My Cat Scratches Me When He Sees the Neighbor's Cat

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, talks about redirected aggression in cats when faced with an adversary.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: September 17, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: All my cats stay indoors. My neighbor has an unneutered male whom he lets wander the neighborhood. When my cat Jiggs sees him on our patio, Jiggs starts yowling and tries to get through the glass door to attack him. When he feels this way, he will attack any other cat in my household that comes near him or me!  He has already bitten and scratched me.

I put a plastic laundry basket over him and weigh it down until he cools off. What else I can do when this happens, so he doesn't attack me or the other cats?

A: Jiggs is exhibiting classic redirected aggression. This behavior can result from being provoked or incited by another animal your cat can’t get to. The upset cat responds by biting or scratching the nearest animal. That animal might be his best buddy or his favorite human.

The best way to solve your cat Jiggs’ problem is to first address the initial cause for his aggression: the neighbor’s cat. You need to ban the intruder from your property. Try speaking with your neighbor about his cat. If he won’t keep him indoors, which he probably won’t, talk to him about neutering his cat. He may be more open to it if you volunteer to help catch the cat and transport him to the vet. Neutering won’t solve your problem, but it will help keep the feral cat population down.

Most likely, your neighbor will continue to let his cat outside. If that’s the case, transform your yard into an area where the neighborhood cats won’t want to spend time. Cat-safe deterrents can effectively keep unwelcomed cats out of the yard. Ultrasonic devices emit a frequency that animals don’t like. Point the device out, away from the windows and doors (you don’t want your cats to be disturbed by the sound). Lemon and lemon peels or BitterApple placed in strategic areas in the yard can also deter visitors.   

Until the intruder can be banned from your yard, block the windows or keep your cats away from where they can see the unwelcomed cat. Place butcher paper or fabric placed in the lower parts of the windows and sliding glass doors. After the unwelcomed cat stops visiting, remove the paper or fabric from the windows.

When Jiggs’s exhibits redirected aggression, don’t place the weighted laundry basket over him. This increases his stress because he has no way of escaping. Instead, remove the other cats from the room. Do not pick up Jiggs, because he might bite or scratch you. Instead, carefully direct and herd him into a quiet room in your house. Darken the room by pulling the curtains or shades. Make sure there’s food, water, a clean litterbox and places Jiggs can hide in his sanctuary room. Leave him alone. No cats or people should be allowed in the room with him until after he cools down. Some cats cool down in a few hours, others can take a day or longer.

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My Cat Scratches Me When He Sees the Neighbor's Cat

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Reader Comments

;DF    ';XA, MI

10/7/2010 12:39:15 AM


;A    A[, MA

10/5/2010 12:40:50 AM


;D'[    ;LXA, MN

10/1/2010 12:17:26 AM


Sadie    Logan, UT

9/21/2010 7:17:38 AM

Poor strays. They probably would like to be in a home that likes cats like yours.

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