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Kyan's aggression

We are at a point that we might have to give up Kyan, who is a member of our family, for our safety and his health. Kyan is a beautiful F3 savannah who just turned three. When we got him, at 12 weeks old, he had diarrhea for several months. At first his breeder was helpful but insisted it was caused by giardia from water at the first stop in Canada. When cost was even mentioned they said that we should not go to a veterinarian. I would not listen to anything a person had to say after saying that it wouldn’t help to go see a vet for bleeding diarrhea that had been going on for months.

I am saying this because I do not know whether the lack of nutrition during the first year of development may have caused some brain development issues.

Last fall Kyan saw the neighbour’s cat. He lives across the street but was on our side of the street. Kyan does not like other cats. When he ran to chase the other cat he quickly came to the end of his tether. I went up to him to tell him that everything was ok and to make sure that he hadn’t hurt himself stopping suddenly from reaching the end of the tether. He turned around screamed and jumped at my upper thigh. He hit me with such force that I fell down while he was biting me. Then he jumped back. He saw that I was down and before I could get up he attacked again biting my hand that I held up for protection.

Nothing like this happened again until this fall. We had been enjoying a great walk when Kyan went into a bushy area. I knew that a cat had been there and was making sure that it had left the area. I was quite sure that Kyan had not seen it. I thought I must have stepped on Kyan because the next thing I know is that he is screaming and jumping on my leg and biting me as hard as he can. I now know that I did not step on him because that this was exactly like the other attacks.

Less than a week later we saw another cat. I was backing away trying to give the leash to Rob. Kyan’s eyes dilate and he never looks up just straight ahead at my legs. He jumped up and bit my left calf. After these attacks he seems very disoriented and exhausted. He knows that something is wrong but does not seem aware of what has happened.

I thought that I was the only one that was at risk so Rob was holding the leash. When we saw a cat I chased it away. Kyan walked to where the cat had been and after a few seconds I heard the now familiar scream. He bit Rob’s ankle hard and then jumped back exhausted.

I wouldn’t call Kyan a “scaredy-cat” but he is nervous about some things. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of new things. The sound of a truck driving by or a motorcycle will stop him from eating and even can wake him up if he isn’t sleeping soundly. He won’t back down from a dog but will not leave a cat alone. If he can see it he will want to chase it and attack it if he can. We, of course, hold him back. If he wasn’t always on leash there would be many hurt cats.

Kyan is a handful at times but when he gets his way he is the nicest cuddliest cat ever. He eats his dinner and curls up with me every night. He loves, maybe even lives for, hunting. He is an excellent hunter and he needs to do something like that because he is so energetic. We (Sharon and Kyan) wrestled too much and it did get carried away but that seems to not be as much of an issue because I have stopped it. Rob and Kyan never wrestled. Kyan still nips me when he is not getting his way. Lots of nights right before he enters the bedroom he will bite my ankle. This happens so fast and if I don’t do anything he seems to not even notice it.

We have taken him to the veterinarian clinic at the university and they said the major attacks could be focal seizures or could be behavioral problems. Has anyone heard of any similar problems.

Sorry for the long post but I am not sure what information is relevant. I am terrified that we will have to not live with Kyan for our safety. I know we would be safer but I would not be happy and I do not think anyone else could give Kyan six hour walks every day or the love and attention that we give him. We are sick with worry.


Staff member
Sharon, it's late here but I wanted to put down a few thoughts before I turn in for bed. First, if Kyan is disturbed by the presence of other cats, the easiest thing to do is eliminate his exposure to them. A few ideas are to build an enclosure for him in the yard rather than putting him on a tether; buy a pet stroller instead of taking him for walks on leash. What is occurring when he attacks you/your husband, whether caused by focal seizures due to the stress of seeing other cats or due to behavioral problems, is probably displaced fear/territorial behavior.

One of my cats is the same around other cats and goes ballistic if one comes up to the front of the house. He'll throw himself at the window to try to get the cat and then he will attack whichever one of my other cats is closest to him. He goes for walks in a pet stroller.

