Why is Kitty So Mad? It Could Be Redirected Aggression

We recently received a call for help from a very confused cat parent. It seems her cat had suddenly decided to attack everyone at random — the cat parent, the other cats, the dog … Having always been a sweet and loving kitty, this new behavior perplexed the family. After ruling out medical issues with their veterinarian, the kitty’s mom decided to book a behavior session with us at Cat Behavior Alliance.

As we asked her questions about the cat’s behavior during our Zoom meeting, the reason for the “bad” conduct became crystal clear: This was a classic case of redirected aggression. What was actually the true source of kitty’s aggression? New neighbors had moved in, and the sight of their cats outdoors in the yard drove the cat bonkers. Cats are always on guard for predators, and there was a possible predator right next door — one the cat could see but not reach. Unable to attack the true source of frustration and anguish, kitty had turned the aggression toward any being that was close enough to touch.

What is redirected aggression in cats?

Redirected aggression, also called displaced aggression, is one of the most common behavior issues in cats. Simply put, something happened that caused the cat to react in fear, and their natural survival instincts took over. It’s the old “fight or flight” reflex kicking in, the one that keeps cats safe from becoming another predator’s meal in nature.