Here’s why this expert doesn’t label cats as aggressive — and it's certainly given us food for thought!

Scottish Fold cat biting owner's hand
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As many cat parents will know, our feline friends can sometimes display behavior that we might consider to be aggressive. From hissing to biting to scratching, cats can do things that we don’t like.

If you've been doing everything from playing with your kitty using the best interactive cat toys to making sure you're feeding them the highest quality diet you can afford, you may be at your wit's end trying to figure out how to calm an aggressive cat,

So, should you label your cat as aggressive? Registered cat behavioral consultant Molly Kelsey, who goes by the name The Cat Counsellor, doesn’t think so, and she’s explained why in a new Instagram post. We think her viewpoint is definitely worth taking on board!

“The language we use when describing our cat's behavior or the behavior of the cats we come across can be really impactful,” begins Kelsey. She explains that the term aggression when relating to cat behavior refers to instinctive responses to triggers. 

“It’s not a state of being,” she continues, comparing a cat’s seemingly aggressive behavior to what we might do as humans if we fall over, for example. Just as we would instinctively put our hands out to block our fall, a cat might react to a threat – whether real or perceived – with behavior that we consider to be aggressive, but for the cat is a way to keep themselves safe. 

“Now, this doesn’t even touch on what is often called play aggression or inappropriate play,” adds Kelsey, “So that’s a whole other video!” (For the record, it may be that your kitty is understimulated, tapping into their instincts, or is simply young and learning boundaries!)

Kelsey finishes by claiming that we do our felines a huge disservice by simply labeling them as aggressive. It colors other people’s ways of acting around them, she says, as well as how they interact with and handle them. She adds, “The next time your cat or a cat near you is displaying behaviors associated with aggression, have a think about what in the environment or what is going on around you could be causing this cat to feel so unsafe that they are performing these behaviors.”

There are a few different feline behaviors that could be interpreted as being aggressive – one of which is biting. If biting is something you’d like to address specifically, you might find this article useful: Why does my cat bite me? 8 causes and how to stop it.

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.