Kitty Conflict Communication – How NOT to get Shredded!

Picture it, you’re sitting on the floor and your cat comes over to you. She flops down on the floor in front of you, rolls onto her back and starts to purr; she clearly wants you to pet her. So you do, you’re happy and she’s happy. Then suddenly, without warning, you feel a stunningly sharp pain – kitty has had enough, so she bit you and took off. WTF?

This blog is about aggressive cat behaviour so you can avoid getting shredded in the future.

When do cats bite/scratch?

There are a number of reasons a cat might bite or scratch. Dr. Ron Hines lists several reasons a cat might act aggressively:

  • Aggressive play
  • Territory-based aggression
  • Fear
  • Illness, injury, or other medical problems
  • Petting-induced aggression
  • Dominance
  • Maternal aggression
  • Instinctive hunting behaviour

If you think your cat is acting aggressively due to injury or illness seek veterinary attention. For more information on any of these topics check out Dr. Hines’ article.

Know When to Leave Kitty Alone!

The most effective way to avoid getting shredded by kitty is to learn a little about cat body language. If you know what to look for you can avoid painful bites and scratches. Cat body language consists mainly of tail movements, body position, ear position, tone of voice, and eye contact.

Earlier this year we posted a blog about general cat communication. To read that blog click here.

Some of this stuff might be hard to visualize. The below table gives a comprehensive description of cat body language and includes pictures.



Source: http://i0.wp.com/pawsintraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Reading-cats-body-language.png

When kitty starts to display behaviours in rows 3-6 it’s time to leave him alone. When you’re petting your cat and you notice that his eyes are following your hand movements it’s time to move on; kitty is thinking of biting you. If you’re playing with/petting kitty and you think he’s about to lash out at you calmly and slowly leave before kitty’s behaviour changes from anxious to aggressive.

Learning to correctly decipher cat body language will help you avoid becoming a scratching post.

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Want More?

There’s so much information out there. Here’s where we got our information:

  • Hines’ article about cat aggression:


  • Table detailing cat body language:


  • Article discussing Petting Induced Aggression:


  • Article about cat behaviour:


Preventing Dog Bites

Why do Dogs Bite?

According to veterinarian Dr. Sofia Yin the main reason dogs bite is because owners don’t always have a good understanding of dog body language. Often owners don’t know when their dog is signalling aggressive behaviours. Consequently, owners reinforce the biting behaviour without realizing it.

For more about biting behaviour check out Dr. Yin’s short video: http://drsophiayin.com/videos/entry/why_dogs_bite1

How do you Know if a Dog is going to Bite? 

The simple answer is body language. As a pet owner the best thing you can do is get to know your dog. Here are some questions to consider about your dog’s behaviour:
1. Is my dog possessive?
2. Is my dog fearful, nervous, or suspicious of others/strangers?
3. Does my dog have a high prey drive?
4. Is my dog a mother? Dogs with puppies become very protective
5. Is my dog sick, injured, or in pain?

(The above questions are based common reasons dogs bite as suggested by Dr. Kristy Conn)

If the answer is yes to any of these questions it’s important to learn how your dog shows these behaviours – what’s Rover’s body language telling you about his state of mind?
For a quick review of dog body language you can check out this short video from the Humane Society: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/avoid_dog_bites.html

Preventing Dog Bites

Dr. Conn states that the first step in preventing dog bites is recognizing that all dogs have the capacity to bite in the right situation. Knowing this, owners must learn to read their dog’s body language and behaviour.  It’s probably not much of a surprise but more than half of reported dog bite victims are kids. Kids are playful, can be aggressive, and don’t understand body language. These conditions can lead Rover to nip, and possibly bite.

Dr. Yin states that it’s important to teach kids how to react if a dog starts nipping. Instead of running away from the dog or screaming, (behaviours that can cause the dog to become more aggressive), Dr. Yin suggests that kids stand still and not engage the dog.  Here are some tips for preventing dog bites suggested by Cesar’s Way:

• Don’t play aggressive games
• Train submissive behaviours
• Get your dog spayed or neutered
• Vaccinate your dog – prevents behavioural changes due to illness
• Do not leave your dog unsupervised around babies or kids

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We want to hear from you! Aggressive dogs in public places – is a yellow leash or ribbon enough? Post your answer on our Facebook page

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Want More?

Want to check out the articles that informed this blog? Click the below links:

• Doctor Yin’s video about biting behaviour: http://drsophiayin.com/videos/entry/why_dogs_bite1
• The Humane Society’s video and article about dog body language: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/avoid_dog_bites.html
• Dr. Conn’s blog about preventing dog bites: http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/biting/Dog-Bites-101-Why-Bites-Happen
• Cesar’s Way blog about avoiding dog bites: http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/biting/How-you-can-prevent-dog-bites

Tail wagging isn’t always a good thing

Cat Communication

Cats can be difficult to understand. The way cats communicate is quite subtle. But they have a lot of ways of telling you how they’re feeling and what they need. Cats communicate using:
  • Tone of voice (chirps, meows, groans, and growls)
  • Eye contact and blinking
  • Posture and body language:
    • Position of ears
    • Tail position and motion

This blog focuses on cat body language. Specifically, how your cat’s ears, body, and tail react when your cat is happy/excited, interested/alert, scared/anxious, or aggressive/agitated.

Cat Communication 28012015_Page1

All cats are different. Your cat may have other ways of communicating with you. The above table describes basic cat body language. Remember when meeting a new cat to be on the lookout for behaviour in the last 2 columns.

Tail Positions

The tail positions might be hard to visualize. The below graphic shows what your cat is trying to tell you with his tail.

Cat Communication 28012015_Page2Source: http://www.catwows.com/cat-care/cat-body-language-tail/

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