Heat Cycles May Cause Aggression

A feline behavior expert suggests a thorough medical examination to rule out health issues leading to aggression.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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Q: Does an unaltered female get aggressive if she isn't bred? Our female cat, Gigi, has always gotten along well with our male cat, Bugsy, but lately she has been sweet and loving to him one minute, then chasing and attacking him the next. The veterinarian who spayed Gigi said that sometimes some tissue can be left that can cause the cat to have heat cycles. Could this be happening with our cat? Would it explain the aggression?

Feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennettt, author of Think Like a Cat, says:
Yikes, what an ordeal you have been going through. I can only imagine how confused and stressed out you must be.

Although redirected aggression is always a possibility, I'm leaning toward this being a medical problem instead. I think Gigi needs a good examination. She may be going into heat but she may also be in pain. If she is in heat, it can create confusion in the relationship because she doesn't act like herself and that can upset Bugsy. It's not unusual for multicat household dynamic to change when one kitty is in heat. Cats are creatures of habit and a major change in personality can be upsetting. If Bugsy is acting differently toward her it could cause her to become aggressive in response to him. I do think she needs to be seen by the veterinarian so you can rule out any underlying medical concerns.

Then, regardless of the initial cause, I think the reintroduction needs to be more gradual. Although they may cry when they are apart, if Bugsy is slinking around and acting submissive, then that is only going to create more tension between the two of them. I think Gigi needs to be separated in one room and let Bugsy have the run of the house for a while. Then, when Bugsy is acting like himself again you can begin a very gradual reintroduction. Having Gigi live in another home temporarily would only create more stress and turn this into a bigger trauma. 

I recommend getting a Feliway diffuser and set that up in the main part of the house for Bugsy.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC
IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

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Heat Cycles May Cause Aggression

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Reader Comments

Michalle    Portland, OR

3/2/2012 2:56:25 PM

ALL cats should be spayed or neutered unless you are responsibly breeding them. An intact female will be more aggresive and spray around the hose. Plus, the cat will be healthier.

Linda    Mandeville, LA

12/21/2008 8:12:29 PM

Good article.

M.Geske    Hamilton, Ontario.Canada, CA

11/22/2008 12:07:20 PM

Can my cat,Suzie, who has been spayed, be in heat.
She goes up and down the stairs, howling, for long periods of time.

Barb    West Wyoming, PA

12/3/2006 8:25:24 AM

I think the article was very informative. However, I want to know if cats come in heat at specific times and for how long? I would appreciate your comments. My kitten is 7 months old and not spayed yet. She is howling for 2 days already and acting really strange with my other 2 cats.

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