Update on Redirected Aggression after Spay

I’m happy to report that Cornelius and Elizabeth’s relationship is not damaged and is recovering nicely!

Last week I explained how Elizabeth become aggressive and fearful of Cornelius after her getting spayed. It was quite stressful to watch a bonded pair suddenly act like strangers. I determined her behavior was a mild (and luckily temporary) case of re-directed aggression which was caused by her spay. Likely the discomfort from her operation made her agitated and therefore took it out on Cornelius.

What is redirected Aggression in Cats:

This aggressive behavior occurs when cats, unable to respond directly to threats or discomfort, vent their frustrations onto another animal who happens to be nearby.

redirected cat aggression

What I did:

First I confirmed Elizabeth was healing properly. I regularly checked her incision.. Monitored her eating and litter box usage.

Then I very closely monitored all interactions and prevented and attacks or fights. The scary thing is that sometimes re-directed aggression can be long-term. If given the chance to engage in a fight, this could have long-term effects on their relationship. Whenever they got to close I separated them.

Elizabeth never approached or went after Cornelius, but she was obsessed and fixated on where he was at all times and could not rest. So I separated her for a couple of hours so she could sleep in peace. Then I allowed them in the same room. She continued to growl and hiss but they kept their distance. I continued to separate and reunite every few hours. I kept them separated for two nights, because I couldn’t monitor them and prevent an encounter while I slept.

I continued to feed them together, not inches together like they used to it. But 1-2 feet apart, this was not a problem for them which made me feel very hopeful.

After the second night of separation, that morning when they met, Elizabeth was fine. No aggression, no fear. She just seemed happy to see him. I was so relieved.

I feel pretty lucky, and owe most of the credit to Cornelius that he was so chill and non responsive to her bizarre behavior.

I received many helpful and kind comments of what I could do to mend their relationship. I also did a ton of research on re-directed aggression.

What to do if your cats display redirected aggression towards each other:

  1. Find the cause ( illness, injury, change in environment, vet visit, cat went outside and brought back new scents, stray or neighbor pets outside) If you can find the cause this will help you understand how long it may take to restore the relationship.
  2. Give the aggressive cat a time-out. Give them a quiet safe place to recover. Somewhere with a litter box, scratching posts, toys. You can even turn off the lights and play music.┬áThis time-out may last an hour to a few days. But don’t just abandon them. Continue to have calm positive contact and check with them frequently.
  3. Slowly re-introduce the cats just like you would if you were bringing in a new cat. You can start by swamping scents, then sight then contact. The pace of this depends on how extreme your cats are acting. (See how I introduced my kitten to my cat)

Thank you to everyone who was concerned and offered help and experiences! While I am very grateful this is now resolved, I do realize that they may be prone to this type of behavior again in the future. If so, I will be more prepared to

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9 Comments

  1. October 6, 2015 / 6:53 pm

    Thanks so much for letting us know the good outcome. Our Mr Buttons went to have some toothies out recently and it has been slow going getting him back to being a confident man cat. It takes love and steady attention to the little things which you did in spades Yay
    Timmy

    • October 6, 2015 / 7:01 pm

      I’m happy yours is doing better as well! It is an serious operation. If we had a hysterectomy or teeth removed I’m we would be be down for a while afterwards as well.

      • October 6, 2015 / 8:15 pm

        Lugosi had both his top fangs removed earlier this year and he was totally fine! I was more worried than I should have been, because as soon as he was home he went straight for his food and didn’t appear to be in pain, much to my relief. And even after the anaesthetic totally wore off, he was still fine and eating and not acting like he was in pain – but in my mind, he *must* have been! Poor baby. He was such a soldier! But every cat is different. I’m sure if this had been Lugosi’s twin brother Spider, who is a total drama queen, it would have been a different situation… :)

  2. October 3, 2015 / 12:21 am

    Dat’s pawsum. Weez glad fings be back to normal and they be gettin’ along.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  3. October 2, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    We’re very happy to read that things are back to normal ! Purrs

  4. October 2, 2015 / 12:01 pm

    We’re so glad to hear things are back to normal. :)

  5. October 2, 2015 / 11:13 am

    I’m so please that your gentle reintroduction worked so well. It sure is a real worry to us when this happens, but most times it will simply take a few days to get back to normal, plus of course, the steps you took to remedy the problem.

    Funnily enough, what you say about redirected aggression, this has happened so many times when there is a strange cat outside our front door (who a lot of times also pees on our doorstep, marking its territory!), and when they hear or smell the cat (or its pee), but cannot direct their disdain or aggression towards the actual cat, they have often turned on each other in a vicious little scuffle that I had to break up. However, these fights are shortlived and they usually forget about it 10 minutes later….

    • October 2, 2015 / 12:06 pm

      Thank you! Stray or neighborhood cats are often the cause. That’s good news the fights are so short-lived. Elizabeth’s case was more extreme, she was so on edge, and because she was still healing from the operation I felt she needed time to heal alone.