In detail

Redirected aggression in cats: what is it?


If two cats suddenly no longer get along, redirected aggression can be the cause. A cat perceives a threat or an annoyance that it cannot remedy and leaves out its fear or frustration on the next best living being - in the multi-cat household on the conspecifics, but also partly on you. Redirected aggression can turn your most intimate cat friends into enemies - Shutterstock / Petr Malyshev

Redirected aggression is not only possible in cats; We, too, occasionally tend to take our bad mood, fear, anger, or pain out of innocent people who happen to get in the wrong place at the wrong time. The husband who yells at his wife over dinner for a nullity, although he is actually stress and worries at work, is a typical example of redirected aggression in humans. Another example is a teenager who has lovesickness and starts arguing with parents for no apparent reason.

Redirected aggression: instinctive behavior

If outsiders suddenly and without warning come to an attack on the otherwise peaceful cat, this is mostly due to redirected aggression. The actual trigger of fear, frustration or anger cannot be reached, but the aggression has to go somewhere - other pets or people who happen to be nearby can feel this. It is important to know that this behavior is not malicious, even if it sounds that way from the description. In fact, it is an instinct that most living things carry within them. How strong your instinct is is also a question of personality, but everyone has the potential for redirected aggression.

A common trigger in cats is when they look out of the window and see fellow species from the neighborhood that enter their territory. Since they are in the house, they cannot drive the intruder out, which annoys and frustrates them. They resolve the inner conflict by redirecting aggression towards the innocent. However, your cat may also be startled and frightened by something, and then react aggressively. The reason is not always easy to determine, because the fur noses perceive their environment differently than we humans. They notice things that are hidden from us, that make them angry or frightened.

Redirected aggression can sometimes be a symptom of illness or pain - if you can't find an external reason, have your cat checked by a veterinarian as a precaution.

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Avoid redirected aggression in the multi-cat household

If you know the trigger for the redirected aggression - for example, a cheeky neighboring cat that invades the area of ​​your velvet paw - you should try to turn it off. Because the redirected aggression can lead to lasting tensions and strife, long-term friendships can even be a permanent burden. Try, for example, to protect your garden with a cat fence against intruders, or to chase away the foreign neighboring cats from your property with natural, harmless means.

You can also lower the blinds on the patio door when the neighboring cat is walking through the area of ​​your fur nose. So that your cat still has a lookout, you can set up a cozy place in another window without looking at the garden.

What to do if cat friends can no longer get along?

If you do not know the trigger or the redirected aggression has already caused damage, your cats have to get to know each other again. The first thing you need to do is separate the fights, but without putting yourself in danger. So do not use your hands or your body to intervene, but use a pillow, a thick towel, a piece of cardboard or a broom to separate the fighters and keep them at a distance. Caution! Don't scream or clap your hands or make other loud noises to get the cats apart. Water pistols or spray bottles are also not recommended here. The animals, which are already very stressed, only become more afraid, which can aggravate the aggression.

After the separation, take the attacker to a quiet, darkened room so that he can calm down again while the victim recovers from the sudden attack. Until then, keep both animals separated from each other spatially and without visual contact. If this phase lasts longer, change the rooms more often, so that no fixed territorial claims develop that later cause new problems. Bach flowers for calming and pheromone distributors for the socket can have a supporting effect. If in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or veterinary practitioner about appropriate measures.

Then you have to bring your cats together as if they were strangers to each other. Be patient, it often takes weeks, sometimes even months, for the animals to become friends again. Here's how:
● Separate cats spatially, but allow visual contact, for example through a net or grille in the door.
● Feed animals on both sides of the partition and play with them.
● If this works without growling, hissing and threatening gestures, exchange the smells of the animals with each other. You rub a cat with a soft cloth and place it with the other cat, and vice versa.
● Open the barrier so far that the animals sniff but cannot attack each other.
● Remove the barrier, but only allow cats to eat and play with them under supervision.

In this way, your animals learn to appreciate each other's society again and understand that the other is not a threat. You can find out more in our guide "Getting two cats together: tips on keeping them".