Is your one cat sitting or standing on the other cat? Over-grooming itself or each other?
Did you know that is actually aggressive behaviour?
We all know that cats remember that they were once worshipped and that they never forgot this. The little furballs still try to dominate our lives and each other. After all, they’re in the same family as The King of the Jungle! If you have spare minutes in your day it is very interesting to make notes about your cat’s behaviour and then annalise it!
Probably the most dangerous aggression in cats is that redirected to their humans because the bites are uninhibited and the attacks can be frightening and damaging. Unfortunately, it’s also a very common type of feline aggression.
Redirected aggression occurs when a cat is aggressively aroused and agitated by an animal or person he can’t get at (because there’s a window between them, for example). Unable to get to the trigger of his agitation, he turns and lashes out at someone—person, dog or cat—who is nearby or who approaches him. Another common example is a cat sleeping on the sofa and something scary happens on T.V. such as some loud screaming kittens or a painful animal crying out, this could also result in redirected aggression. Another great example is a cat walking through the house and something falls close to the cat, crashing to the ground, The cat bolts in fear under a bed. The ‘hooman’ runs to comfort their cat feeling terrible that this just happened and the cat is lunging and hissing at the human. The cat now thinks that the human was associated with the event and now the cat is fearful and aggressive towards the human.
There can be a considerable delay between the initial arousal and the redirected aggression, as long as hours. Yes!, cats can keep a grudge. This is why cat parents sometimes describe this kind of aggression as unprovoked or “out of the blue.”
A redirected attack occurs only if an agitated cat is approached or there’s someone close by. The cat won’t go looking for someone to attack! It’s not a malicious or even intentional type of aggression. It’s almost like a reflex, done automatically without thought. This is why it’s never a good idea to break up a catfight or approach an agitated cat showing defensive or offensive aggression postures.
So what can you do? Allow the cat to retreat and not follow to comfort it; otherwise, this concreted the cat’s perception that the human was involved in the incident. The victim of redirected aggression does not need to be another cat it could be whoever was closest to the scary or arousing experience. On this note, this is exactly why corrections or punishments such as squirting your cat with a water bottle should either not be done at all or done on the sly, so they do not associate the human with the act as it can instil fear and create a negative association with that individual.
Sometimes the other cat in the household can be the victim of the redirected anger. If this happens, separate the cats! It is best to do this immediately because the more experiences they have been aggressive with each other and the victim being attacked the more compounded negativity we have to overcome.
Then use positive reinforcement by having the cats spend just a few minutes together over something motivating like a special treat or favourite toy and then put them back behind solid doors again. Yes, this can be very challenging, but don’t take it lightly- the victim is most likely to develop more behavioural issues like house soiling, over-grooming or not eating properly.
If your cats are experiencing redirected aggression it is imperative that you have multiple locations for food, water and litter to make it as easy for the cats to get to their basic needs as possible.
If you’re ever unsure about your cat’s behaviour for any reason, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!