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Kick the cat

In occupational psychology, the kick the cat effect or kick the cat syndrome is a metaphor used to describe the behaviour of staff abusing coworkers or subordinates as a mechanism to relieve stress.[1] The effect gets its name from the scenario where an employee comes home from work looking for a subordinate to abuse, but the only thing present is the cat. He physically abuses it as a means of relieving frustration, despite the cat playing no part in causing it.[2]

The general metaphor has been documented since the 19th century.[3] According to author John Bradshaw, humans were far more cruel to cats at that time, to the extent that kicking one was not perceived to be unusual and hence entered the language as a popular idiom.[4]

Kicking the cat is looked upon unfavourably and viewed as a poor sign of anger management.[5] According to Christian author Steve Sonderman, "Men funnel 90 percent of their emotions through anger" and may "kick the cat" as a substitute for grief, anxiety or other emotions.[6] Psychology author Raj Persaud suggests that people "kick the cat" as a means of catharsis because they fear expressing their full emotions to the peers and colleagues.[7]


  1. ^ Quinn, Catherine (23 July 2007). "With colleagues like these".  
  2. ^ Glass, Lillian (1999). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Verbal Self Defense. Penguin. p. 80.  
  3. ^ "Journal of Proceedings of the ... Annual Convention of Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and British Provinces, Volume 14". 1869. p. 35. 
  4. ^ Bradshaw, John (2013). Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. Basic Books. p. 194.  
  5. ^ Whiteley, H. Ellen. Understanding and Training Your Cat or Kitten. Sunstone Press. p. 147.  
  6. ^ Sonderman, Steve (2010). Mobilizing Men for One-on-One Ministry: The Transforming Power of Authentic Friendship and Discipleship. Bethany House. p. 168.  
  7. ^  
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