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Hi

I have a cat Vincent (6 years-old) who is very aggressive and territorial toward Leo (2 1/2).

I know that I need to separate Vincent and Leo for a long period and then try reintroducing them slowly to try and resolve this problem for the long term but I have a few other questions...

The way I initially tried dealing with Vincent's behavior was to say his name loud and get out the squirt bottle. On at least two occasions after I squirted Vincent and scolded him to stop he came after me scratching my legs (none of my cats are declawed). Since then I've tried just saying his name to get his attention and then petting him to calm him down.

I'm not sure what the conventional wisdom is on dealing with this. Is squirting him and saying his name loudly only scaring him more (I assumed it was)? Is trying to calm him down and petting him seeming like a reward to him?

Also, how to do you handle it if a cat shows aggression toward you? Do you not want to allow them to see themselves as dominate over you?

Thanks!
 

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First of all, whenever you use the squirt bottle, you mustn’t let Vincent see that it’s you spraying the water. One reason (as you’ve noted) is that he might learn to fear you if he knows you’re continually spraying him with water. But, the other reason is he needs to learn to associate what he’s doing (chasing) with the negative consequence (getting wet). So, he needs to start thinking “When I chase Leo, I get wet”. If he sees you doing the squirting, he will think “When I chase Leo, Colin squirts me with the bottle”. So now he associates the negative consequence with you. In part, that might cause him to fear you and, in part, he’ll be smart enough to realize that if Colin or the squirt bottle aren’t in the vicinity, it’s ok to chase Leo! So, the water needs to appear out of thin air, so to speak, whereupon Vincent will, over time, start to think “When I chase Leo, I get wet”.

However, he will only start to think “When I chase Leo, I get wet” if he gets wet every time he chases Leo. And that’s the second problem with the squirt bottle. Even if you could squirt him without him knowing it’s you, it’s difficult to achieve 100% consistency. Half the time when he chases Leo, you’ll be somewhere else or the squirt bottle won’t be handy, etc. So, half the time he chases Leo, he’ll get wet and the other half of the time, he won’t. As a result, he’ll never learn to associate his behavior with the negative consequence.

In order to reduce the chasing, I would try to distract him…not so he learns to associate distraction with chasing, but just so as to reduce the chasing and calm him down. So, if saying his name and petting him to calm him down is working, I’d continue with that…along with the re-introduction as you mentioned.

As for dealing with an aggressive cat, I don’t have much experience with that. My cats have only been aggressive with me in play (play biting, etc., when they were kittens). I would just say “No” and then ignore them for a while. But, they’ve never tried to scratch or bite since they passed the kitten stage.
 

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I'm not a fan of water sprayers as a form of discipline.

So, first of all is Vincent neutered? If not, he should be, that would decrease his aggressiveness. If he is neutered, it sounds like you have a feisty cat that is dominant and doesn't like being pushed around, nor sprayed with water. He's showing this by attacking you. Some cats, whether by genetics or upbringing, can be dominant and aggressive. It's not a good idea when disciplining a cat to yell his name. You want the cat only to associate his name with something good. ("Vincent, come here"---then give him lots of pets, caresses, or a toy "Vincent, want treats?"). With an aggressive cat like Vincent, you'll have to treat him "with a velvet glove", no yelling, use a quiet voice, no heavy handed actions if he attacks you. That will only infuriate him more. Have some treats in your pocket at all times, or a toy. If he attacks your legs, say "Pssst!" and distract him with a toy. Or say, "Vincent come", and walk a way a little and then give him treats. You want to divert his attention from attacking your legs. Watch his body language for tail twitching and dilated eyes. This will often happen before an attack. Distract him at that stage, by throwing a toy or paper ball. I hope you will try some of these suggestions, and see if it will moderate his behavior towards you. You may not be able to do anything about Vincent's attitude towards Leo though, and may have to keep them separated to keep peace. Let us know how it goes.
 
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