If cats see us as “mama cats” or parents, then why do they hiss and attack us?

Agressive black cat
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This is a reasonable question. Firstly cats see us as providers and surrogate mothers when being cared for or on occasions confusingly as kittens when bringing prey back to their owners’ home.

They may be aggressive towards their owner for specific reasons which don’t undermine that relationship. The overriding factor is that domestic cats have all the characteristics of their wild cat ancestor which includes aggressiveness when instinctively required.

The ‘Raw Cat’ beneath – the wild cat character – is near the surface. They want to do what their wild cat cousins do: hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep (to quote Jackson Galaxy).

For instance, if a domestic cat is not completely socialised, and was raised as a feral cat when weeks old, he may hiss at his owner if the owner tries to get some food or prey off him. It is just an instinctive reaction of survival.

Poorly socialised domestic cats will be prone to returning to their wild cat instincts and attitudes in a human household. They’ll feel uncomfortable and anxious leading to the occasional hissing and bouts of aggression unless great respect and patience is shown.

Even well domesticated and socialised cats can be genuinely aggressive towards their owner if for example they are exercising transferred aggression. Yesterday my cat had a spat with a fox through the garden cat confinement fence. His tail was fluffed up when I called him in. As soon as he came in he bit my bare leg. That was transferred aggression. He wanted to bite the fox. I am glad he was prevented from doing so.

Domestic cats are barely domesticated. If something happens that spooks them it might make them aggressive. He might direct that aggression at his owner if the owner mishandles him under the circumstances.

If a male domestic cat has not be neutered he is more likely to act on his hormones and be aggressive during mating times. This aggression may be directed at a person.

Often cat aggression is due to overexcited play or being over-handled causing irritation.

Cat aggression towards humans. 3 types.

These are examples. I am sure visitors can think of more.

4 thoughts on “If cats see us as “mama cats” or parents, then why do they hiss and attack us?”

  1. Transferred aggression is something all cat owners will have to deal with at some time. This is why it’s so important to stop thinking of cats in the same vein as dogs. Who BTW have a whole set of their own issues.
    We have dealt with it several time and we are not the worse for wear because we understood the basis for the behavior. You can’t comfort most cats when they’re upset. Frog being an exception. Letting the cool their heels in a secure hiding spot and not interacting seems to speed up the process. So does engaging in a familiar activity like feeding or wand toys. You literally redirect the redirected aggression.
    It’s good to see you included over handling. Mook literally has three body pets before you’re in the red zone but you can rub her chin or ears forever.

    • Yes, redirecting the redirected aggression is a nice way to deal with it. Clever. The trouble is most redirected aggression is a one-off event: a single bite which when done seems to release the need to do more.

  2. Can’t help but point out that because we have converted cats into our “children,” that they feel the occasional need to lash out at us as human teenagers do to their parents.

    Could be a case of Grandma’s Revenge?


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