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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28524
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My 2 year old female cat Ellie is the most affectionate loving

Customer Question

My 2 year old female cat Ellie is the most affectionate loving cat I have ever known. She sleeps with me at night, loves to sit on my lap, brings me gifts (toys mostly as she is an indoor cat) and plays games with me regularly (like peek a boo behind the bathroom curtain). I love her and she loves me. She is not afraid of most people and is quite social. However I have a cousin who has only been to my home twice -- and both times Ellie attached her (hissing, growling, and swatting her with her paw). My cousin is a real cat lover who has 9 cats of her own at home. I cannot imagine that the cousin would or could hurt Ellie in any way. Could it be the scent of the 9 other cats that makes my Ellie feel threatened and act so aggressively? I am puzzled by this bad behavior in my darling cat who I thought was the best cat ever.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Am I connected with an expert or do I need to sign in with the temporary password? I submitted a question about the aggressive behavior of my cat Ellie.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
You hit the nail on the head. I have advanced training in feline behavior and can tell you that Ellie exhibited redirected aggression. This occurs when the target of Ellie's aggression (your cousin) is not the stimulus that triggered the state of aggressive arousal. Territorial, fear-induced and defensive aggression are the types of behaviors that are likely to be redirected by her. Stimuli that can cause an aggressive state of arousal include the sight or sound of another cat (at times quite far away from the home), unusual noises, ODORS OF OTHER ANIMALS, unfamiliar people, and unfamiliar environments. A common situation is one in which the pet becomes aroused upon seeing or hearing another cat while sitting in a window. When the owner attempts to pet it, pick it up, or nudge it away from the window, it attacks. It may show aggression toward another pet when approached in similar situations. Redirected aggression is a common cause of the sudden appearance of aggression between cats in the same household that have been living together amicably for quite some time. This type of aggression is probably the most dangerous type of aggression cats exhibit due to the uninhibited nature of the bites. Treatment involves identifying triggers for arousal and then removing the pet's access to the stimuli...that would mean sequestering Ellie when your cousin comes to visit. The most important thing that I can impart to you is to be careful around Ellie when she is aroused. Too many of my owners have ended up in the hospital due to infected bite wounds. One encouraging fact is that many of our cats will habituate to the arousing stimuli and "self-cure" within weeks to months.
Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.