WAFFLES: Whoa, whoa, whoa...is 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.
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.