Managing health challenges in cats with Down syndrome

Redirected aggression happens when your cat is agitated by another animal, person or event but is unable to direct aggression toward the stimulus. An example is when your cat is sitting on a windowsill and sees a strange cat on your property. Your cat might become aroused and begin to show aggressive body postures, hiss or growl. If you or another cat who lives in your home happens to walk into the room, you might be on the receiving end of an aggressive attack. When this happens between two cats who share the same home, they may no longer be able to tolerate being together and will fight whenever they see each other.

The stimulus that agitates your cat is usually another cat, but it could be any sight or sound that is a source of discomfort that leads to a heightened level of anxiety. Thunder, fireworks and loud trucks are just a few examples of what might set off your anxious cat.

When we lived in our apartment, there were feral cats that we fed in the back alley. Our cat Gracey was as sweet as could be, and I never had a problem with her being aggressive. Yet, one day, one of the alley cats came and jumped up onto the outside window ledge while Gracey was on the inside window ledge, and I heard hissing and yowling like I had never heard from her. The noise scared me and, without thinking, I reached over to pick Gracey up and I was bitten. This was entirely my fault and I knew better, but I didn’t think Gracey would be aggressive with me. That was my first experience with redirected aggression.

What I should’ve done is just avoided her until she calmed down. You should never reach in as I did.

If the aggression is being directed toward another cat that lives in your home, the two cats must be separated. Your cats may only need to be separated for a few minutes, but be prepared for it to take hours or, in some cases, days until the aggressive cat is calm enough to be reintroduced to the other cat.

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The best way to calm an agitated cat is to put the cat in a darkened room and leave him there to decompress. If the aggressive cat does not retreat into a room where he can be confined, then a large blanket, thick gardening gloves or a large piece of cardboard should be used to protect yourself while attempting to get the agitated cat into the room. If you can, throw a large blanket or comforter over the cat, wrap the blanket around your cat and quickly place him in the room, blanket and all.

No matter how long the cats are separated, the cat might remain aggressive to the other cat after they are released. This is most likely to happen if the redirected aggression was met with retaliation or punishment or your cat became fearful while you were trying to separate the aggressive cat from the victim cat. If this is the case, the aggression may persist.

If aggression is a recurring problem, you should think of a safe method to quickly confine your cat. The best solutions are always rewarded for training. One solution would be to teach your cat to run into his safe room upon verbal cue or perhaps by shaking a bag of his favorite treats.

As a last resort, you might need to use a water spray or a noise deterrent device to chase the agitated cat to her safe room. Just by chance one day, I imitated the sound of a hyena and that did the trick.