Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team
The term "play aggression" can be misleading as it can look like intense play and occur in cats of any age. Cats with play aggression can target other cats, dogs, or even people in the household. This behavior can involve stalking, jumping at, biting or grabbing with the front or even back claws. Generally, the cat is practicing being a predator and therefore the behavior often peaks in the early morning hours or in the early evenings. Play-aggressive cats generally benefit from more room to romp around and play. Territory can also be increased by adding more vertical space, such as tall cat trees or shelves and adding enrichment.
These cats tend to be younger in age, very active,and with high energy. They become easily bored or may seem to have a short attention span. With scheduled appropriate playtime, these unwanted behaviors can often be redirected to appropriate play. Adequate enrichment is a major factor in decreasing aggression and improving the welfare of these cats.
It is important to understand that play behavior is natural and an important part of development. It keeps cats healthy and helps them learn about social interactions. It helps kittens develop their motor skills and helps adult cats ease stress and improve health. Above all, it strengthens the bond between cat and human when play is appropriate.
Play aggression can be improved and lived with as long we humans understand the behavior and use the suggested techniques with consistency. It is important to understand that this is an opportunity to improve the cat-human or a cat-cat relationship in a positive manner. Never punish a play-aggressive cat for this form of aggression. Appropriate fun play for you and your cat can lead to positive associations, increased trust, and better relationships.
This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.