DR. NICHOLAS DODMAN: SEXUAL AGGRESSION IN CATS

Contributor: Ms. Margot Raicek (a DVM/MPH Candidate 2016)

Background and Description

101118_4177_dodman154.jpgFeline aggression is a significant problem reported to behaviorists, second only to inappropriate elimination in its frequency. A wide variety of motivators for feline aggression exist and distinguishing between them is critical to resolution of the problem. One particular subset of feline aggression is sexual aggression, in which a male cat displays inappropriate sexual behaviors which are disruptive to the household, often even after the animal has been neutered.

Sexual aggression can be directed towards an inanimate object (like a blanket or cat bed) or towards another animal in the home. The latter can be particularly distressing to owners given the violent nature of feline sexual activity. The target of this behavior can be another cat, either male or female, or may even be of another species, such as the family dog.

Cats displaying sexually aggressive behavior towards another animal will bite and hold the back of the neck of their target as they mount them, which can incite vocalization (screeching, howling) by the victim and frantic attempts to escape, often entailing biting and scratching. This is not always the case, as some owners also report that the target animal remains still and quiet during the event despite their discomfort.

This behavior creates discord between two cats in the home, making the target animal fearful of the aggressor and can create a generalized anxiety. In more extreme cases, the two animals may physically harm one another during the struggle. Disrupting this behavior is essential to maintaining a comfortable environment for all the animals in the home.

When directed towards inanimate objects, sexually aggressive cats will often display the same mating behaviors towards objects, most often with blankets, cat beds or soft toys. Furthermore, some cats are reported to display this behavior most frequently in view of family members or guests in the home, which can be embarrassing to owners.

Differentiating from other types of aggression

Cause of male mounting behavior

Managing the behavior
1. In intact male cat not intended for breeding:
2. The curve ball:
3. In properly neutered cats:

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Dr. Dodman is a Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the school’s Animal Behavior Clinic. He is also Chief Scientific Officer for the CENTER FOR CANINE BEHAVIOR STUDIES. He has written over 100 scientific articles and several popular press books, including The Dog Who Loved Too Much and The Cat Who Cried for Help.

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