Unraveling the mysteries of feline aggression

Feline aggression is one of those really confusing things to unravel. It has so many possible causes and very few ways to pick them apart to find the right one.

It’s all about instinct. Aggression could be fear, stress, territorial disputes… or a sign of an underlying pain or illness. Cats instinctively know that sickness is weakness is danger. They will do anything and everything to avoid displaying that weakness and putting themselves in perceived danger. This means hiding symptoms, as well as using aggression to keep others at bay.

Selene, one of our cats, recently became extremely aggressive toward her brother. Because the timing was coincident with a cat coming around and making her territorially aggressive as well, the theory was that she was showing displaced aggression. However, my husband and I were convinced it was more than that. A test showed minor indications of infection, but further tests didn’t culture anything. We got the Comfort Zone diffuser with Feliway feline facial pheremones, which are used to comfort and calm cats. It definitely helped, but the situation continued to deteriorate.

We brought Selene back to the vet and they were kind enough to fit us in at the last minute with their behavioral specialist. Long story short, she has joint troubles (possibly arthritic) and was having constipation issues. Now she’s on glucosamine and chondroitin for the joint troubles and a medicine for the constipation. There’s still some aggression, but it’s very noticeably better and less frequent.

It’s often been said that, man’s assumption to the contrary, cats have not yet been domesticated. I think this is one of the more prominent indications of this. Things would be so much easier if cats would just display their symptoms instead of trying to hide them!


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5 comments on “Unraveling the mysteries of feline aggression
  1. Cian says:

    Absolutely. Cats aren’t domesticated they are domesticators. Why should they display their symptoms if we try to hide ours?

  2. carolyn says:

    I need help. I brought in a stray male and had him neutered. But he has bit me twice (once requiring hospitalization) and he attacks my other cats. Alone with me he is fine, but if around one of the other cats he goes beserk. I now know both times I was bitten it was displaced aggression, as he was trying to get at the other cat. I have had him isolated in his own room for several months now. I tried to let him out to be with the other cats, 1 male and four females (all older) and he went beserk on an attacking spree. since my girls are older I am so afraid they will be frightened and stressed. If I cannot find a home for this guy is there any way he can be retrained to accept socialization in my house. I cannot live with him in a separate room forever. Thanks readers……..

  3. heather says:

    I highly recommend seeing a veterinary behaviorist; we were lucky enough to have one at our vet clinic. Ours ended up prescribing prozac for our cat. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the difference it has made recently is astounding! Great progress is definitely being made right now in the realm of behavioral veterinary science, so try to find a behaviorist in your area that can address your particular case.

  4. carolyn says:

    I cannot imagine trying to pill this guy. Today I tried to put flea spray on him and he was barely cooperative. I managed to get some on his back neck area. The Vet I am currently going to says I should just let him mingle with the other cats and he will “get used to them”. He doesn’t seem to believe me when I tell him how aggressive he is….says he has never had a cat attack another???? I am sure that there are many women who exaggerate, but I am not. I am afraid for my other cats. I know he would not give me medicine for this problem. Do you know of a veterinary behaviorist in the Southern Illinois area? I am also on a limited income.
    Carolyn

  5. heather says:

    Sounds like you need a new vet! Don’t be afraid to go get a new vet; like any other service provider not all vets are equal.

    Luckily prozac can be given in a liquid form; depending on your cat this can be easier (I find it is, anyway—if you can just get the jaw open long enough to get a squirt in, that’s it). And of course depending on your situation there might be other remedies.

    I don’t know your area, but try searching online for other vets near you. If you find one that’s actually willing to listen to you (definitely a step in the right direction!), then they should be able to either give you better advice or point you to a vet with experience in behavioral problems. But absolutely get rid of the joker you’re seeing now; cats can and do attack each other. Ours are sister and brother, friends since birth, and she put scars on his face.

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