Cats are emotional and can be quick to anger, but some felines have shorter tempers than others. Find out how to calm down an annoyed cat.
Angry cats are aggressive cats, so leave your cat alone until its anger subsides. Once you can safely approach, reassure your cat and distract it with food or treats. Play and fun activities will also allow your cat to redirect its annoyance and frustration.
Different cats have different pressure points that lead to angry responses. Learn what aggravates your cat, and what calms it down the fastest.
Why is My Cat Angry?
Before calming your cat down, assess why it is so agitated. This serves two purposes. Firstly, you can avoid sparking such anger again in the future. Secondly, you need to manage the cat’s anger trigger.
Cats are emotional, and there are many things that can make a cat angry and aggressive. Common triggers of annoyance in cats include:
- Redirected aggression
- Invading territory
- Touching delicate body parts (i.e. paw pads or tummy)
- Lack of stimulus
- Interrupting Sleep
Angry cats experience a heightened heart rate, which is very unhealthy. The cat risks temporary hypertension. This may lead to a nosebleed, or even heart failure in the most extreme circumstances.
The cat will also become aggressive. If you are the target of this hostility, you will be clawed or bitten. According to The International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, a cat bite can cause bacterial infection.
1/ Fear and Anxiety
Most cats demonstrate anger or aggression when they’re feeling afraid. The cat does not want anybody to know it is scared. By acting aggressively, it hopes to frighten off the source of fear.
Consider this in the home, especially if your cat is nervous by nature. Do not make unnecessary loud noises. Do not loom over your cat and pick it up unexpectedly while resting.
Remove your cat from any fear trigger. Your cat must feel that it can flee if it feels afraid. Your cat will hide in a dark place and rebuild courage.
2/ Redirected Aggression
Redirected aggression occurs when a cat grows frustrated. Maybe the cat has stared at birds through a window, becoming annoyed that it cannot hunt. The cat may take this anger out on you or another pet.
To deal with redirected aggression, you must learn the trigger. In the example of watching birds, pull down the blinds or close the curtains.
After this, you need to allow the cat to work out its frustration. This can be done through exercise or, ideally, play that simulates hunting.
Sexual frustration can also lead to redirected aggression. This is common in intact males. The cat wants to mate and grows increasingly frustrated as hormones rage. The only way to permanently resolve this is neutering.
3/ Invasion of Territory
Cats are territorial and guard their terrain jealously. If a cat marks an area as its own, it may become angry when you enter. Wherever possible, allow your cat to have at least one room in the property to call its own.
If your cat has its own room, do not enter when the cat is present. Clean up and rearrange the room when your cat is absent. Never allow other pets to enter this room as their scent will just anger the cat further.
If the cat considers your entire home its territory, it becomes a behavioral problem. This is a display of dominance that needs to be dealt with.
4/ Sudden Pain
If a cat has been hurt, it will immediately become incensed. Stepping on a cat’s paw or tail, for example, will spark an angry response.
Some cats will understand that it was an accident. Others will assume that it was an act of deliberate hostility.
Apologize at once if you have inadvertently hurt your cat. Make it clear that you meant no harm. Do not attempt to touch the cat until you are sure that it’s safe. Some cats take time to cool off.
Young children can inadvertently hurt cats. Toddlers may pull a cat’s tail or poke a cat in the eye. Cats remember these actions. It may become immediately angry and defensive at the sight of the child in the future.
If you cannot find a direct reason for pain, the cat may be unwell. Your cat may be arthritic or experiencing another ‘invisible illness.’ If your cat seems constantly angry, take it for a health check-up.
5/ Unwelcome Attention
Most cats enjoy petting and handling, but on its own terms. If you insist on picking up your cat without invitation, it will quickly become angry.
Wait for your cat to come to you for attention. You’ll know if your cat wants to be touched. It will nudge your feet, and generally behave affectionately. Unless your cat wants to be touched, give it some space.
While petting a cat, remain vigilant. Ensure your cat does not grow overstimulated. This will cause your cat pain, which leads to anger.
Never touch a cat’s delicate tummy or paw pads without invitation. A cat considers this a violation of trust. Nothing enrages a cat faster.