My cat is also very fearful and quite a bully. He targets the other cats in the house and picks fights and pees in the house when he is mad/stressed. I have just put him on Prozac (fluoxetine) and there is already a difference in his behavior. So that is one solution for you to discuss with your vet.

Marilyn Krieger is a cat behaviorist who has helped many cats with a host of issues. She is available for phone consultations (

I'm assuming Kyan is neutered. If not, that would definitely be something that should be done as soon as possible.

I hope I've given you some ideas to think over. Good luck finding the right solution for your family and for Kyan and please keep us posted. I'm sure other members here will have more suggestions.


Staff member
Sharon, what you are experiencing is feline redirected aggression. First, I am assuming that Kyan is neutered? Second, has the vet checked him for hyperthyroidism or a brain disorder? It seems clear that the other cats are triggering Kyan's behavior, and the only way to solve this issue is to eliminate the exposure. That means stop taking Kyan outside where the other cats can be encountered. It sounds like you think the outdoor walks are important for Kyan, but is sounds to me like they trigger stress in him and are dangerous to you.

If you feel it is important that Kyan have outside time then consider building an enclosure in your back yard with lots of enrichment for him to enjoy. Once you remove the trigger to his aggression you can work on the nipping issue. It may be that the vet might consider prescribing an anti-anxiety medication such as Paxil or Prozac to see if that might help calm Kyan as well, but I really think that if you remove the problem (encountering other cats on walks) the behavior will resolve. Here is a link with more information:


Eddies a ham!
Wow, first let me say how great I think you are for not immediately throwing in the towel, I know alot of people would have without ever understanding what happened...So you typed (I cut this up for effect): Last fall Kyan saw the neighbor’s cat...When he ran to chase...I went up to him... suddenly... He turned around screamed and jumped at my upper thigh. He hit me with such force that I fell down while he was biting me. Then he jumped back. He saw that I was down and before I could get up he attacked again biting my hand that I held up for protection... You attempted to soothe Kyan while he was in a territorial fit he had no outlet for because you being the good owner that you are had him on a his attention turned on you, the holder of the leash...& he learned to release all that kitty anger in a safe place...These cats are SO INTELLIGENT but with very little self regulation. You allowed your baby to wrestle & nip, you obviously thought it was safe. Take the advice from WW & Patti to heart, stop the beginning of the territorial fit (no more chance encounters with other kitties), then attempt to reduce the anxiety (begin with the smallest dose your vet is willing to order) if your vet refuses since some do...find a new vet that understands the problem & your dedication to Kyan better. Know that Kyan is NOT personally attacking you as evidenced by his biting your partner...he learned a safe outlet...give him the enclosure make sure you check out the forums, there's a great one here for Kyans safety. Do not use the enclosure for punishment/isolation as that will worsen the problem. Know that stray cats are everywhere except inside your house...if there is a stray in your yard while Kyan is out there let him try to rip the enclosure apart but don't catch his attention...another product on the market is the FELIWAY...again there's a whole spot dedicated to calming cats...once a cat is all the way into attack mode it's not reasoning any more it is acting on pure instinct, give Kyan lots of interactive toys to chase & kill...yet another spot in here for these! Please stay away from cat nip...the cats actually relax after they kill it...Kyan doesn't need that stimulation. I had a Siamese that the owner threw into a kitty crate; for a week she left the cat in there tossing in food...because the cat was attacking the family members with tooth & nail. This owner called my vet wanting to put the Siamese down because "It just went crazy"...the vet called me..I owned that cat for years. She had been in a house with 3 rowdy teenage boys & a mom working full time. The first attack happened after her youngest son snuck up on the cat to scare it (obviously he succeeded)...then it escalated as they all grew fearful of the cat...can you imagine how the poor cat felt? At that time I had 4 children; 3 of them boys...she never bit them altho she would growl & strike occasionally when they irritated her. Know your cat can learn but you have to control the environment...and the training. :Geeky:.

Brigitte Cowell

Staff member
You've had some great advice... first making sure your cat is neutered, and that there is no thyroid issue. But understanding that this seems to be feline redirected aggression. The walks don't seem to be a good idea at all! I don't think all cats need to go outside and Kyan seems one that doesn't. And if you think he does need to, then the pet stroller or a secure enclosure is a better idea.

