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Why do Cats Suddenly Attack Their Owners?

 by jaime on 28 Jul 2014 |
5 Comment(s)
It can be like a scene from Jaws. You can imagine the music playing in the background as you walk down the dark hallway, or near furniture where it could be lurking underneath. Just as you think you've made it safely passed, it springs from its hiding place and latches onto your legs. This isn't done with playful kitten joy, but with seemingly vicious intent to draw blood.
If you know this scene all too well, then you live with a cat that attacks without provocation. Some cats may turn on you when you are petting them. They may seem relaxed and happy one moment and then angry and fierce the next, leaving you with a bloody hand.
There are several reasons why a cat acts out with unprovoked aggression. Understanding the cause can help you decide how to work on solving this feline behavior problem.
Health issues
A cat that is sick for any reason may have a sudden personality change. A once sweet and affectionate cat may now be aloof and aggressive. A cat with an injury may attack when you touch a spot that hurts. Take your cat to the veterinarian to find out if there is a medical reason for your cat's behavior.  
Lack of socialization
Kittens that are not handled regularly by people at a young age grow up to be cats that don't know how to properly socialize with people. This can turn into aggression because they may fear people or just don't know how to properly interact with people.
Territorial behavior
The cat may be protecting its territory from intrusion. In such cases, the cat has not accepted humans as friends. They see people as enemies who are encroaching on their territory.
Hyperesthesia is a recognized anxiety disorder in cats. Cats with hyperesthesia are overly sensitive to any touch along the spine and tail. When pet down the back, they may have muscle spasms, become aggressive, or even appear to hallucinate. Experts do not completely understand this condition, but two theories are that it is a type of seizure disorder or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.
How to stop a cat that attacks
If your cat's aggression is not caused by a medical condition, then you can take steps at home to help your cat feel more comfortable around people. Make sure your cat has a retreat area where it can hide, feel safe, and take a break from people. A covered cat bed or tall cat tree works well as a kitty retreat. When your cat is in this space, leave it alone. Spend time with your cat feeding it favored cat treats. Feed the treats while petting to help your cat associate petting with good things. Don't ever hit or yell at your cat, as this will only reinforce their fear and aggressive behaviors.
If you have tried all these things at home and your cat is still aggressive, then ask your veterinarian for help. Your vet can prescribe medications to help with cat behavior problems. A veterinarian can also recommend a cat behaviorist who can come to your home and give you more advice that is specific to your individual cat's personality and behavior.


Doreen - Comment
Doreen10 Mar 2020Reply
We have had our cat 4 four years, we have had him since he was six weeks old. He is a sweet affectionate cat. My husband works from home and have become real buddies. The cat follows him everywhere. My husband is the main caregiver, grooms him, cuts his nails, changes his litter everyday with no issues. In the last 2 month's and as recently as two days ago he has tried to attack my husband for no reason. This last episode was very strange. My husband came home the cat was lying on the bed, my husband as normal petted him and he started to purr and proceeded to turn his belly for rubs as he always does. Husband came to the kitchen with kitty in tow and gave him treats. Husband was going on with his day and kitty walked under the dining room table to groom. My husband then went to clean out his box (which he has done for 4 years with no issues) and all heck broke loose. Cat started growling and hissing very violently puff tail and all and chased him into the bedroom and kept him trapped in there for an hour! continuing to growl and trying relentlessly to get into the room. I arrived home and he was back ti his playful self. The very next day I was home and again my husband went to clean his box and he started again this time I was able to defuse the situation but if I wasn’t home he would have done it again. I know some of you reading this may think my husband would have done something to get this reaction but this is not the case. We are both huge animal lovers and my hubby is kitty best friend. Ive always said that the kitty is addicted to him because he works from home. Now my husband is getting surgery and has to recover at home and now wants the cat gone. What could be causing this?
Nalan - Comment
Nalan10 Mar 2020Reply
Hi Doreen,
I lived same situation this week.
I don't understand, like a we turned the switch and she becomes angry and terrified. She attacked me two times. What is your situation now? Did you find what is the problems?
Mrs Sykes - Comment
Mrs Sykes15 Apr 2020Reply
My cat did the exact same with me on Xmas day after cleaning his litter. He’d only been with us for 2 wks we rescued him. Everything has been fine since & he’s settled in nicely.
But he has just attacked me yesterday again 5 mins after doing his litter. He’s been fine this morning was brushing round my legs a minute later after I’d walked to the other end kitchen he came at me again hissing & teeth bared my husband managed to get him away from me
Ginny - Comment
Ginny21 Apr 2020Reply
My cat is lovesble and doesnt fight with other cats and gets along with my dog. But tonight is the 3rd time she attacked me. I was petting her and she loved it and was purring and rolling with her head down and getting excited and out of nowhere she attacked a d I have 3 punctures in my hand from her teeth and 2 punctures from her claws. Out of reflex I popped her on her hind quarters and yelled. She then almost looked cornered and acted as if she was ready to attack again. It kind of scared me. She is 6 and have had her since she was a few months old. It is almost like she gets over excited. Sometimes I walk away before she gets that excited. But this time I forgot. I feel bad I hit her, but it was a reaction. It wasn't hard. But it isn't something you should ever do. 😞
Francie J - Comment
Francie J25 Apr 2020Reply
I don't know what to do any more. My cat kept attacking me this morning. He flew across the room and tried to land on my chest. I pushed him away and he went for my hands then feet. I have two puncture wounds. I picked him up and put him on our screened in porch. He looked so scary as he went for me, His rage was very frightening. His ears flattened and his eyes became fully dilated. He is four years old and this is not the first unprovoked incident. I don't know what to do.. It's so sad.
The first time my cat Benny attacked me was after I came home from twelve days in the hospital . It really shocked me as his ears went back and he advanced toward me , I did not expect this . It has happened a few times since and usually draws blood ...

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