Redirected Aggression in Cats

Aggression in cats may be triggered by a wide range of factors such as other pets, noises or even odors. Fear is often the cause of aggression and cats deal with threats by fighting. Redirected aggression is frequently met in cats and involves the cat being aggressive towards a different person or object than the actual source of the perceived threat.

Causes of Cat Aggression

Aggression in cats may be triggered by an action, other pets or even a moving object. If the cat feels threatened (someone invades his personal territory) or frustrated (i.e., he cannot catch a squirrel), he is very likely to become aggressive.

Possible triggers of cat aggression include:

  • Another cat outside (when the cat is sitting by the window and is not able to get outside)
  • Another animal
  • Visitors in the home
  • Noise
  • Smells that cat is not used to
  • Someone invading his sleeping area

Signs of Cat Aggression

When a cat is aggressive he will display a number of signs such as:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Arched back
  • Hissing and meowing
  • Eliminating outside the litter box
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • The cat's eye may be fixed on a target
  • Dilated pupils
  • Puffed up tail and fur

Redirected Aggression

While dogs try to establish dominance when they are aggressive, cats are very likely to redirect their aggression towards an object or person that is more accessible. For instance, if the cat is frustrated by a squirrel he cannot reach, he can channel his aggression towards a toy or even a person that is close to him at that time.

Dealing with Cat Aggression

When you notice that your cat is about to become aggressive, you need to know how to act, so that you won't end up with scratches or bites. Your cat can easily redirect his aggression towards you if you intervene between him and the threat. If possible, you should identify the trigger of aggression and get rid of it, so that the cat will calm down.

Don't try to move the cat or initiate any types of games or patting. It's important that you and the members of your family avoid being the subject of your cat's aggression, as the cat can harm you. If your cat tends to be aggressive most of the time, you should take him for a vet checkup, because the aggression may be due to a medical condition.

If you cannot deal with aggression otherwise, the vet may prescribe some anti-anxiety drugs, which will calm the pet and reduce his aggressive attacks. A pet behaviorist may also be consulted, which can offer long term help. Desensitization therapy may be a solution to reduce aggression in cats.

The administration of anti-anxiety drugs should be avoided as a long term treatment, because these will make the pet lethargic and have several other side effects.