Feeling their integrity threatened or being relegated to the background by the arrival of another cat can cause your kitten to bristle as an instinctive defense mechanism. We could compare it to our behavior when we feel aggrieved: we tend to yell, gesture, and stretch our bodies to intimidate.
In the feline plane, they tend to bristle the hair on their back and tail when their life is in danger, when they need food or want to mate. However, you should not confuse bristling with aggressiveness. No animal is aggressive per se . In fact, there are several reasons that explain why cats bristle. We analyze it.
You may also be interested in: Causes why cats knead
Pretending to be bigger
In the presence of a rival, the cat senses the possibility of a fight materializing. Consequently, it appears to stand on tiptoe on its hind legs, curve its back in a U-shape, and bristle its hair. Your ears will be tucked back to protect your head from possible injury. The snorts showing their fangs will also occur.
With all this scenery the feline tries to intimidate his opponent to avoid the fight . If he does not flee, he will have two possible ways out: flee or attack. If he opts for the latter, you will see that he walks sideways making small jumps. Again, he is trying to appear bigger and more dangerous than he really is.
This behavior is more typical of young cats, especially when they have just arrived at their new home. If your kitten is happy and is properly socialized, it is very unlikely that you will see him bristling, except in very specific circumstances such as the startle caused by a noise or the arrival of a new pet (another cat or a dog).
What is happening?
When the feline is aware of danger or threat, his body receives an adrenaline rush to put him on alert and preserve his life. The reception of this nervous stimulus involuntarily activates the erector hair muscle. It also happens to us when we get goose bumps when we get excited.
Common causes of bristling
Know that bristling is not the same as aggressive behavior. Kittens who have suffered abuse or who are not satisfied with the 5 freedoms of animal welfare tend to bristle frequently, in addition to growling and snorting. They are usually elusive and do not usually allow themselves to be caressed.
The vet and the ethologist will help you channel it. In certain cases they usually advise sterilizing these specimens to reduce tension.
Out of fear or insecurity
The main trigger for bristling hair in kittens is fear or insecurity. For example, when we decide to take another cat into the home. The simple fact of seeing that other cat overflows his mind with negative thoughts: he will become jealous for having to share your love and attention, as well as his space and his belongings.
In this sense, if you are going to introduce a new animal member into the family, it is essential that you execute that first presentation in the correct way . This must be gradual. Do not under any circumstances allow your veteran cat to feel replaced. It makes it possible for the new tenant to know his territory without the veteran stalking him.
Specialists recommend keeping them separated for a few days and making it easier for them to smell each other, for example, by sending them toys or blankets with their new friend’s pheromones . Don’t force the match or allow the fight to come true. If after a few days the aggressiveness of one of them does not subside, you should consult your veterinarian.
As with birds, among mammals that have their bodies covered with hair, it is natural for their hair to stand on end at low temperatures . Think about how humans get goose bumps when we are out of temper.
It is a mechanism whose objective is to preserve body heat. It acts as a thermal insulator, since when the hair bristles, an air layer is formed between the hair and the skin. Birds also practice this by fluffing their feathers.
Some feline pathologies present, in their incipient phases, fever and this, in turn, causes tremors and bristly hair. Therefore, if your kitten is sick, it may seem that his hair is standing on end due to stress and lack of hygiene derived from the physical discomfort he is experiencing.
You will know that something is not right if he barely eats, if he does not play and if he moves little. Visit the vet to clarify doubts and to guide him on the appropriate treatment.
In short, that a cat bristles its hair is a completely natural behavior that you should not worry about . As you already know, if the feline is well cared for and feels loved, it is more than likely that he will never do so. If socialization at an early age has not been implemented correctly, consult an ethologist to eradicate aggressiveness.