The Hervey Foundation for Cats
Strategies for Calming an Angry Cat

Strategies for Calming an Angry Cat

Cats are fun-loving creatures, but when feeling scared, threatened, or even just frustrated, they can sometimes lash out. Cats are very transparent creatures – they will show their emotions when they are feeling them – and sometimes a play session or a reaction to a loud noise can result in a swipe of the claws. 

For some cats who are chronically upset, there are very likely some environmental factors that are causing their distress, and while the following strategies will help, in these cases, talking to a vet is also recommended.

Regardless of whether they are upset frequently or just from time to time, dealing with an angry cat doesn’t have to be a daunting affair. The right approach and understanding can help soothe your cat’s anger, and it might even bring you closer to them!

Recognize the Signs of Feline Anger

Before engaging with cats, in general, it’s important to be able to read their behaviour. Part of that includes recognizing the signs when they’re starting to rev up their energy. By this, we mean that moment when a cat starts to get excited, and their aggression/hunting instincts start to kick in.

When a cat is starting to slip into this aggressive/hunting mode, or they are starting to feel scared or upset, you might notice a few changes in their body language. They will often adopt flattened ears, dilated pupils, an arched back, and they will track your hands, or whatever they feel is a potential threat, with their eyes. At this point, they still have not crossed over into full aggression, but they are likely close.

Cats who cross over from apprehensive, or worried, to scared, or angry, usually make it obvious. Many people are familiar with hissing, growling, swatting, and puffed-up fur. These are all signs your cat likely needs to be left alone for a period. 

Once you know feline body language, you can figure out when your cat is starting to feel overwhelmed and prevent them from being pushed any further. This allows you to avoid a bad situation before it even starts and prevent others from escalating things.

Allow Space and Time

When a cat is angry, give them space and time to calm down. This is the only way to get a cat to deescalate on their end and it’s the most important step. Avoid forcing physical contact or trying to pick them up and give them a chance to retreat to their safe space. This is a good lesson for dealing with humans as well! 

Cats often experience strong fight or flight emotions, sometimes in situations we cannot predict. In many cases, however, cats prefer to flee than fight. By giving them the ability to retreat, you make it easy for them to choose the safer outcome, and once they’ve calmed down, they’ll come back to you. Patience is key.

Use Gentle Touch and Soothing Sounds

Once your cat has started to calm down, you can use a gentle touch and a soft voice to comfort them. If your cat responds to touch (they enjoy pets and physical attention), you can slowly approach them while speaking softly and offering your hand to sniff. If they allow it, you can also pet them gently. Once again, pay attention to their body language and stop if they show signs of discomfort.

Create a Safe and Calming Environment

If you find your cat is frequently distressed and angry, take a step back and have an objective look at your home. Is it loud? Are there lots of people speaking loudly? Is the TV always on? Is there loud music? Cats need relative calm, and if they don’t have a safe space to retreat to, they will feel desperate. If your home is loud, make sure your cat has a quiet, safe space they can use. If your home has a lot of people, perhaps a spot up high or down low might fit the bill. Ideally, though, you will adjust the energy in the home to provide a more calming place for your cat. 

Avoid Punishment

When a cat is angry, it’s important to remember that in the moment they are unable to think rationally. An animal pushed into fight or flight can only process threats and escapes. If you attempt to punish a cat that is already upset, they will flee or attack. They cannot understand cause and effect, in other words, they cannot understand a punishment only happens in response to another action. 

Cats need time to defuse and punishing them does the opposite. In fact, punishing your cat will not just anger them further, but it will weaken your relationship with them and make the situation worse over time. Yelling, spraying water, or physically reprimanding your cat can lead to increased fear and aggression. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and rewards for calm behaviour.

Provide Interactive Play and Mental Stimulation

Cats who seem to be frequently angry or aggressive might just be lacking in mental or physical stimulation. Sometimes it stems from boredom or pent-up energy, and you can help them with this!

Engage your cat in interactive play sessions using toys like feathers, strings, or laser pointers. This not only helps redirect their focus, but it provides mental stimulation and a little physical exertion. At the end of the day, a tired, stimulated cat is a lot less likely to act out than one that has been full of energy all day. See our blog about laser pointers!

Talk to a Vet About Chronic Anger

If your cat’s anger issues persist or worsen over time, please consult a veterinarian or an animal behaviourist. They can assess your cat’s behaviour, rule out any underlying health conditions, and provide professional guidance tailored to your specific situation. In some cases, cats become aggressive while experiencing pain and there might be something causing them to act out.

Dealing with an angry cat requires patience, understanding, and a gentle approach. By recognizing the signs of feline anger, and following some of the techniques we’ve outlined, you might be able to help calm your angry cat and even strengthen your bond with them. Remember, every cat is unique, so be sure to observe your cat’s behaviour and adapt these techniques accordingly.


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