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Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 30378
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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What could cause indoor cat to begin biting with no provocation?

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This occurs when the target of her aggression (you) 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. You may have to be quite the detective as stimuli can be imperceptible to owners. Medication can be beneficial for reducing her response to environmental stimuli - psychoactive drugs such as Prozac have been used. The most important thing that I can impart to you is to be careful around her 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. If you notice her becoming aroused it's best to (carefully!) sequester her in a darkened and quiet room until her level of arousal abates.

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Resolved Question:

What could cause a 7 yr old indoor cat to begin biting with no provocation? She had a thorough exam.

Submitted: 30 days ago.
Category: Cat

I'm sorry to hear of this with your cat. I have advanced training in feline behavior and can tell you that she is most likely demonstrating redirected aggression toward you. This occurs when the target of her aggression (you) 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. You may have to be quite the detective as stimuli can be imperceptible to owners. Medication can be beneficial for reducing her response to environmental stimuli - psychoactive drugs such as Prozac have been used. The most important thing that I can impart to you is to be careful around her 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. If you notice her becoming aroused it's best to (carefully!) sequester her in a darkened and quiet room until her level of arousal abates. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 30 days ago.
Tabitha belongs to a friend. She just texted me saying Tabitha scratches more than bites. I've dealt with redirected aggression so I know what you are talking about. What she describes though sounds more out of the blue, but I will ask her what has happened beforehand. I will tell her what you said & the Prozac option.

I appreciate your taking the time to do that. "Out of the blue" is a good description of uninhibited aggression redirected by these cats - whether it be scratching, biting, or both.

Dr. Michael Salkin and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 30 days ago.
Thank you. I may contact you again about this issue. My friend wants me to adopt Tabitha but the last thing I need is a troubled cat. I already have several of my own who squabble mostly over me. I am also recovering from a cat bite, taking 2 antibiotics concurrently. I barely escaped hospital myself, so will caution her again.

You're quite welcome. I agree with you. You don't need that aggravation.