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Solutions for transferred aggression in cats

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 at 3:04:03 PM EST by

Help! My cat is aggressive to me when local cats are present!

Solutions for Transferred aggression in cats

A Question Asked

Transferred aggression in a catMy partner and I work an 8 hour five-day-per-week lifestyle and we have Genghis, a five year-old domestic short-haired cat that we got as a kitten.

He is mostly house-confined.

The neighbourhood cats outside terrorise him and twice now, when aggressive to the outside cats, he has turned aggressive to my partner who has been so injured he needed hospital treatment.

Genghis also suffers from urinary tract disease which seems to be caused by his distress.

What can I do to help Genghis and stop my partner and me from being injured again?

 Cheryl - Newton, South Australia

An Answer Given

Hi Cheryl,

I see Genghis Khan be very bad!

It is very common for house-confined cats to be distressed, anxious and aggressive when they are tormented by other cats that roam through their territory.

Genghis' aggression towards you and your partner is called Transferred Aggression (or referred aggression) and this occurs in cats, dogs and even humans.

Transferred aggression is a type of aggression which is caused by a primary, aggravating stimulus but is then re-directed towards a second independent and neutral stimulus.  It's a sign of 'mood overload'.

The Relevance of Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Firstly, the urinary tract disease you mention could be very relevant. Cats which are anxious often develop lower urinary tract disease but it may be a medical problem that has no relationship to the aggression.

The condition needs to be treated by your own medical veterinarian who is likely to suggest a urine test and possibly other diagnostic procedures as well. There's more information on the interplay between medical conditions and behavioural problems here.  For separate information on lower urinary tract disease follow this link.

Aggressive cats are upset by the odour of other cats

Cats are very sensitive to smells and odours, so you are correct to presume the presence of the local cats and the odours of their sprayed urine is A local cat
which is spraying is a cause of unrestpart of the problem.

If you can humanely repel the local cats from your garden that will help greatly by eliminating the cause of the problem.

That's not easy to do but this member's sheet (Feline Mad) will give you good advice on that.

Eliminating the Odour of Other Cats

To clean away any smell of the local cats we find enzymatic laundry detergents such as Bio Attack are quite effective but there is a wonderful product called Bac to Nature which is our favourite.

How to handle aggressive cats

When Genghis is aggressive, avoid interacting with him - to do so is obviously dangerous.

You may be able to divert his aggression to other outcomes using play-based routines (Refer to the member's file Feline Frolics) but that's unlikely to be a powerful remedy.

Consider Calmatives

Feliway and BoypsAs this appears to be an anxiety similar to a Panic Disorder then the calming effects of Pheromones could help.

Sometimes homeopathic preparations are useful but if Genghis' anxiety and aggression continue (especially if the local cats can't be repelled) then you may want to protect him from further 'emotional' harm by asking your vet for low-side effect medications.

You will find the two-hours of Podcasts on Cat Aggression here very useful and well worth the cost of membership.

Cheers and thanks for the question.


Dr Cam

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Moving House With Cats

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 at 2:58:47 PM EST by

Cats often don't take kindly to moving from one residence to another.

But - mew-ving house with a cat is easy if you know how and there are ways and means to make a cat happy in its new home.

Expanding Horizons

Cat looking out window The best way to get a cat to recognise the home base is to expand the Puss-cats territory in small increments. For the first day or two, confine Puss to your bedroom, or other preferred base, with its old smelly and unwashed bedding, brought from the previous house, and its food bowls. Throw in a few toys and make sure you play with it regularly in this room to stimulate an attachment to this new boudoir.

When it is settled and content, allow Puss to progressively explore other rooms of the house. The first new territory will be the living areas and the kitchen (always an important room for a stomach-focused fur-ball). Keep some doors closed initially, but, each day, open an extra door or two to allow Puss to satisfy its natural curiosity to explore.

During this time, it is worthwhile feeding your cat small meals, several times a day, rather than leaving food available all the time. Before your move, make sure that Puss recognises the sound of its food being prepared. Train it to come to you when you bang a cat tin or its bowl with a spoon. Also call its name. In your new home continue the routine by banging the food tin to ensure Puss will still come to your tempters. It is also useful to scatter a few cake patty pans with some cat biscuits in each, under pieces of furniture. This will stimulate exploration that will then bring its own rewards.

The Scent of Success

Should you put butter on your cat's paws to make it stay home? This is an age-old remedy that may have some logic. The grease in the butter will remove the cat's scents from its paws and these scents are left behind as the cat walks around the house. It also leaves greasy butter marks on the floor! There are other sneaky ways of making a home smell the way it should that are not quite so messy.

Have you seen how a cat will rub its face on furniture and other objects around the house, including you? This is called 'bunting' and by so doing, your Puss is marking the rubbed articles with its own facial pheromones. Cats are very sensitive to their pheromones and to those of other cats. Help it with this process by using the Feline Facial Towelling Technique.
Dampen a face washer, warm it in the microwave and when it is warmed to a skin-comfortable temperature, rub it around the cat's cheeks, along the sides of its flanks and around the base of its tail. This will remove some of the cat's pheromones and body scents. Now rub the washer over prominent areas of the home, such as on door jams, the legs of furniture and especially around likely sleeping spots. Do this on a daily basis for a while to leave plenty of homely scents around your new abode. Plan to do this before you move in.

There is an easier way. Feliway is a commercially available pheromone scent that will do the same job with more convenience. It is a synthetic analogue of the feline facial pheromone and comes in a small spray bottle and also in a plug-in diffuser that you place into a powerpoint.

The spray version is sprayed on objects around your home to mark them as being your cat's own territory but the plug-in diffuser is even easier - plug it in and walk off and let the Feliwayunit do its job.
What are pheromones? You can find more information linked through the menu of this site.
If your cat is to be allowed outside, then helping it to declare your garden as its territory may keep other local cats at bay. This is most easily done by spreading your cat's used litter as mulch around your garden beds for a few days. The smell of your cat's litter will show the other cats who owns your backyard. However, if you are gardening in the same area into which you have scattered the litter, be aware of the hygiene risk and be sure to wear gloves.
More information on pheromones

Doing the Hard Yard

When you are ready, introduce Puss to the garden in small steps.

First, create a resting spot near a window facing your garden so that Puss can take a sneak peek at its outside world to get its bearings.

Then place Puss on a harness and walk it around the yard. Many cats do a good mime of a 'brick on a string' when placed on a harness but at least this allows Puss to see the new yard without running off. Take it out twice daily for increasing lengths of time and use progressively longer leads or ropes on the harness to give Puss more freedom.  You can also expose the fur-ball to your yard by leaving it in a makeshift, shaded cage, even a cat carry cage, for periods of time.

Cagey Cats

If it is just too risky to allow Puss to roam freely around your new garden, you may want to consider an outside run. A run can be made easily from a shade-cloth greenhouse or a commercial bird aviary or you can purchase a commercial enclosure from Cat Nip Modular Parks or from Cat Max. Other systems are also available.

Board in Mew-tual Territories

One of the most difficult scenarios is where a cat owner moves only a short distance away. Many cats will keep returning to the old territory. Try boarding the Puss Cat in a commercial cattery, some distance from the two houses, for two weeks or more. This is most conveniently done at moving time so that not only is the cat making a break from the old territory but it is also not being upset by the tumultuous nature of your move, with all its stresses and strains. 

More information - Cat assimilation Pet Pick


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