The decision to get a male or female cat can be difficult. So, you’ll be curious to know which of the feline sexes is more aggressive.
According to a scientific study in Frontiers, a cat’s sex doesn’t make it more/less aggressive. A cat’s aggression is determined by age, genetics, stress, age at weaning, and whether it was handled as a kitten.
Usually, cats express their anger in gradual stages, so you’ll have time to diffuse a hostile situation. However, if a cat feels very threatened, it may lash out without warning. To prevent these sudden outbursts, you’ll need to learn what can trigger a cat to become aggressive in the first place.
Differences Between Intact Male and Female Cats
In terms of physical differences, males are slightly bigger than females, and females tend to live about 2 years longer than males.
If the cats are intact (i.e., they haven’t been spayed or neutered), there are some quite obvious behavioral differences between the sexes.
Unneutered Male Cat Aggression
If cats are let outdoors, unneutered males will often wander for many miles and will spray to mark their territory.
If they enter another cat’s territory, this often results in a fight. Unneutered males aren’t necessarily aggressive to humans, though.
Intact Female Cat Aggression
Intact females are very vocal when they are on heat. They’ll usually stay closer to home to find a mate and may also spray to mark their territory.
They are fiercely protective mothers, so they are often cautious around unfamiliar humans. According to biomedcentral, their maternal spirit (and perhaps their cautious personality) is an inbuilt sex difference; it exists whether or not the female cat has had kittens.
Intact males are more likely to be aggressive to other cats than females, and males are slightly more affectionate towards humans than females.
Differences Between De-Sexed Male and Female Cats
When cats are de-sexed, this flattens out some of the differences between males and females.
Neutered males are less likely to wander and fight, and spayed females are less vocal and may not be so hostile towards strangers.
However, spayed females still remain slightly more cautious than neutered males. As a result, they may be slightly less affectionate than their male counterparts. However, other factors can shape a cat’s personality.
Are Male or Female Cats Less Aggressive?
It’s rare for a de-sexed male or female cats to be overly aggressive, unless you give them a reason to be angry.
Female cats are likely to be a bit more aggressive than males when you take them to the vet. This isn’t too surprising given their strong maternal instinct and tendency to be wary of strangers.
According to Frontiers, the sex of the cat has no significant impact on how aggressive it will be. So, if the sex of the cat doesn’t play a huge role, what other factors might influence aggression in cats?
Factors That Influence Aggression in Male and Female Cats
In reality, many different factors can influence how aggressive or affectionate a cat is. For example:
Being the Only Cat in the Household
Cats are not pack animals, so they don’t need other cats around to be happy.
However, cats were less aggressive towards humans (and other cats) if they lived in a multi-cat household. So, perhaps being around other members of the same species does help cats to feel calmer in some ways.
Not Being Handled as a Kitten
Feral cats who were not handled as a kitten are unlikely to be very affectionate as adults.
Similarly, kittens who were raised indoors but rarely handled by their owners may not grow up to be very friendly cats.
Age of the Cat
Younger cats below the age of 6 years old are more affectionate than older cats. Cats don’t necessarily become more aggressive as they age, but they may become more distant.
According to Nature, cats who are weaned before 8 weeks are more likely to be aggressive as adults. Not only that, cats who are weaned after 14 weeks are much more tolerant of strangers as they grow up.
Responsible cat breeders will not allow you to adopt a kitten that is under 12 weeks old.
Breeding and Genetics
Certain cat breeds are valued for their docile and friendly nature. It would be quite rare to find an overtly aggressive Siamese or Maine Coon.
That’s why these breeds make ideal pets for families with children. Although socialization/handling plays a role in developing the cat’s personality, genetics plays a role, too.
According to this study from Science Direct, kittens with ‘friendly’ fathers were more likely to grow up to be friendly cats. They were also more likely to be accepting of human strangers. This suggests there is a genetic component to friendliness in cats.
The Color of the Coat
Research from T and F suggests that the color of a cat’s coat might indicate how aggressive they are.
According to this study, orange tortoiseshell/calico/torbie cats are slightly more aggressive than other colored cats. Orange tortoiseshell/calico/torbie cats are nearly always female, as a male would require XXY chromosomes to produce this coloring.
Nevertheless, black-and-white, and gray-and-white cats (of both sexes) were also found to be slightly more aggressive than other colors.
