Speaking for the furry ones on this earth...

Why Does My Cat Attack for No Reason: Redirected Aggression in Cats

Cats that attack for no reason might have misplaced aggression.

Have you ever had this experience? Your cat is peacefully looking out the window when suddenly, he jumps down, looking agitated, and when you walk by, he attacks you. And not a playful, purry, pounce, either, but a real attack where he might even draw blood with his claws or teeth. Many cat owners have experienced this, and it can be scary and bewildering.

Redirected or Misdirected Aggression in Cats

What might be going on in the scenario described above is that your cat is redirecting his pent-up energy that has another source. That energy might be fear, excitement, the urge to defend territory, pain, or the desire to chase prey. Cats that are otherwise friendly might attack people or other animals in the home when they are affected by this.

Here are some everyday situations and occurrences that can trigger misdirected aggression in cats:

  • An indoor cat can see or sense a cat or another rival animal outside but can't get to it.
  • Something for which he can't identify the source scares the cat. This is often a loud noise from the TV or something falling and making a crash.
  • The cat can see prey animals like squirrels, birds, or chipmunks through a window, but he can't get to them.
  • In multiple cat households that also have a resident dog, one cat might be scared by the dog and, not feeling brave enough to take the canine family member on, he might instead attack other cats in the home.
  • Cats with pain often engage in redirected aggression. They don't always understand that internal pain isn't coming from an external source, so when they feel a burst of pain, they might blame and retaliate against a nearby person or animal.

Misdirected Aggression Can Create a Cycle in a Multicat Household

When one cat in a home that contains multiple cats engages in misdirected aggression, it can create a domino effect, causing all of the other cats to become on edge, defensive, and potentially aggressive. Alternatively, when a timid cat is the recipient of the agitated cat's outbursts consistently, that cat can experience severe stress and, subsequently, begin engaging in negative behaviors like inappropriate urination.

How Is Misdirected Aggression in Cats Diagnosed?

This type of aggression can be tricky to diagnose. These attacks can occur instantly after an inciting event or up to hours later. Sometimes an owner might be lucky enough to see the trigger happen and be able to connect it with the resulting aggression, but that doesn't happen too often.

One big clue that misdirected aggression might be the cause of a cat's attacks is that it begins suddenly in a cat that previously got along well with housemates and never attacked people or other pets in the home.

If your cat begins attacking out of the blue, the first thing to do is take him to the veterinarian. Medical causes for aggression, like pain, should be ruled out before you continue.

What Is the Treatment for Redirected Aggression in Cats?

If your cat is aggressive toward another cat in the home, separate them. Wait until the aggressive cat is acting calm and relaxed before allowing them to be together again. Don't use your hands or other body parts to get between the cats, though. Try a loud noise or a pillow dropped between the two cats. A spray of water might be necessary.

Use a Feliway Multicat diffuser to help calm the cats in your home. Use it consistently for 30 days, being sure to follow the instructions regarding the square footage that one diffuser will cover and not placing it behind furniture or near open windows.

If you believe the trigger for your cat's misplaced aggression is that he sees other cats or animals outside, do what you can to block the view. Use curtains to cover the window, and move cat perches to other spots. If you have a bird feeder near a window, move it to another place in your yard where your cat won't be able to see it. Many times, windows and perches are great enrichment for indoor cats, but sometimes they trigger misplaced aggression and can't be used.

Give your cat something else to attack. If you see your cat gearing up to attack you or another cat, toss a toy in the opposite direction, or get out a wand toy and let him take his energy out on that.

Use Soft Paws® on your cat while you work on the problem. This can help protect you and your other cats from scratches.

If you or one of your cats is scratched or bitten, get medical treatment right away. Cat bites, especially, can be very dangerous.

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at CatScratching.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.