Need help with difficult child cat

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Rannveig, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Cat people, please help! About a year ago I adopted a cat (Himalayan mix, I think -- not really sure) from a family that was moving. They had bought her when she was a small kitten from an old woman selling kittens on the street. I felt like I'd won the lottery. She was beautiful, loving, and healthy. 11 months old. Seemed to want to nurse -- sucked my clothes a lot; but okay, no big deal. It took us a few months to get around to spaying her. The vet said it would improve her personality; I thought, how can you improve on perfection?

    Well, after the surgery, which went off without complications, her personality changed. She has become very aggressive, especially with my daughter. My daughter will just be minding her own business, and the cat will pounce on her and bite her. She bites and scratches all of us, but it's especially scary for my daughter, who's not the calmest child to begin with. The vet can't recommend anything; says it couldn't have been the surgery that caused the problem.

    husband says we need to get rid of the cat, and I agree we can't have an animal in the house that daily attacks my daughter. But there's no humane society where we live, and we can't advertise her and be honest about her viciousness and expect anyone to take her. I can't bear the idea of putting her down.

    Has anyone dealt with anything like this before? I am desperate for ideas. I love this cat, and I feel she needs help, but our family can't continue like this.

    Thanks, Ranny
  2. Mamaof5

    Mamaof5 Guest

    First, the suckling means she was taken from mama cat too early, second get a second opinion if you can from another vet. Yes the surgery can change an animal for the worse. Third, you can medicate animals with animal "versions" of anti-psychiatric medications. I had to do so with a Bichon that had severe separation anxiety issues (literally tore the house apart, had to crate train him too). Do you have a rescue or sanctuary for animals around, perhaps a Himmy sanctuary or rescue (specific to the breed).
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Many male cats calm when they are neutered, but females, not so much.

    What are the members of your family doing when the cat attacks? Not necessarily TO the cat, just in general. She may feel threatened. I know for a long, LONG time after I caught Jett kicking Weasel (he was 5 at the time), every time he walked by shw would growl and hiss, and if he was less than 5 feet away she'd attack his ankles. This is one of the most loving, cuddly cats in the world. BUT, just like in people bad memories tend to stick around moreso than good ones, and she may blame you for the pain of the spaying. It's hard to tell if you do not speak cat.

    Otherwise... What Mo5 said.
  4. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I have the male version of this cat, although in his case it wasn't surgery. He was an orphan and they tend to have more behavioral issues because mama wasn't there to give them a swat when they needed it. He was a very loving young kitten but by temperament is just a feisty fellow. FYI, he never goes after my husband, who used to thump him on the nose when he was a kitten and would start to bite or scratch. I thought I was being kinder and gentler and as a consequence he liked my ankles the best.

    First off, I might see another vet for a second opinion. Most doctors don't want to admit they might have made a mistake in surgery. Also did your vet do the usual lab work: Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), kidney, etc?

    There's a spray or plug in called Feliway which has a calming effect on many cats. Also a homeopathic available from the vet called Composure. And a kitty version of Prozac which could be tried.

    Mostly what was recommended that we give plenty of extra play time for mine, but what has made the biggest difference of all is giving him several hours of outside time each day. He's a hunter, and was constantly bringing me up freshly killed socks and underwear, but that isn't nearly as much fun as moving targets of legs...or spots on the drywall, etc. Now that he has ample time to stalk bugs and chase squirrels and birds out of our yard he's a much less aggressive guy when he is indoors.

    Tell your daughter whenever he looks like he might go for her to stop moving and shout at him. A spray bottle of water or banging pots might help but those didn't last long for us.

    Google The Cat Site forums for other ideas.
  5. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Thank you all so much -- I wish I'd posted my query much sooner!

    Where we live in there are no rescues or anything like that, and some of the veterinary practices are a bit different from in the U.S. For example, the vet insisted on doing the spaying in our home (on the dining room table, to be precise). She said it would be better for the cat emotionally to recuperate in a familiar environment, but now I wonder if maybe the cat ended up associating us with what was naturally a very unpleasant experience for her. And yeah, she was probably taken from her mother too early. And yeah, while my daughter never intentionally hurt her, she thought she could play with her the way she does with our dog, who is the world's sweetest, most loving and kind creature. So the cat probably dislikes my daughter for what she (the cat) perceives as past cruelty (but was actually done in all innocence). But the cat still seems crazy to me; one minutes she's snuggling up to me and letting me pet her, and the next minute she's biting and mauling me.

    So anyway, I've just mail-ordered Composure, which I'd never heard of till now. Unfortunately, letting the cat play outside isn't an option where I live, and vet selection isn't great. If Composure doesn't work, I'll try Feliway next.

    As I'm writing this, the cat is lying next to me on her back. That's such a vulnerable position -- you'd think she totally trusted me. But a minute ago when I tried to pet her, she bit me. This isn't normal, right? Other people have cats that don't attack them, right?
  6. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Actually - when a cat is "relaxed" on their stomach - this is NOT a vulnerable position. This is actually an invitation to would-be predators. Counterintuitive - because dogs lie on their backs to show submissiveness.

    But with back claws? On their back is the best way for a cat to really hurt someone!
  7. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    My cat likes to be by me, but doesn't like being petted much and then only when he's ready and for short periods. He gets overstimulated easily by petting so I make it short and sweet and quit before he starts biting. This picture :pet:is not us.

    I think of him as a social but hands off cat. Last night he came by me when I was at the computer and hung out while I talked. When he's really in that sleepy, content mood he'll roll over onto his back but I know that to mean "I'm really, really content right now just to be with you but I'd appreciate if you'd keep your stinkin' hands off me."
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    MAny cats go through a "teenage" phase from about age 1-3. It is shorter for some and longer for others. Usually a squirt bottle full of water will help discourage behaviors like this. If at all possible make sure that the cat is well supervised by an adult when she is around your daughter. Have daughter give her lots of treats and things she likes so she associates daughter with food and good things. Some cats get really mellow after a few minutes of craziness if they get catnip. Our Capn Morgan is like this. He never seems to burn out on "kitty pot", just spends about 5 min going nuts over whatever looks like a toy and then stops and lays down and is super mellow. My gma used to use it with her cats if they got aggressive when during those "teen" years. The whole family will need to be very consistent to break this behavior.

    Make sure you check the laws in your area before making any decisions to give him away. Where we lived in OH if you had an animal that bit and you gave him away (even through a shelter or animal control or ASPCA) or sold him the liability for anyone he bit for the rest of his life stays with YOU. All anyone has to do is have records showing you surrendered the animal because biting and you are financially on the hook if he hurts someone for the rest of his life - crazy as that sounds. It is something to be aware of before you rehome him. Animal Control will know if this is the policy where you live.
  9. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    A thousand more thanks, Ladies. I guess that, like my daughter, I've been treating my cat too much like my dog, who never gets tired of being petted and for whom lying on her back means wanting her tummy rubbed. I think I'm going to have to take a new approach, much more hands-off (difficult, as she has this luscious, silky fur). I'll definitely try the spray bottle and the catnip and look into treats for my daughter to give her. Oddly, my daughter doesn't hate her, so I think we could still end up as one big happy family....

    And yeah, I didn't want to give the cat away, especially as she wasn't always like this. I don't want my kids to get the message that if a member of the household becomes difficult you just kick 'em out without first trying a lot of other stuff. I just also didn't want the kids to think that it's acceptable for one member of the household to bully another, either. So it's going to be a balancing act -- but a lot easier thanks to all your great advice!

    Sincerely, Ranny