What is displaced hunting in cats?

I’d like to briefly discuss cat displaced hunting as well as displaced aggression and to touch on sexual aggression in this article.

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Displaced aggression in cats is the same as redirected aggression, which as you might know is when a cat takes his or her aggression out on say the owner. The reason why a cat might do this is because their owner intervened in an act of aggression by their cat upon another cat, perhaps a cat who is coming to the house and should not be there. The cat is unable to take out their aggression on the invading cat and therefore the aggression boils over and is directed at any suitable target which happens to be the owner.

Displaced hunting occurs when a cat has no opportunity to express their natural desires to hunt prey such as mice. This suppressed desire to hunt probably occurs more often with full-time indoor cats.

The cat’s owner and their children and other pets are often the target of a cat’s ‘alternative attacks’. Sometimes these may be in the form of mock chases and bites which are a type of social play. Indeed, the owner may play with their cat in order for their cat to express these desires without damaging someone.

However, in some cases real predatory behaviour is seen because it is designed to catch and kill prey. In these circumstances, a person in the house can be hurt. It’s the kind of situation where a bite may be deep enough to cause an infection requiring antibiotics.

The domestic cat is programmed to hunt. It is in their DNA. We know that. The fact that a cat can attack a person with whom they live and who they know is neither hostile nor prey reminds us how deeply ingrained and pre-programmed hunting is in the domestic cat.

P.S. Sometimes people talk about cat sexual aggression. This normally refers to the male cat biting the scruff of the neck of the female to stop her having a swipe and to keep her quiet. The phrase might also apply to the female’s swipe at the male when he gets off and releases her from his bite. This happens because of the pain caused by the male when he removes his barbed penis.

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4 thoughts on “What is displaced hunting in cats?”

  1. I’ll tell you a funny one. I threw down a treat for Oozy last night and he put his front paw on it and ripped it bites out one piece at a time. He never had a chance to learn that because he was 6-8 weeks old when we adopted him from the shelter.

    He got his name at the shelter because he had an oozing abscess on his back. The name just stuck.

    Our cat BJ was abandoned as a kitten and has been inside with his mom (both now spayed and neutered) since Labor day and he’s the best mouser we have. He doesn’t get to use his skills often but he definitely has them.

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  2. I have only 4 cats and I can tell you each has a different level of prey drive. Wand toys are a great way to let them hunt. And get some exercise. As said before when the unwary non harmful bug gets in I don’t interfere with nature.

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