you reach to pick him up and he tries to bite you — for no apparent reason. Did your cat’s inner tiger emerge? When the onset of feline aggression is sudden, there’s a good chance that the source could be a health problem, and you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. “A medical cause for aggression in cats is relatively rare, but it must always be ruled out,” says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, Ph.D., diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and emeritus James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The primary cause of medically based aggression is pain, no matter what the source of that pain.”

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