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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-24-2009, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
 
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Sudden aggressive behavior?

I have a spayed 3 1/2 year old calico female that up until recently has been a very well behaved, if a bit indifferent, cat.

Recently, she will be her usual self and then *BANG* will suddenly begin to hiss and spit at me for absolutely no reason. If I try and approach her when she's like this she will cower, lay her ears back and scream, hiss and begin to swipe her claws at me.

It's like flicking a switch. Nice kitty/devil kitty.

It happened once or twice over the past several months, but has now become a regular problem.

She is an indoors only cat, well cared for with no history of health issues or injury.

Any ideas?
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-24-2009, 11:28 PM
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Re: Sudden aggressive behavior?

Welcome, and I'm sorry your kitty is pulling a Jekyll/Hyde routine on you, it must be scary. Most cats are reactive to the environment around them and smells/odors are a very big part of how they perceive their world. There is a behavior called "re-directed or mis-directed aggression", where something (sight, sound, smell) triggers a cat to get angry/defensive and they become frustrated when they either cannot locate or reach the source of their animosity so they direct it to the nearest victim, which usually happens to be other household pets but can include the people of the family, too.

Have you noticed her behaving in this manner after you've been outside? Handled other animals or anything that smells differently than your household? I know it is most often experienced after a stray cat has been seen outside in the yard, a new/different animal has been handled and/or another household pet has had to visit the vet and comes home smelling of the vet office. Sometimes, people are successful in combating this behavior by seperating the cats and applying a drop of vanilla to the back of the neck of each animal. This helps to sort of 'overwhelm' their sense of smell and make everything smell the same, which is soothing for the animals, because when something smells different, it can sometimes be perceived instinctually as a danger, and this is why many pets act so aggressively.

I would also like to caution you against approaching your cat when she is in the thrall of one of these episodes because she will react instinctively and may harm you. This is a normal behavior, but because the cat is being governed by their instincts, the cat won't 'behave as normal' in the way we perceive the cat's everyday behavior. The key is to try to find what is triggering this reaction in the cat and remove that trigger.
Best of luck,
Heidi



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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-25-2009, 12:13 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Sudden aggressive behavior?

thanks for the reply.

The last few days she freaks out just before I leave for work. She's fine up until i put my shoes on and am about to leave. At that point she starts to fly off the handle.

Tonight after i got home, she was fine. i petted her and brushed her. I went back into the bedroom and she followed me. As I left the bedroom, she was in front of me. after a few steps down the hall, she stopped and turned to me and started hissing. From then on for about 2 hours she kept about a 10 foot distance from me no matter where I went, never taking her eyes off me.
If I called to her or walked in her direction the hissing and growling started up again.

I'm not sure when I can get her to a vet. I work during the week and taking time off for personal reasons is VERY frowned upon.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-25-2009, 12:46 AM
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Re: Sudden aggressive behavior?

Hm. That is puzzling and I'm not sure what to advise. Maybe just try to reinforce the good things when she allows them and try to ignore the fearful behavior when she is exhibiting it?

Here are some tips to consider. Looking at a cat directly is seen by them as a challenge or aggression. Now, we look at our cats all the time and they don't always react that way, but if you are looking at her in a direct/concerned or even fearful manner (eyes wide open) this could be something she is reacting to. You can try to catch her gaze with your eyes and then either blink slowly at her and/or look down/away. NOT looking at a cat tells them you trust them enough to NOT watch their every move. It is a trick many people who socialize feral cats use to show the cats they mean no harm to them.
I also talk in a slow, low voice to the ferals. Mostly nonsense phrases but I also do a lot of uuuummmm-hhhmmmm-ing to try to soothe them. You could also see if she would accept some tasty treats, but I have a feeling if she is in one of her 'defensive moods' she isn't going to be bribed or distracted easily.

During her friendly times, does she appear to be in any pain? It is either that or a smell or action that I think is triggering this reaction in her. Do your shoes (sorry for suggesting this) smell? I don't mean like stinky-feet, I mean like what do you walk through and could possibly be carrying those odors home to her?
I'm stumped. Maybe someone else will see this and have something else to add...
Heidi



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