Categories: cat aggression

Interesting example of feline redirected aggression and how it was dealt with

This is an interesting example of feline redirected aggression. I feel that this very well-meaning lady dealt with the problem in the wrong way which is partly why I wish to write about it. It was not her fault unless you believe that all cat owners should have a good knowledge of cat behaviour.

Jane Moon gave away her beloved cat to a friend and she is heartbroken. The reason why she gave her away is interesting. Her cat is about eight-years-of-age but Jane raised her from a five-week-old kitten. She had her spayed and on moving to an apartment complex when she was six months old she became a full-time indoor cat. She appeared to be very content playing with her toys and watching birds and squirrels outside through the window.

At the apartment complex where Jane lives there are stray cats. The stray cats had arrived because previous tenants had left their cats behind. They moved out of their apartments and did not take their cat with them which I find extraordinary but there it is. Quite a lot of people do this as a way to get rid of their cat but it is obviously irresponsible behavior.

The outside cats would come and sit on the windowsill of Jane’s apartment in full view of her cat. Her cat became agitated and violent. She started to do what is expected of a cat defending her territory which is hissing and making the usual pre-fight noises. Jane tried to shoo away the outside cats. Her cat turned her anger towards Jane in an act of redirected aggression. As Jane says, her cat was unable to attack the outside cat on the windowsill.

At the time, Jane was unaware of “redirected aggression” in domestic cats. Perhaps she thought her cat had become aggressive towards her and was unable to work out why. Her cat’s aggressive behaviour escalated to such an extent that she was nearly attacked by her. The outside cats are still there. Jane has tried to get the management to do something about them without success.

Jane says: “my cat has a new home, and I am heartbroken.”

I think she regrets it giving her cat away. She appears to have researched the matter and discovered that there is a calming spray (cat pheromones such as Feliway) or other calming devices which may have helped but she was unaware of these products at the time she decided to give away her beloved cat. Although there were not required in my view.

There is a very strange, I would say extraordinary, postscript to this story. Jane says that she was unable to take her vet’s advice of having her cat put down! Can you believe it? A veterinarian recommended that her cat was euthanised. I am dumbfounded by that statement.

Jane is unable to recover her cat from her friend. I don’t know whether she has asked for her cat back now that she has learned about redirected aggression and how it can be dealt with. Perhaps she felt that it is impossible to do it, which is understandable.

I think you will find that redirected aggression is also called “referred cat aggression”. It is quite easy for a cat owner to become the victim of redirected cat aggression. It could be defined as aggression which has been stimulated in a cat but the cat is unable to direct the aggression at the cause. A person turns up soon afterwards and is attacked.

A study found that of 27 cases of aggressive cat behaviour against people, 14 were assessed as examples of redirected aggression or probable examples of redirected aggression. On each occasion the cats were highly aroused by other stimuli before attacking a person. None of the cats had medical problems. It is a common cause of cat attacks on owners.

The most common reason for the arousal of the cat to become aggressive was the presence of another cat and other causes are: high-pitched noises, visitors in the house, a dog, unusual smells and being outdoors unexpectedly resulting in defensive behaviour to be adopted through anxiety.

If Jane was aware of this form of behaviour what she should have done was to have left her cat alone until she had calmed down after the other cat had disappeared and then she could have approached her cat without problems. It is a great shame that she was unaware of what was going on and thought that her cat had become aggressive for an unknown reason. She did not have to use Feliway or some other calming device. In addition, her veterinarian let her down badly. What a disaster her veterinarian’s advice was.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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