6/ Neglect and Boredom
Cats are largely self-sufficient but can become angry when left unstimulated or neglected. Examples of neglect include:
- Failing to clean the litter tray
- Not feeding on time
- Rejecting invitations to play
- Failing to provide sufficient physical or mental stimulation
Beyond the risks of malnourishment or bacteria in dirty litter, the cat will grow stressed. Feline Behavioral Health and Welfare have stated that stress is a common risk factor for physical disease.
In addition, a neglected cat will not temper hunting instincts. This can lead to frustration. Your cat will become increasingly temperamental and aggressive. These hunting instincts must be managed and exercised through entertainment and play.
7/ Interrupting Sleep
Nobody likes having their sleep disturbed, especially cats. Cats feel vulnerable while dozing. Waking the cat suddenly could potentially spark a response of fear and anger.
Cats do not always pick the most convenient location to sleep. Unfortunately, it’s advisable to accept this and work around it.
If a cat is napping on your favorite chair, sit somewhere else. Wait for the cat to wake up before moving it.
How to Calm Down a Cat
If you are not sure why your cat is so angry, use more generic calming techniques. These include:
- Giving the cat space
- Approaching the cat, making it clear that you are not a threat
- Distracting the cat with food or treats
- Playing with the cat
- Introducing calming stimulus to the cat’s environment
Never punish your cat for reacting with anger as it’ll just make the situation worse. You should also look into why your cat is so agitated. If there is no obvious explanation, a health concern becomes likelier.
1/ Extra Space
Give an angry cat time to cool off. An angry cat needs space. Ideally, keep one area of the house free for this reason.
The cat will feel more comfortable in assigned territory. If you don’t have a free room, provide your cat with a tent or similar hiding place.
Don’t leave the cat to stew in anger for too long. Learn how long your cat typically remains heated. Some cats cool off after a minute. Some take as long as twenty minutes. This may be a trial-and-error process.
Do not shoo an angry cat outdoors. This is relocating the problem, not solving it. The cat may redirect the anger toward neighborhood pets. This can permanently damage relationships with local cats. Even if two cats previously got along, one fight can sour a feline friendship.
When the time comes, approach your cat with caution. Make slow, steady movements. Keep your hands open and spread wide. Do not attempt to handle the cat without invitation.
If the cat hisses or growls at you, it is still angry. Back away slowly and try again later. Nothing good will come from enforced interaction.
If the cat welcomes your presence, crouch low, and get to the cat’s level. Offer gentle petting. Speak in your normal tone of voice. This is how a cat recognizes you, so it will calm the cat down.
Use this opportunity to reassure the cat. Make it clear that the cat is not in trouble. After a minute or two, stop petting and go about your business as normal. This reassures the cat that everything is perfectly normal.
3/ Distraction with Food
Food and treats can be a great way to calm an angry cat. It’s also a good way to make amends for any misdeeds.
Food is a distraction from what enraged your cat. Cats live in the moment. If the cat is eating, it will not be thinking about what made it angry.
Do not immediately offer food to a seething cat. The cat may knock the bowl over. At worst, the cat will associate the scent of the food with feelings of rage. This can cause the cat to become irrationally angry whenever it encounters this scent in the future.
An angry cat will have a lot of pent-up energy and frustration. The best way to channel this is through play. Stimulate your cat’s hunting instincts. Chasing a laser pointer or a toy on a string will work.
If you have a new toy, this is a good time to introduce it. The novelty will distract the cat from whatever made it angry. Around twenty minutes of play will leave the cat exhausted and calm.
Try to avoid instigating the playtime until your cat is at least a little calm. An angry and aggressive cat can take playtime too far.
If the cat behaves aggressively during play, stop and try again later. If the cat grows overstimulated, you may be attacked.
5/ Calming Environment
If necessary, you can also bring calming scents and sounds into a cat’s environment. These will work best if the cat has an assigned territory.
Scents can be very helpful in calming an angry cat. Look into scented candles or essential oils, provided they are safe. Scents commonly used to calm cats down include:
Cats also find music soothing. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery explains how feline-specific music played in a veterinary surgery lowered stress. Notice that this is species-specific music, though. Despite common claims, traditional classical music displayed limited results.
Calming an angry cat is essential for a harmonious household. Cats may be small, but a cat’s temper should not be taken lightly. Create a structured routine, minimizing uncertainty and frustration.