Marilyn ( is a great resource to help you with this problem... she will be able to explain to you what is going on, but also develop a personalized plan to work on this issue with Kyan. good luck!

The Kasbah

I am not sure if you are dealing with feline redirected aggression OR seizures. Many years ago I had a cat (nonSavannah) who would sporadically just flip out and direct her aggression toward me or anyone else who was in the immediate vicinity. She had always been docile abut as she started to age, she began to have spells where she would become violent toward me and other family members. It was determined that she was having seizures, which medications failed to control and after several unsuccessful attempts, we elected to put her to sleep before anyone got seriously hurt.

I hope whatever is wrong that it can be addressed and corrected. This sort of situation is very worrying...and is stressful for the humans, other animals and also the cat him/her self. :(
Thank you for all of the wonderful and very informative suggestions. We will certainly be using one of the behaviourists that you suggested. We love Kyan and have loved the three years we have had and look forward to many more. He turned three on October 4. We had him neutered between five and six months old. That hasn’t stopped him from being a boy. He tries to have sex with several of my sweaters. I have heard that all savannah males masturbate. Is this sexual action normal? It isn’t anything that we can’t live with as long as it isn’t bad for him. Should I give him my sweater or should I refuse it?

Rob had looked into redirected aggression. So he had a better understanding of it. When I read the Chicago Cat Hospital information on it I was happy to have a name for it. Before I read it, I looked at it as a description rather than a diagnosis. I understand it much better. The attack matched redirected aggression exactly.

I believe that some cats can only be happy indoors and some can only be happy being able to go outside. Some cats can be happy with either life. I would love it if we could keep Kyan safe and inside. As I have said before Kyan lives for hunting. I didn’t think any cat could catch as many mice, birds and the odd muskrat on a leash! The only reason he even looks outside the window is to see what the weather is like to go outside. Even if we can’t let him outside that day he won’t look out a window for more than 5 minutes. The rest of the day is spent crying by the door and us trying to play with him.

We have bought just about every toy on the pet store shelves. Of course his favourite toy is a string on a stick. We can make the string go fast enough that there is a challenge to catch it. He will play with that and then head to the door because he feels that he does what we want him to do then it is our turn to do what he wants. We leave the toys out everywhere so he can pick the one he wants. We have tried putting the toys away and introducing them one at a time but that doesn’t work at all. He has to pick the toy. He definitely wants to be in control. He usually gets two three hour walks a day. Mostly he leads the way but sometimes we get a say in where we go. We drive out of town for our walks, now, to avoid cats. When we were in another province for our holidays for a month Kyan was much better. It seems if he doesn’t have to protect his territory he doesn’t seem to get as worked up about other cats. He will still chase them away but he doesn’t have to catch them to be satisfied.

Thanks again for all of the help. It is great help even knowing that there are people out there that care and have such great information.


Kyan & Sharon & Rob

Brigitte Cowell

Staff member
I don't know where you heard that all Savannah males masturbate? How bizarre! The only cat I've personally known that attempts to have sex with furry objects was my good friend's red tabby DSH male... he had a favorite teddy bear for sexy time that he'd bring into the living room, but then switched his attentions to a faux fur blanky I'd given my friend as gift. but a Savannah boy? Not something I've heard of from any of my kitten buyers, nor seen in my own household.

IF you really feel that Kyan needs to go outdoors, then what about a secure enclosure? I'm amazed that you have a routine of two 3 hour walks with 6 hours of every day is spent following your cat around on a leash? Wow!

As to toys, mostly I find my cats aren't interested in most cat toys... they prefer certain wand toys and yes one of their favorites is basically a rope on a stick... It's hard to know if there ARE wand toys to suggest to you from what you've written though.

I hope that you do find something that works for you all! Good luck!


Eddies a ham!
I realize you said he was neutered but i do wonder if they uhmmm missed a little bit? The Breeders would definitely know more about this but that Testosterone level sounds really high...

Trish Allearz

My Selkirk liked sexy time with stuff animals :/ So far, the neutered Sv has been chaste lol

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