Cats often attack their owners when they have excess energy and need stimulation, according to Purina. Attacking owners can be an attention-seeking behavior, while some cats attack out of hunting instinct and are simply practicing their technique, explains Purina. Cats also attack out of fear or aggression, especially when seeing a dog or another cat.
Purina notes that anxiety and pain can push a cat to attack. In these situations, owners should seek the guidance of a veterinarian who can diagnose and treat the underlying health condition. ASPCA mentions that certain medical conditions cause aggression in cats, such as arthritis, epilepsy, poor grooming and rabies.
Rough playing is another cause of cat-on-owner attacks. This behavior is normally in kittens and younger cats under 2 years old. Even though the cat does not intend to hurt its owner, too much rough-housing leads to unintentional scratches and bites. Cats that spend excessive amounts of time alone or at animal shelters, as well as cats that were weaned early or orphaned, are prone to rough playing.
ASPCA mentions that redirected aggression happens when a cat cannot reach an intended target, such as a bird or cat. The cat then attacks an owner in place of the original target. Redirected anger is a common cat behavior. The condition is more a result of instinct and reflex than malice.