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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have five cats, four females and one nuetered male. All have been introduced at different times over the past three years. All of them have gotten along just fine. Niko is my second oldest and female. Over the last month or so she has begun hissing any time one of her sisters walks nearby her or tries to play. It has even resulted in one actual fight. She has never acted this way and its frightening. All the other cats are acting normal. Why all the aggressive behavior all of a sudden? She won’t socialize and won’t quit being mean to everyone. She used to be so playful with the others. Why is she doing this?

~ Jeremy

an angry Sphynx cat hisses.

Angry Sphynx cat, (CC-BY-SA) by Wikimedia user Trilobite2

Siouxsie: There are two common reasons for sudden behavior changes, Jeremy: health issues and redirected aggression.

Thomas: Redirected aggression comes from seeing an intruder outdoors and not being able to do anything about it — which makes the cat attack the first indoor thing she sees.

Bella: But Jeremy, we suspect that your Niko might be acting aggressive because she’s in pain or because she’s ill.

Siouxsie: You see, we cats instinctively hide our pain. It’s encoded in the core of our very being because showing pain means weakness, which could get you killed out in the big, bad world of wild cats.

Thomas: Because of this, the only sign you might have that your cat is hurting is a change in her demeanor and the way she acts toward you and other cats.

Bella: For example, Siouxsie gets grumpy when her hips hurt, which means she’s grumpy all winter! Tee hee hee …

Siouxsie: Listen, you little runt, you’d better cut that out right now or I’ll come over there and swat you!

Bella: Oh, sure you will. If you can get those creaky bones to run as fast as me! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!

Thomas: Bella, you cut that out. You’re gonna be old and creaky someday, too, so respect your elders!

Bella: *grump*

Siouxsie: Anyway … as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted: I recommend that you take Niko to the vet for a checkup.

Thomas: Me too. You should probably get her a blood test, too, just to make sure she doesn’t have anything wrong with her liver, kidneys or thyroid gland.

Bella: If you do find that she’s in pain and you’re able to do something about it, I bet she’ll start feeling better (and being nicer to her feline housemates) pretty quickly.

Siouxsie: On the other hand, if Niko gets a clean bill of health, you’re going to want to look into redirected aggression as a possible issue.

Thomas: Your vet will probably have some tips on how to help her feel less stressed, which will reduce the aggression.

Bella: We’ve got some tips on the subject, too, which you can find here and here.

Siouxsie: Good luck, Jeremy. Please get back to us on what you find out — we’d love to get an update on Niko and how she’s doing.

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