Friday, October 5, 2018

When Being a Brat is Normal: 6 Tips for Dealing with Displacement Aggression after a Vet Visit - Plus a FELIWAY® Giveaway

WAFFLES:  Whoa, whoa, that you, Boss? 

This post is sponsored by FELIWAY®

KATIE:  What do you mean, Waffles? Of COURSE it's me. 

WAFFLES:  You smell funny. Not ha-ha funny. More like...I-don't-even-know-who-you-are funny. 

KATIE:  Seriously, Waffles. I spend one afternoon at the vet and it's like you've lost your head. Not to mention your sense of smell.

Our Experience with Displacement Aggression
Years ago, after Waffles was just past kittenhood, we noticed that every time he or Katie would go to the vet, there'd be a period of time after we got home that Waffles would exhibit some very out of character behavior. 

Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, (a.k.a Waffles), who'd ordinarily follow Katie around like she was his best friend, was all of a sudden stalking her, staring at her, hissing, and even blocking her when she'd try to walk away. This would often last for a few hours and sometimes even into the next day. Katie's behavior toward Waffles never changed, though we're sure Waffles surprising behavior caused her stress. 

Our vet explained to us that displacement aggression is quite common, even among cats who ordinarily get along great. 

It wasn't until earlier this year, when Katie underwent extensive dental surgery, that we realized how intense and long-lasting this unwanted behavior can be. Katie had three of her canines and one incisor extracted. It was a difficult and long surgery that required general anesthetic and a day-long stay at the vet. Katie did great by the way, and has since been getting along fine with her lone fang. But the aftermath of her surgery, when she came back home, was extremely difficult for Waffles. 

Katie came home smelling nothing like herself. She was on pain medication and antibiotics for about a week, which likely affected how she smelled to Waffles. But the biggest contributing factor to the way in which Waffles was acting out was the fact that Katie wasn't able to groom herself for nearly 10 days. Her mouth probably felt very different to her. She had to get used to her new normal. Even Glogirly could tell that Katie didn't smell anything like she usually does. And with a cat's sense of smell roughly 14 times more sensitive than a human's, it's no wonder Waffles was dramatically affected. 

It's easy to become frustrated when a cat is acting out and presenting unwanted behavior. This was really a test for Glogirly's patience. She had to remind herself that Waffles was confused, scared, and probably wondering what happened to his friend. Between getting used to her new mouth and getting hissed and growled at by her longtime feline companion, Katie was also confused. 

Glogirly pulled out every trick she could think of in her book to get everyone through what was an incredibly long week. 

With so many of our friends and readers going through similar veterinary procedures with their own kitties, we hope our experience and how we dealt with it will help. 

Dealing with Displacement Aggression: 
6 Tips to Restoring Peace & Harmony

1. The Ride-Along
Whenever Katie or Waffles has an appointment at the vet, they both go. This way, both come home smelling like the vet clinic. Even if Waffles never gets out of the carrier.  It's not a 100% perfect solution, but it can lessen the animosity once everyone is home.  If your clowder is much larger, perhaps bringing only the kitty who is most prone to displacement aggression along for the ride would lessen the unwanted behavior once home.

2. The Quarantine
Depending upon the degree of aggression observed once we return home from the vet, sometimes a quarantine is in order. We've never experienced anything verging on physical harm, but it's extremely stressful for all involved. In this situation, a time-out can be very beneficial. Our home office is a perfect place for a quarantine. It's a kitty-comfortable room with a litter box, food and water, plenty of windows, and a place to scratch, nap, and play. Most important, it has a door.

For regular vet visits, the quarantine may only last a couple of hours. But back in January, when Katie had her dental surgery, the quarantine became necessary for a few days. Waffles spent his time in the office, Katie had the rest of the house, and Glogirly split her time between the two.

3. Room Swapping
When it's necessary to separate cats for an extended period of time, like a day or two, a controlled room swap can be very helpful. After Katie's surgery, Waffles spent a few days in our office, separated from Katie. Once it looked like Katie was feeling up to it, Glogirly put Katie in the office for a couple of hours while Waffles could explore where Katie had been spending her time. This helped him become acquainted with her smell again. Once Waffles was done investigating, Glogirly swithed them back. 

4.  FELIWAY® MultiCat Diffuser
If you're a regular reader of our blog, you probably know we use a number of FELIWAY® products in our home. When it comes to displacement aggression or even just stress or tension between Waffles and Katie, we've found the FELIWAY® MultiCat Diffuser to be extremely helpful. 

