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Expert Q&A

Every day, my male cat looks out the window, waiting for another outdoor male cat (a neighbor’s pet) that marches through my garden. After this other cat pays his visit, Nate hisses and growls at me. What could explain this behavior?

Every day, my male cat looks out the window, waiting for another outdoor male cat (a neighbor’s pet) that marches through my garden. After this other cat pays his visit, Nate hisses and growls at me. What could explain this behavior?

BY: The Daily Cat experts

The behavior you describe is called redirected aggression. It’s when aggression is inflicted upon an individual or group that did not provoke the initial anger. We humans do it all of the time, such as when a spouse or roommate picks a fight with someone after having a bad day.

It sounds like your cat is experiencing many bad days -- or at least moments -- watching the neighbor cat march onto his home turf. Cats are extremely territorial and will often try to “push buttons,” expanding into another cat’s area that might be desirable. Feral cats often do this to house kitties. If the latter is left outside at night, in particular, roaming feral cats may try to attack and scare off the home cat, acquiring the area for themselves. That is one of many reasons why you should not let your cat outside, unless he has a leash or other protection.

You probably cannot prevent him from spying on this other male cat. The Humane Society of the United States offers these tips for dealing with feline aggression:

  • Don’t think that cats can work out problems among themselves. It’s a good thing your Nate is indoors.
  • Don’t touch fighting cats. Although your cat cannot directly tangle with the neighbor’s cat, it’s best to leave Nate alone for a while until his temper cools off.
  • Don’t punish your cat. Nate is ready to lash out anyway, so you could be his target. Plus, your pet would not even associate the punishment with his irate behavior.
  • Don’t consider adding more cats to your household if Nate is very territorial. While many cats enjoy the company of others, some find it more difficult to adjust to multi-cat households.

With any luck, your neighbor will also want to improve his or her cat’s safety by making him indoor-only too.


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