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Feline Redirected Aggression

Amat, M., X. Manteca, et al. (2008). “Evaluation of inciting causes, alternative targets, and risk factors associated with redirected aggression in cats.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 233(4): 586-9.

Redirected aggression (displaced aggression) is one of the most common forms of feline aggression directed toward people. It is a dangerous form of aggression because it is unpredictable and severe. Redirected aggression is diagnosed when a cat displays aggression toward an irrelevant target when the primary inciting stimulus is not available. The attacks are difficult to stop, and the cat remains highly aroused long after the inciting event is over. Despite the fact that this type of aggression is common and serious, it has not been well investigated. In this case-control study, the medical records of 19 cats with redirected aggression and 64 cats without redirected aggression were examined. In 95% of the cases, loud noises or interactions with other cats were identified as the inciting event. Aggression was most likely to be directed toward the owner, or toward another cat living in the same household. Cats with redirected aggression were less likely to be outdoor cats, and more likely to be from small households. The researchers suggest that the underlying motivation for the aggression is fear. To reduce the risk of redirected aggression, veterinarians should encourage owners to socialize kittens and habituate them to novel objects and sounds.
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Related articles:
Curtis, T. M. (2008). “Human-directed aggression in the cat.” Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 38(5): 1131-43.
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