It's important to understand the difference between the FELIWAY® CLASSIC Diffuser and the MultiCat Diffuser, especially when dealing with displacement aggression. 

The FELIWAY® CLASSIC Diffuser provides a sense of comfort and security by creating "happy messages." The kind of comfort and security a cat feels when they rub their face against furniture, people, and even other cats. It can also give cats a sense of security when new visitors come to the house or when strange noises can be heard. 

The FELIWAY® MultiCat Diffuser helps to reduce conflict between cats living together by creating "harmony messages." It may help decrease fighting, chasing, blocking, and even staring, which for us is the perfect storm of displacement aggression behaviors. 

5. Yes, Socks!
This is a simple and effective trick that has worked wonders for us. After vet visits, Glogirly rubs Waffles' head and mouth area with one of her unwashed socks, then rubs that scent onto Katie, and vice versa. It's all about Waffles and Katie getting comfortable with each other's scents again. Glogirly's scent is familiar and calming to them as well.

6. Patience
This is by far the hardest part. Every cat and every situation is different. When it comes to displacement aggression, it may just take an hour or two, a day or two, or even a whole week. Slow and steady wins the race. 

Enter to Win!
Have you every experienced tension, stress, or displacement aggression between your cats? If you have, we've got something special for you. We're giving away a FELIWAY® MultiCat Diffuser Starter Kit to three lucky readers. Just enter below via Rafflecopter. 

Though prizes can only ship to US addresses, we're opening the giveaway up to our readers worldwide so that if anyone outside the US wins, they can gift their prize to a friend or shelter here in the US.

Good luck, everyone. And thanks for entering!

FTC Disclosure: This post and giveaway are sponsored by FELIWAY®  which means that we were paid to create and feature this content. Regardless of the payment received, we only feature products and services we use and/or feel would be relevant to our readers. 

We are not veterinarians or animal behaviorists. We're just sharing our experiences and solutions to challenges we've faced in hopes of helping other cat families. Please seek professional veterinary help if faced with a situation you are not comfortable handling.


  1. Great timing- we have a vet appointment for my two tomorrow morning and have experienced some spitting and hissing when we get home. Will try some of these tips for sure!

  2. I’ve been thinking of doing a Feliway in our house. We’ve got a rambunctious 2-yr old, Sterling, who keeps trying to get 7-yr old Mama Fluff to play with him and she’s just not interested. So she runs away, but of course he thinks she’s playing. She ends up hiding under the bed for hours.

  3. Everyone here is pretty easy going about vet visits and my therapy cat visits and longer trips. But Sparkle had a serious case of displacement aggression! Whenever Boodie went to the vet, Sparkle would get viciously angry at her when she came back. (It eventually did damage to their relationship.) She tried it on Binga too - but Binga (typically) wasn't taking her behavior. Eventually my human had to take Sparkle to the vet along with any other cat AND do a towel rubdown on both cats to keep hostility at a manageable level. So it can be tough to deal with.

  4. I didn't know that they make a multicat formula. We need it here!

  5. Gee, with all the coming and going of cats in our family lately, pretty much every one of them has been feeling stress. My oldest daughter recently moved to a new apartment with her two cats (and one has taken to wetting on a section of carpet there). Daughter #2 was supposed to move in with her boyfriend when he got an apartment closer to us, taking her cat with her, but the apartment ended up having bedbugs, so not only didn't she and her cat move there, HE moved in with us for a few months - with his two cats (and we have dogs and his cats have no experience with dogs - especially hyper, very noisy Coonhounds). So, now they finally found another apartment and have moved there, but my daughter's cat is still adjusting not only to the new home, but the two new cats in his life. That leaves MY two cats - Moko is my senior girl who has health issues and I'm thinking she may actually be GLAD my daughter's cat is gone (although Moko is also having to go to the vet at least once a month for weigh-ins and a steroid shot, and that is getting her very stressed). My other cat, Kotoha, was actually pretty bonded with my daughter's cat, so she's feeling the stress. It seems like ALL of us could use something like this!

  6. These are great tips! And since I have a Houdini who escapes to check out the ferals, when I get him back, there is a lot of aggression from my other two!

  7. My 2 boys get along fairly well. They do play fight every once in awhile, that can lead into a real fight. So maybe a feliway could help. Thanks for the giveaaway.

  8. Feliway is wonderful! Hide and Seek are former ferals, and they get really stressed out when people come over. A combination of play therapy, cuddle time, good escape spaces, and Feliway helps a lot. I’ve never used the muliti cat though. I’m intrigued!

