Cat rage is one step beyond cat fear. Cats can go from calm to fear to rage in seconds. This is because cats have small frontal lobes, we are told, and this area of the brain controls or puts the brakes on emotions1. Humans have much bigger frontal lobes than cats, apparently.
To be honest, I am not even sure that “cat rage” is a biologically approved or accepted term. Or, indeed, whether animal experts are anthropomorphizing cat emotions. Do cats rage? Or are they just being highly aggressive because the circumstances demand it?
Perhaps cat rage could simply be acute fear and defensive aggression. In fact, I am almost certain it is.
I have never seen cat rage except in one well known cat video (see right) where the cat is terrified while in a cage and he screams in rage and fear. I sense that cat rage is a rare and unpleasant sight.
It seems to me that so called “cat rage” is an emotional reaction to extreme fear. A cat can fight or run away (fight-or-flight response). The orange cat in video has no where to hide so he has to fight.
An aspect of cat rage that makes me enraged is that a lot of people make stupid comments about fearful cats demonstrating cat rage. The title of the video on this page pretty much sums up this attitude. It is called “Very Angry Cat – FUNNY”. It is not funny for me. It is upsetting.
Cat rage can manifest itself in redirected aggression. This happens when a cat gets mad at another cat, for example, but, not being able to attack the cat, then proceeds to attack his owner who tries to pick him up.
Temple Grandin makes an interesting point about adult domestic cats being less adult that adult wild cats. She says that wild cats are less “neotenized” than domestic cats. That rare word means an animal retaining juvenile characteristics. Wild cats are more mature and more intelligent. This does add up because as domestic cats are looked after by people it is as if they are constantly mothered by a mother cat. They never really grow up. This may make them prone to uncontrolled, juvenile emotional outbursts. However, I am not sure if there is any scientific basis for that either.
- Temple Grandin, Animals Make Us Human