Cats may display aggressive behaviors in a variety of situations. Overt aggressive behaviors that we note in Feline-ality assessments include swatting, biting, and attempting to swat or bite. These behaviors are cats' attempts to control their environment and end the circumstances that they find aversive (for example, hands reaching into their cage or over-stimulating petting).
Careful attention to feline body postures can help you identify cats who are over-stimulated, anxious, fearful, or uncomfortable in their surroundings before these cats show overt aggression. Two Feline-ality resources can help you identify cat postures and their significance:
Cats who display aggressive behaviors in their cages when minimum interaction is occurring are not ready to be part of the Feline-ality Adoption Program. Some of these cats may just need more time to settle in before you assess them. The strategies described in Reducing Feline Stress Before Assessment can make a difference for these cats.
Depending on your organization's resources, you may try to give these cats more time to settle in, place them in experienced foster homes, work with them in-house, or remove them from the adoption pool. Our research indicates that feline aggression shown in boarding facilities and shelters is seldom indicative of aggression in the home once the cat has settled in. However, we understand that supervisors must protect staff, volunteers, and potential adopters from aggressive cats while they are on the premises.
Aggression During Assessment Items 1-4
The eight Feline-ality Assessment items proceed from least to most invasive. Cats who show aggression during any of the first four items are not yet ready for Feline-ality Adoption Program. Stop the assessment if aggression occurs. Give the cat a few minutes to calm down before attempting to return the cat to his or her carrier and back to the cage.
These cats may just need more time and some adjustments to their environment to reduce their stress levels and be ready for assessment. Options described above may also be effective in helping these cats.
Aggression During Assessment Items 5-8
Displays of aggression during the later assessment items, especially Item 7: Hug and Item 8: Sensitivity, simply give us information that will be helpful in the matching process. These items are designed to show the cat's tolerance of certain kinds of handling. Record the behaviors you see on the Feline-ality Assessment Worksheet, where they will contribute to the cat's color category and cage card assignment.