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November 21, 2017

Search Results for: redirected aggression

Redirected Aggression

03.08.2015 Redirected aggression is frightening. It makes enemies out of bonded friends. It happens when animals of any species, unable to respond directly to a threat, vent their frustrations on the nearest animal. Common causes of redirected aggression in cats are neighborhood cats. The inside cats can see and sometimes smell the outsiders but are unable to reach them. Frustrated, they turn their angst onto whoever is nearby. Immediate action needs to be taken. Without risking becoming a victim of the aggression, herd the reactive cat into a room where there are no other animals, including people, and close the door. The room should have a litter box, food, water and a place to sleep. It may take a few hours, over night or longer for the cat to calm down.

Cat looking out of a window.

Cat looking out of a window. by Fotolia.

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Cats and Redirected Aggression

Aggression is a universal animal behavior. Cats, like all animals can become aggressive depending on the circumstances. One common aggressive behavior cats and other animals sometimes display is called redirected aggression.

cat behavior redirected aggressionThere are many flavors of aggression, all triggered by a variety of circumstances and expressed in a number of ways. Aggressive displays usually start with vocalizations, though cats sometimes initially broadcast their agitation through spraying and other marking behaviors. If the problem isn’t resolved or contained the agitation can escalate to the point of becoming physically harmful. It is terrible to witness aggression—worse to become the recipient of the behavior.

Definition and causes of redirected aggression

Redirected aggression is an alarming behavior that animals, including cats display under specific circumstances. This behavior makes victims out of innocent by-standers. Anyone, cat, dog or person who happens to be nearby or attempts to intervene can become the unfortunate recipient. Redirected aggression occurs when cats cannot respond directly to perceived threats and subsequently vent their frustrations on to the nearest animal. Other unexpected and startling stimuli in the environment can also cause this frightening reaction. The most common causes of redirected aggression in cats are other animals. Cat parents sometimes witness neighborhood animals hanging out around their homes—in full view of their indoor resident cats. The agitated insiders respond fractiously to the unwelcome visitors, doing everything within their power to reach the instigators, but without success. Being highly agitated, they turn their frustrations on whoever is nearest to them.

The fall out of redirected aggression

This aggression can lead to serious consequences. If the behavior is not immediately addressed, cats who were bonded buddies can become sworn life-time enemies. The experience can be so traumatic, that a once sweet relationship becomes fearful and vicious. Although the cats probably do not remember the initial trigger, they have formed negative and fearful associations with each other.

Addressing redirected aggression

Take steps to keep redirected aggression from destroying relationships. In addition to immediately separating fractious cats from each other, remove them from the source of the aggression. Ideally, it is best to separate them before they start brawling, but that is not always possible. Never use hands, other body parts or stand between fighting animals. Doing so pretty much guarantees becoming a casualty of war.

Depending on the circumstances and the intensity of the interaction, a flat piece of cardboard, slipped between the cats can create an instance of distraction and separation—an opportunity for one cat to flee. Sometimes a loud noise can briefly interrupt the fighting, long enough for one of the cats to escape. Every situation is different, what works to separate cats in one may not work in another.

Can we be friends again?

Warring animals, once separated should be herded into their own quiet rooms for a cool off period away from each other. Darken the rooms by pulling shades and turning lights off and then leave them alone. Cool down periods may last a few hours or a day.

Because the fall out of redirected aggression can be serious and long lasting, cats may need to remain in separate areas for awhile and then gradually re-introduced to each other.

More help

For further help with redirected aggression or other behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Cat Byte: Redirected Aggression

11.18.12 Cats can become aggressive when they see unwelcome animals they cannot access. The cats may be indoors, viewing the outsiders through windows. Because they are unable to reach the unwelcome visitors, the cats become agitated and may vent their frustrations on another nearby animal.

Cat Introductions: Pillow and Sudan

The stage was set and it was time to start the cat introductions– introducing Pillow to Sudan, through a combination of clicker training, management and environmental changes. Since Sudan does not like other cats, except the ones he grew up with, the introductions between the two cats needed to be slow and gradual. The good news is that my other cats, Maulee, Olivia and Jinniyha were already playing and interacting with Pillow under the door.

Hello

One month ago we started the first phase of the four-phase cat introduction process. Phase one used scent exchanges combined with clicker training to help develop a friendly or at least a tolerable relationship. Both cats were already clicker-savvy—having a positive association with the sound of the clicker.

Cat introductions & scent exchanges

Cat Introductions: Clicker, towels and treats

Clicker, towels and treats

I focused on the pheromones secreted by sebaceous glands on cat cheeks. These are sometimes referred to as “the friendly pheromones”. They can help promote a remote, but friendly relationship

All of the necessary tools were assembled: soft towels, a clicker and treats. I conducted the scent-exchange exercises twice a day—once in the morning and then again at the end of the day.

 

I began the exchange by gently petting Sudan’s cheek with a towel. Taking the second clean towel, I stroked Pillow on his cheek. The towel with Pillow’s pheromones was placed in the hall where Sudan hangs out and then I placed the towel with Sudan’s scent on it in the sun room.

Cat introductions: petting Sudan's cheek with a towel

Petting Sudan’s Cheek with a Towel

Sudan immediately went over to investigate the towel. Since he did not display any stress or fractiousness towards Pillow’s scent, I clicked and tossed him a treat. I aimed the treat so that it landed about six inches away from the towel. After he ate the treat he checked out the towel again. I waited a couple of seconds while he explored it and then clicked and treated him again. There were no signs of anxiety or aggression. I am always very alert for these signals.

Cat introductions in a stress free fashion

Sudan checking out the towel

After a few cycles I focused on Pillow who had picked up the towel and carried it over to his table-bed. Of course he was reinforced with a click and a treat.

I repeated the scent exchanges twice a day, each time with a fresh towel. Both cats responded positively to the scents on the towels. Sudan became very attached to the newly-Pillow-scented towels, rolling on them immediately after they were placed on the floor.

Usually, after one-two weeks of positive responses the second phase of the introductions can start. Because of Sudan’s reluctance to accept other cats, I extended the pheromone exchanges to one month.

A serious setback

Cat Introductions: Sudan darts through the door

Sudan

The first phase was progressing nicely, but then two weeks ago, a friend of mine accidentally opened the door to the sun room. Sudan, waiting for the opportunity, darted under his legs into Pillow’s room. My friend yelled, startling Sudan. The Maine Coon was sun bathing when Sudan spotted him and ran at him. He first gave Pillow a nose touch and then immediately launched himself at the unsuspecting cat. Although it was an aggressive attack, neither cat was injured.

This is not a good sign. I am not sure if Sudan will ever tolerate another male cat in his territory.

Help for cat behavior problems is available

For help with cat introductions and other behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Bite Byte

11.11.12 Avoid becoming the victim of redirected aggression. Do not pick up, pet or use hands to separate cats who are agitated or fighting