Categories: cat aggression

Human redirected aggression (towards cats)

When you search, on the Internet, for “redirected aggression” you invariably receive information about domestic cat redirected aggression towards humans. It seems that the term “redirected aggression” is associated with the domestic cat. I would like to turn that on its head, temporary, and discuss redirected aggression in humans when the victim is a stray cat or even a domestic cat living in the home.

I believe that a lot of aggression against cats is as a result of redirected human aggression. As I understand it, most cat abuse is perpetrated by young men. Historically, young men are angry. Not all young men are angry but a lot of them are. They are perhaps justifiably angry for one reason or another. Perhaps their parents were rubbish or the father died young. Perhaps the world that they live in is unjust and too demanding for them. They have difficulty coping.

They become angry. They want to strike out at society. They can’t release their aggressive towards a person because they will usually be caught, charged, convicted and punished for anything from an assault to a murder.

However, it is very easy to be abusive towards a cat that’s wandering outside which, to these people, might provide some temporary relief to the anger that they feel.

We know, and I have constantly mentioned it, cats outside are incredibly vulnerable one way and another. They are ideal targets against which a person wishing to do violence can express that violence and get away with it through lack of eyewitnesses and police commitment. Also, some cat owners are so laissez-faire that when their cat goes missing they simply keep quiet and do nothing about it. This supports cat abuse on the streets.

There are many instances of married or unmarried couples arguing where the man takes out his frustration and anger on the woman’s cat companion. This is arguably a form of redirected aggression.

For the sake of clarity, redirected aggression in cats is when a cat might become aggressive because of a number of reasons one of which could be that a strange cat walks outside the window, in his territory. The cat becomes frustrated and cannot get at the stranger cat and therefore turns his aggression towards his human owner. Or in a multi-cat household one cat may become temporarily aggressive towards another cat. A human might intervene and the cat’s aggression is redirected at the human.

My argument is that humans also suffer from redirected aggression and the victim is quite often the stray, vulnerable cat.

What may be an act of human redirected aggression towards a cat occured when a New York man, 45-year-old John Gehrlein, almost decapitated a cat. He was charged and convicted of the felony of aggravated animal cruelty. He could not provide an explanation as to why he did it.

Aggressive Cat Behavior

Source: my own thoughts and for the case report: Dertoit Free Press.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Okay, Michael, this a bit too testosterone-driven for me, perhaps. Although, you know what? Most of my friends who are male are animal lovers and esp. cats. I guess we gravitate to those who are like us... Obviously, this does not explain those testosterone-driven young males who believe that they can manipulate young women. Oh my goodness, do they truly think they can remain that primitive? and still hope to find a mate? Let them be eaten alive by carnivorous insects, eh, or aliens.

    • Thanks for commenting, Caroline. I'm surprised that you think it is testosterone-driven. I see it as more commonsense. When people are angry they hit out at something. Sometimes they smash something, sometimes they punch something. We see people throwing things and smashing things when they're angry. These are all forms of redirected aggression in my opinion. And therefore I think it is quite logical to state that sometimes, albeit rarely, some people are going to deliberately hurt cats as an expression of redirected aggression.

  • I could find any number of movies where derogatory remarks are made about cats. Cat hate is accepted in western culture.

    • Ain't it just. If you are a lazy screen writer or director, lacking in imagination, then the easiest & cheapest dramatic device with which to harm a female character, is to threaten to harm or actually harm, the female character's cat.

      Executive producers like this as it is cheap. One shot of a threat note landing on the doormat, one shot close up anguished female face, cheap sfx of generic cat screaming, job done for nothing. Cats harmed without being harmed. This harms cats by keeping them with zero value of any kind.

  • You are absolutely spot on, Michael. I agree with every word that you said. One solution has to be emotional maturity. The ability to stop, assess the situation, and retreat from the circumstances is crucial. In the case of aggression toward stray cats, this seems to be an inherent flaw in the character or genetic makeup of uncompassionate individuals...and there are many in this world unfortunately. Humane education regarding other creatures on earth needs to be instilled at an early age.

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