  9. Great tips. We usually go to the vet at the same time.

  10. Those are great tips. If Flynn had to go to the vet, when he came home Eric would sniff him and go off as normal as if he was saying,"Yeah, you don't smell right, but I know it's you."
    Flynn on the other hand was a monster! When Eric came home he would hiss and swat at him. When he had some FORLS teeth removed Flynn rejected him for about 2 weeks. I felt so bad for Eric because he was such an easy going boy, but you could see the expression on his face that he was upset and confused why his brother and best friend was acting like that.
    The Meezers mom, Mary left a comment saying that if any of her cats had to go to the vet she would rub baby talc around their head and back ends so they all smelled the same. I didn't think it would work because Flynn was so horrible to Eric, but it did.

  11. I only have one cat at home, but the shelter I volunteer for could definitely use a multicat formula!

  12. We get this here too, after certain vet visits. And of course, it's Toby who has the problems. Leia gets over it fast, if she even feels anything.

  13. We never quite solved this same problem, when Chuck was going to the vet many more times than Angel was! The look on his face when she'd hiss at him...just broke my heart. I rubbed them with a towel before, then rubbed them again...we sequestered...we tried treats. Angel wasn't having ANY OF IT! Chuck never hissed at her, when she returned from the vet. Funny Angel!

  14. My Bear is like this and we have used some of these suggestions. Would love to try the Feliway Multicat as we certainly are a multicat household.

  15. The fun of visiting the vets. I take a towel and rub each of them with it..

  16. We tried the classic diffuser which didn’t make much difference. Sounds as though the multicat would be more helpful as we have similar aggression issues.

  17. I had this problem with Wally. Every time Ernie came home from the vet, Wally would attack him, hiss, fight. I began taking Wally along when Ernie had to go to the vet and that helped, though it was a pain in the butt. But what really did the trick was after Wally spent 4 days in the hospital. Now when Ernie comes home from the vet, Wally sniffs him but doesn't get overly bothered. Maybe spending those 4 days in the hospital made him immune to vet smells.

  18. I've had issues, thankfully not frequently, but moving has made them uncomfortable

  19. I used to have cats that did, but now I only have one and he doesnt really have that bad of a reaction

  20. i dont have cats but would love this for safe haven for cats. i am sure they need this for the cats and kittens they took in from Florence. so many are and were distressed over losing their homes, being displaced, and left to survive on their own. many were saved from drowning.

  21. I have one cat, but she seems to like to look out our windows and she gets very excited when she sees another cat on our lawn. She runs from window to window to try to see it. I am not sure how she would act if the cat was in the house though.

  22. Great tips! I have 3 cats and my oldest Julius is almost 11 years old and the youngest Charlie who is almost 2, definitely have a lot of tension and bicker quite a bit. I have tried the multicat diffuser and it helps a little bit but I think I need a couple more for the size of my home to make more of a difference.

  23. These are great tips. We especially love the sock idea. Humans don't realize how much cats smell us as one, big, happy family, so spreading the community scent is a great idea. Cupcake has a thing for socks and underwear for exactly this reason, but we think we'll stick to using socks for this task.

  24. Great tips ! We never had that problem here, but Claire is aware of it and would quickly use a magical sock and quarantine if it happened. Purrs

  25. Love the sock tip, gotta try that next time. So far the quarantine room has been what we have used.

  26. My cats luckily haven't had issues when they come home from the vet with each other. The only times are when one is wearing an Elizabethan collar:) The sock tip is a good idea to keep in mind though. I might try that on the two cats that dont like one another and get into fights now and then. My mom says its because the one smells different but maybe can get over it if they both smell like me!!!

  27. I have a foster cat that now i will be keeping as my girl Cassie just passed. But Lily is being mean to the foster Luke and i need this to stop. Ive tried collars sprays nothing helps.

  28. I had a lot of issues with my Velcro and Inky after Inky's surgery. It was a couple of weeks of site swapping and long nights. Going to try the sock thing for sure.

  29. Yes, especially when I first introduced them, they still avoid each other and will randomly hiss at one another.

  30. We had the same situation a year ago with our Bengals. In two days... they will have been living in separate parts of the house for 1 year. We are also working with a cat behaviorist who specializes in Bengal and Savannah aggression. What you have written is a small part of our current routine. Because Mysti's aggressive and relentless attacks on Deuter every step we take with them is very slow. Moving no faster than the slowest cat can do. I'm hoping for a reunion next year. The one thing I've learned... patience and love is paramount. ��


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