Redirected Aggression in Cats

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

Does your cat seem to lash out and get aggressive for no reason? For some cats, this is an issue of a bipolar disorder but for many others, it is simply redirected aggression.

What is Redirected Aggression?

Redirected aggression in cats involves the cat becoming jealous, angry, frustrated, or upset at something and instead of taking out these emotions on the “something”, they look to the nearest “something else” to unleash their emotions on. Targets are often other cats and pets but they can also target owners, guests, and even objects.

Understanding Redirected Aggression

The first thing you have to be aware of is that a cat who is reacting in a redirected manner doesn’t know how to cope with their frustrations. Similar to a person with anger issues, they know why they are upset but simply do not know how to cope with it and in order to get rid of these emotions, they have to vent them out. This can become very overwhelming and upsetting for the owner and family of the cat. The key to helping this issue is to figure out what the cat’s triggers are. More often than not, boredom seems to be the biggest trigger.

Things That May Make Kitty Mad

Here are a few examples of scenarios that may upset your cat:

Window watching – Not being able to catch the bird, keep another cat off territory, or go outside in general

Jealous Interactions – A cat becoming jealous of your interactions with another feline in the house

Wrong Food or Litter – Offering food or using litter a cat doesn’t like can result in frustration

Territory Infringement – A cat’s personal space is being tampered with

Scolding – Verbally punishing a cat may cause them to take their frustrations out on another cat, pet, person, or object

Finding the Triggers

This may take a bit of detective work on your part. If you have a busy life or a lot on your plate, it may help to keep notes. When you notice your cat lashing out in a questionable manner, focus on what happened right before this. For most cats, the window between frustration and redirection is short but others may build up over time and snap.

Once you find your cat’s triggers, you can start to make adjustments to make their life less stressful. If one of the triggers has to do with their food, try a different flavor or brand. If the frustration is due to boredom or not being able to go outdoors, an outdoor enclosure is a great option. Just be patient with your cat and be understanding of what is going on. 

Do Not Punish Your Cat!

Scolding them can make the behavior worse so it is best to approach any attack on you, other pets, or objects in your household in a calm and passive manner.

Things That Can Help

While you are playing furry detective, there are a few things you can do to help ease the situation.

Consider using a crate for a time-out space. When your cat is being aggressive with you or another animal, toss a towel over them and gently place them in a crate for a cool-down session. You can make this session last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, but never leave them in a cage longer than one hour.

Using Feliway spray can also ease tension in the house for your cat. There are outlet diffusers as well as spray, both of which help to greatly calm down kitties naturally.

Make sure they have their own space in your house where other pets and guests can’t go. This can be a whole room such as a bedroom or a small space like a window ledge or closet. Whichever they prefer, just make sure they have their own little escape to be left alone.

Create a safe outdoor space. I never encourage people to let their cats outside unsupervised, it simply is too dangerous. However, cats who do not go outside can become bored and easily frustrated. The cheapest solution is to leash train your cat using a harness and take them for short daily walks outside. If you do not have the time or you can’t train your cat, buying or building an outdoor enclosure is a fantastic solution.

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