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J Feline Med Surg. 2009 Oct;11(10):835-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jfms.2009.04.006. Epub 2009 Jul 3.

Human directed aggression in Brazilian domestic cats: owner reported prevalence, contexts and risk factors.

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  • 1Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of Sao Paulo, Av Prof Dr Orlando Marques de Paiva, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, Brazil.


Aggression by cats towards humans is a serious behavioural, welfare and public health problem, although owners may believe it is an inevitable part of cat ownership. There has been little scientific investigation of the risk factors associated with this problem. One hundred and seven owners in the Sao Paulo region of Brazil, took part in a survey aimed at investigating the perceived prevalence of the problem, defining the most common contexts of human directed aggression and identifying associated potential risk factors. Human directed aggression occurred in 49.5% of cats and was most commonly associated with situations involving petting and play, followed by protection of a resource, when startled, when observing an unfamiliar animal and least commonly when unfamiliar people were present. Pedigree status, neuter status, a history of early trauma, sensitivity to being stroked, the absence of other cats in the home, relationship with other animals, level of background activity at home, access to the outside and tendency to be alone (meaning tendency to staying far from the family members) were all associated with an increased risk in one or more context. However, sex, age, age when acquired, source of pet, attachment to a specific household member, type of domestic accommodation, relationship with another cat if present and contact with other animals did not appear to increase the risk. The results suggest sensitivity to being stroked and background levels of stress in the home are the most pervasive risk factors, and future research should aim to investigate these factors further. These data are of relevance when advising owners about the risk and development of this problem.

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