Redirected Aggression Toward a Human Family Member
Don’t try to cuddle or comfort an agitated cat. Leave her alone to calm down. Turn the lights down, close the curtains and allow her time to hide and de-stress. If you try to comfort her you risk more aggression. In addition to the risk of you getting injured, it’ll just keep the cat’s reactivity level too high.
When your cat has calmed down you can offer food or begin a gentle, low-intensity play session with an interactive toy to change her mind-set from negative to positive.
Ongoing Redirected Aggression
If you know your cat has a pattern of becoming reactive to certain things and as a result, frequently displays redirected aggression, set up a behavior modification plan. If there’s a cat outdoors you may have to block viewing access for your indoor cat. For example, it may be necessary to cover specific windows with opaque window paper. This way the light can come through but the cat won’t be able to clearly see what’s outside. You may have to relocate cat trees so they sit at windows that don’t have a view that triggers your cat. Gradually help your cat become more comfortable with noises or other triggers that cause stress. Begin at a very low level where your cat is still comfortable and offer a treat. Very slowly you can begin to increase her exposure to the trigger. Offer a treat or feed her to help her learn to associate something positive with the experience. If it’s a specific noise that triggers your cat, you can find sound effects online to use for your training sessions.
Set up the environment to inspire positive experiences for your cat. There is cat-specific music available online that is designed to help keep cats calm. You can also leave soft or classical music playing when you aren’t home to act as a bit of buffer in case your cat gets reactive to sudden noises outdoors. The music won’t block out any other sounds totally, but it could buffer them just enough so it doesn’t trigger your cat.
In a multicat environment, make sure there is adequate territory for each cat. You should have multiple options for perching, climbing,hiding, and napping. If the cats don’t have to be in such close quarters, it may help avoid redirected direction if one kitty gets triggered. Adequate availability of resources will be important as well. Have more litter boxes available and scatter them throughout the house so one cat doesn’t have to pass another cat’s area.
It also helps to provide your cat with things to do during the day. Incorporate puzzle feeders for added activity.
Need More Information?
For more step-by-step information on redirected aggression or other types of aggression in cats, refer to the books by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett. Pam’s books are available at bookstores everywhere, through your favorite online book retail site and also here on our website.
If you have a question about your cat’s behavior, you can find information in the articles on our website as well as in Pam’s books. If you have a question regarding your cat’s health, please contact your veterinarian. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.