August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Cats should never be physically reprimanded. Unwanted behaviors should be avoided by managing the interactions and environment, and by engaging your cat in positive behaviors.

Aggression is a very serious yet common behavioral issue in cats. It is a symptom of an underlying problem, and needs to be taken seriously. Aggressive behavior can be seen in cats of any breed, size, age, or gender. When cats display aggression when reprimanded, it stems mostly from fear and defense. A fearful cat may exhibit dilated pupils, ears turning back, or a twitching tail. In this situation, cats may growl, hiss or swat at the person reaching, touching or petting. Pain or discomfort when reprimanding can also lead to aggression.

If your cat displays any behaviors that cause you to want to reprimand your cat, consult with a professional right away.

It is important to follow guidelines for a healthy way to interact with your cats. Here are the key points:

  • Manage the environment and the interactions so that your cat can engage in positive behaviors with you and the environment.
  • Play in a constructive way with your cat. Use wand toys and provide food dispensing toys.
  • Reward your cat often with toys, kind words or treats when you catch them doing something good.
  • Punishment is not the way to address any behavior problem. Never yell at or hit your cats as this will not help. It will only make your cat fear you or become even more aggressive.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®.