A question about a feral cat’s aggressive behavior

by Karen

I have had many strays. This particular cat was hiding in our shed and wood pile as a kitten all last winter. Now it is coming right up to the house meowing and hissing for food. In the last three weeks it has become more demanding and agitated. The other day it smacked my hand with it’s paw and drew blood.

I am feeling uncomfortable about this cat and think there is something wrong with it. As I said, I’ve had strays before but never felt afraid of them. What might be going on? I do not trust this cat to be safe, even though it only shows itself for food.

Thoughts? Thanks,


Hi Karen.. Thanks for helping stray cats. I’ll try and kick the discussion off. I believe that the causes of cat aggression will be the same whether the cat is a domestic cat, stray cat or feral cat (and generally speaking even for the wildcats). They are all inherently the same animal.

The circumstances under which feral cats live results in aggression being demonstrated more often.

I am not sure that the cat you refer to is any different except that there may be a compounding factor: pain or discomfort. And (s)he may be more fearful than others. The fact that he came to your back door indicates that hunger overcame fear and is the beginnings of socialization, I think.

What happens is that the cat comes up for food and in an overly defensive manner (proactively) hisses and if a hand gets too close, slaps it. This is instinctive.

My impression is that in time it will improve and perhaps your understandable emotions (slight anxiety about being hurt) may feed the anxiety in the cat.

I would feed this frightened little cat and give plenty of space and progress slowly. If the chance arises it may be appropriate to trap, neuter, health check, return him or her. But I don’t know if you are into that sort of thing. It is a level of involvement up from simply helping a feral cat.

Feral cats will be aggressive due to:

lack of socialisation – defensive behavior expressed in aggression

and (in this case) pain/discomfort (possibly).

See Aggressive cat behavior

Hope this helps a bit. They are simply my immediate thoughts – thinking aloud.

I too would welcome some comments that may well improve on mine.

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A question about a feral cat’s aggressive behavior

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Nov 08, 2010 been there
by: Kathy W

Your feral cats behavior sounds exactly like our first Savannahs behavior. I couldnt even get her to take a treat from my hand. She would come out and swat at my hand and growl. I too have a feral cat Im trying to befriend. Hes been around for two years and just last spring I finally coaxed him to come and eat. Hes been coming now on a regular basis and you couldnt even get 5 feet to him The other nite I saw him out there and went out with his food. He forgot himself and came running over by me. When he ralized how close he was he stopped and ran away hissing. Lately he has started meowing to me when he sees me. Last night he was laying down waiting for me. When I went out there he let me get within almost two feet to him. I did what the other lady suggested I talk to him very quieltly. I tell him what a handsome boy he is and what a good cat. He probaly was abused or chased by people. Its thrilling for me to see him letting me get closer. I want to try to make a shelter for him for the winter but I dont think he would trust going inside one. Just be patient and maybe back off a little bit so you dont get hurt. JUst do the talking and put the food down and when it starts eating talk to the cat let it know you mean it no harm. It may take a long time but hopefully the aggresiveness will calm down. Mr Grey still hisses at me every now and then but I think its his way of telling me Im close enough.

Nov 01, 2010 Feral cat Cecil and his behaviour
by: Susie Bearder

Somewhere on the site is some discourse on Cecil (after Cecil Aldin)the feral cat who still doesnt quite know how to behave despite being with four other cats and coming into our house and that of my mother in law. Generally he is very good with the humans and likes his attention when he feels safe ie the dogs are definitely not around. He will give little nips and I think Michael is right and its his way of showing affection. Think about what a healthy male cat will do to a female when she is on heat.! But if he feels threatened ie by the sudden arrival of trouble he will hiss and scrabble to get out of my arms and the claws come out and want to put himself in a defensive place where he can run.

Cecil is by now the largest cat and putting on his winter fur and he gets rough in play with the female cats who cant quite make up their mind if they like it or not. The fellas on the other hand are quite sure and they dont. We have moved so far now that I am preparing to visit our Spanish vet. It will be interesting to see what difference it makes.

Oct 31, 2010 To Karen
by: Ruth

I’d only add to the very good advice already given to talk to the cat all the time he is near you, just very quietly, hardly louder than a whisper. Even better sing to him, get him used to the sound of your voice, it sounds daft I know but it does help to calm cats down.
I’m a bit worried that it’s only the last 3 weeks he’s been demanding and aggressive as it could be a sign he’s in pain.
Try to get help from a local cat Rescue if you can to borrow a trap cage and get him to a vet for neutering and a check up. But do be very careful as it has been known for a frightened cat to attack especially if he has been abused by people.
Good luck.

Oct 30, 2010 You’ll get the baby calmed eventually
by: Joyce Sammons

Just don’t ever let him bite. My Furby is a reformed feral and in the beginning when we would play with him he’d bite and not let go.

Even now he’ll ATTACK me over a piece of cheese. I’m talking swiping hard with claws out. I guess he’ll always have a little feral in him and he’s been with me almost a year. He was a baby when I found him (about a month old).

Just put the food close and sit on the ground with the kitty. It won’t take long until you’re good friends.

Oct 30, 2010 Thanks Martha
by: Michael

Thanks Martha for a welcome comment based on first hand experience.

Oct 30, 2010 Cat’s Aggressive behavior.
by: Anonymous

Hi Karen, i have had ,and still have stray cats i feed that act this way but i can assure you that he is more scared of you than you are of him. Cat’s ,like humans have their own way of asking for things and again like humans they can be very sociable or very withdrawn.

The poor little fellow has never received love so obviously he hasn’t got a clue on how to give it. If you have the patience and really want to make friends with him you may try something that i have been doing for years with a good measure of success. Stuff a rubber glove with tissue paper to make it look and feel like a hand and then tape it very tightly to the end of a broom stick.

Put down a tasty plate of food about three feet away from you so that the cat has his back to you while he is eating. When he starts eating and is engrossed , try petting him very gently along the back with the rubber glove . He may move away the first time but hunger will bring him back and once he realizes that being stroked is a good feeling he will relax a bit. If this is done every day at meal times you will find that he will become less and less aggressive, that is as long as there is nothing else bothering him health wise. As i said, you need patience to obtain results but it will be satisfying when you see the cat relax and start to trust you.Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Martha from KITTYAPPEAL.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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