If you’re looking for a new feline companion for your home, you’d probably prefer a cat who is easy to get along with and doesn’t cause a lot of trouble. Even if you love cats, being scratched or bitten is nobody’s idea of a good time. Some breeds are simply more prone to being highly strung and aggressive, while others aren’t. With its easy nature, the British Shorthair may be just the cat you’re seeking. That said, any cat can become aggressive under certain situations and the same is true of the gentle British Shorthair.
Are British Shorthair cats aggressive? No, the average British Shorthair is a model housemate: peaceable, affectionate and patient. The exception is when they are confronted with potential prey – this breed is a hunter and will chase small animals and birds.
You’ve arrived on this page because you’re interested in this pedigree cat breed. Whether you already own a British Shorthair or are considering the idea of getting one, this article will help you learn more about the famous “teddy-bear cat”. You probably have a number of questions about their character: What makes the British Shorthair tick? Will they get along with your other pets? How about the children? What can you do if your cat becomes aggressive? All these queries and more will be answered as you read on.
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Aggression in British Shorthairs
Are British Shorthair cats aggressive? My flippant answer would be “it depends if you’re a mouse.” Although they are descended from generations of dedicated mousers, this breed is not an aggressive one when it comes to humans, other cats and larger pets. They’re actually noted for their docility and calm demeanour. They are good with dogs, provided the dog is well-behaved and non-aggressive. British Shorthairs do very well with children – even smaller ones with grabbier hands. If an interaction is getting uncomfortable for a cat, the usual response is to hiss, bite and claw; a British Shorthair will simply remove themselves from the situation and retreat to a safe distance without too much fuss. There are exceptions to this, naturally. A normally well-behaved cat who is sufficiently provoked may become aggressive.
Here are some issues that could be causing outbursts in your British Shorthair:
1: Prey animals
One situation that may cause even the most relaxed and gentle British Shorthair to lose her cool is being confronted with small pets like mice, gerbils, hamsters and so on. British Shorthairs will actively pursue and attack little mammals, birds and other small creatures that trigger their predatory response. Once she knows they’re in the house, she will go for them at every opportunity. Some people make the mistake of attempting to train this out of their British Shorthair; in my experience, this is simply impossible. You can’t take the mouser out of a British Shorthair and you shouldn’t try.
2: Harassment or abuse
Another cause of aggression is a provocation by someone in the household, whether deliberate or wholly unintentional. If a dog, another cat or small child persists in harassing your British Shorthair, the cat may become aggressive towards the culprit. This aggression can become more generalised if the problem isn’t resolved, with the cat losing trust in other humans and animals. You can address this by preventing the problematic behaviour and providing a safer environment.
3: Illness, injury or dementia
Ill-health and injury can sometimes cause aggression and destructiveness in cats, including British Shorthairs. You may not immediately see that anything is wrong, especially if the problem is a pulled muscle or sprained joint. If the cat is in pain and can’t communicate this, she may lash out. Unfortunately, senior cats can develop dementia at the end of their lives and this can cause aggressive behaviour in formerly calm cats. Your vet will be able to identify the issue and provide appropriate care. While dementia can’t really be cured, the distress it causes can be managed so that your cat’s twilight years are more comfortable. To learn more about the causes of aggression in the normally laid-back British Shorthair and how you can help, keep reading.
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My British Shorthair scratches and bites when I pick her up or try to hug her. How do I get her to stay on my lap and accept cuddles?
The simple answer to this one is “stop doing things that upset your cat.” The British Shorthair is many things but, with some exceptions, she’s not really a cuddle-bug. This breed likes a little distance and doesn’t take well to forced intimacy. They may tolerate very quick cuddles and often enjoy being petted or groomed as long as they are sitting or standing next to you rather than on your lap.
Letting British Shorthairs their own personal space is an important part of looking after the breed. To see if your cat will accept being picked up, try slipping your hand under her chest behind her forelegs. If she tolerates this, scoop up her back legs with your other hand and gently lift her to your chest for a quick hug. Set her down as soon as she gets uncomfortable and doesn’t press the issue. If you insist on grabbing and hanging on, she may scratch or bite to get away – wouldn’t you? If you give your cat space and respect she needs, on the other hand, you may find she comes to you for snuggles and tummy-rubs.
Based on my own experience, a lot of issues with “mean” or “aggressive” British Shorthairs can be resolved in this way. Some people feel as if they are owed a particular type of physical affection from their cats and insist on trying to make them accept hugs and petting that they don’t want. Pet relationships just do not work that way.
My British Shorthair is fine with everyone else but aggressive towards my dog/child/ another person. Why is that?
Explain to any youngsters in the house that they need to treat the cat with gentleness and respect. Toddlers and smaller children need to be very closely supervised as they can accidentally hurt the cat – and then get hurt – by trying to hug or grab her. That dense, crisp fur is a magnet for little hands. British Shorthairs are very good cats to have around children but they do have their limits. If the cat is hurt or frightened, she may lash out.
Repeated interactions where she gets hurt will teach her that this individual is dangerous and she may begin swatting or scratching preemptively. She’s not being cruel or mean, she’s just defending herself against a perceived threat. The same goes for dogs. A dog may only be trying to play with your British Shorthair but the cat doesn’t always know that; all she knows is that a larger, more physically energetic animal has come into her space and is interacting with her in ways she doesn’t understand. It’s in your interests to supervise their interactions and separate the animals before the cat becomes aggressive. You may find that a mutual antagonism develops between them. Once they’re used to each other, dogs and British Shorthairs generally get along just fine.
If the person is an older child or an adult, I’d be slightly suspicious. Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not doing things that annoy or distress the cat. This can be completely unintentional; some people are simply not great at reading feline body language and don’t know when to back away. Explain that the cat is not happy with what they’re doing and that they need to change the way they interact with the animal.
My British Shorthair cat is being aggressive towards everyone. What’s happening and what can I do?
A British Shorthair kitten from a registered breeder is very unlikely to be aggressive. If you’re seeing a lot of ongoing behavioural problems and there are no obvious causes – no illness, no injury, no provocation – you should contact the breeder you bought the kitten from to find out more about her background. If you acquired your kitten from a backyard breeder, a number of things may be wrong. She may have been abused or neglected; she may have been taken away from her mother too soon, she may have been improperly socialised. The same problems often crop up in an adult cat from a troubled background, such as a rescue animal.
The issues may go away with patience and care or you may need to enlist specialist help. If your British Shorthair has always been perfectly well-behaved and placid but is now behaving aggressively or destructively, find out if there is some new stressor in her life. Has the household routine changed dramatically? Have you lost or acquired a new pet? Is there a new baby in the house? All these things can make a cat anxious and sometimes aggressive. If nothing seems to be wrong, you should have your British Shorthair checked out by your vet. She may be suffering from a health issue that’s causing her to act