Feeling Under Threat
Understandably, any cat who feels under threat may lash out to protect itself. Subtle changes in your behavior – or small changes in your home – can cause your cat to feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Most cats give off ‘warning’ signals when they’re feeling stressed or irritated, so you can often step in before the cat turns aggressive.
Why Do Cats Become Aggressive?
Cats can become hostile for all sorts of different reasons. Here are some common examples:
Don’t assume your cat wants to be stroked all the time. Even if it were particularly affectionate one day, it might need some space the next.
If your pet doesn’t want to be stroked, but you continue to touch your cat, it might lash out and bite your hand.
Adults can usually tell when a cat is becoming irritated, but children might have a harder time noticing the signs. For this reason, it’s important to make sure all family members can detect the signs of aggression in cats.
Being Ill or Tired
If your cat is recovering from illness, it might be more hostile than usual – especially if you bother it too much.
A cat’s ears are extremely sensitive. They can hear noises up to 20 times louder than humans do.
Screeching children, barking dogs, and noisy vacuum cleaners can be an anger trigger for some cats.
If you don’t provide your cat with enough food, or you remove the food bowl too early, this can lead to aggression.
Protecting Their Young
Female cats are fiercely protective mothers. If you try to take a young kitten away from its mother, the mother will hiss, scratch, and bite.
Many owners bond with their pets through rough play. If you neglect your cat for a few days, they may feign aggression so that you ‘play’ with them.
A Threat to Their Territory
If another pet or stray enters its territory, your cat might become aggressive. If your cat is neutered, another cat entering its territory is unlikely to trigger a full-blown fight.
Nevertheless, there may be hissing and growling, and they may even redirect their aggression towards you.
How to Detect the first Signs of Aggression in Cats
Some cats will immediately scratch, claw, or bite when they’re feeling unhappy. But most of the time, anger builds up gradually. If you’re vigilant, you’ll be able to detect the first signs of aggression:
- Flattened ears
- Wide eyes (dilated pupils)
- Crouching low to the ground
- Flexing the claws
- Flipping tail
- Quickly turning their head towards your hand or swiping your hand to warn you to stay away
When petting your cat, you should be aware of these signs. That way, you’ll know if you are handling them too much and making them feel uncomfortable. Many cases of feline aggression can be prevented if the owner is sensitive to their cat’s needs.
What Causes Unprovoked Aggression in Cats?
Though most cases of aggression can be prevented, cats occasionally become very aggressive, seemingly out of the blue. This can happen in both male and female cats.
According to the ASPCA, this ‘out-of-the-blue’ type of aggression is actually redirected aggression. Your cat has been triggered by something in its environment, and redirects its feelings of anger onto you. So, what could trigger this type of emotional reaction?
- Seeing prey outside the window but not being able to stalk/attack
- Smelling the scent of other animals on your clothes
- Seeing another cat outside the window
- Hearing very high-pitched noises
- Being forced to come inside when your cat wants to stay outside
- You intervene in a fight between two cats
How Do I Calm Down an Angry Cat?
No one wants to live with an aggressive cat. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to lessen the chances of an aggressive outburst:
- Make sure your cat’s basic needs are being met. Is there enough food, water, space, warmth, and stimulation? If you have more than one cat, make sure they are not competing for resources.
- Don’t drastically change your cat’s routine. Allow them to spend the same amount of time outdoors each day if they go outdoors.
- Keep noise to a minimum in your household. If you have visitors around, make sure there is a quiet space for the cat to hide away. Similarly, try vacuuming when the cat is outdoors, and discourage children from making any loud noises near the cat.
- Keep a close eye on their responses during petting. If your cat starts to become agitated, move your hand away. If you pick up your cat and they start to struggle, put them down. Don’t restrain your cat in any way, even if you are cuddling them.
- Don’t allow stray felines in your property. If there are strays in your neighborhood, don’t let them inside your home.
- Change/wash after being mixing with other cats/pets. If you’ve visited a friend’s home and they have a cat, try to change your clothes before spending time with your cat.
No two cats are alike; some are affectionate whereas others are distant and standoffish. However, the sex of the cat bears little influence on its personality and behavior, especially regarding spayed/neutered cats.
If you want a cat that’s calm and friendly, choose a breed renowned for these qualities. Do not adopt a kitten that was weaned before 12 weeks, and choose a cat that has been regularly handled by humans. Not only that, make sure your pet feels safe and secure in your home.