January 28, 2023

My cat is aggressive towards visitors!

Q I am concerned about my eight-month-old Cornish Rex, Alfie. After his neutering operation, the vet staff could not handle him and he was aggressive with the judges at a show recently too. I put him in a cattery to socialize him, but he wouldn’t let the staff in to feed him. I have since tried another cattery, where he settled in but didn’t like other cats near him. Do you think his attitude will change?

Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini advises: Your second thoughts sound spot on. Cats are not a social species, and if Alfie is not sociable with other cats this is a recipe for feline stress.

It also sounds as though, with the best of motives, Alfie has been through a lot of stress. Efforts to socialize him have been pressurizing and probably frightening, so are likely to have had the opposite effect.

Socialize Alfie with other people by inviting neighbours, friends and family members to your house to feed and play with him. This needs to be done in a very controlled and structured way, starting with people who most resemble those who handled him at his breeding establishment.

You and others need to interact with Alfie in a low-key way. Fishing rod-style and thrown toys are ideal. You could make up little parcels with greaseproof or rice paper, containing treats. Dangle the parcels and then from time to time let him catch, ‘kill’ and eat the treat. This should gradually help Alfie to associate people with good things.

Everyone must be careful not to impose unwanted close contact attention upon Alfi e or stare at him, because this is threatening. Gradually they could then start to engage in more hands-on interaction, getting to the stage of grooming him, checking his ears, etc, using treats or play as a reward.