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Training Methods Linked to Aggressive Behaviour in Cats, OVC Study Finds

Photo of cat hissing (IStock credit_GluePromsiri)Cat owners can play an important role in preventing aggressive behaviour in their pets, a University of Guelph study suggests.

Lead author Kristina O’Hanley, a PhD candidate in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine, said the study found cats showed less aggression toward owners who use positive reinforcement to manage unwanted behaviours.

Instances of aggression toward owners, other people and other cats were more severe in homes where owners used verbal commands like “No!,” made loud noise when scolding their pet or held their cat by the scruff of the neck.

“Our research is focused on understanding why cats become fearful and aggressive, and on developing strategies for prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Lee Niel, a professor in the Department of Population Medicine and the Col. K.L. Campbell Chair in Companion Animal Welfare. “What we have found is that the types of training methods that people use in the home might play a role in cat aggression.”

The study was published this month in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

While these findings relate to cats in the adoptive home, the study was originally designed to explore how experiences as a kitten affect adult cat behaviour. This is the first study of its kind to focus on whether the early rearing experiences of kittens contributes to aggressive behaviour later in life.

Read the entire article on the University of Guelph website.