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The East Dulwich Forum
The Bishop, The EDT, The Great Exhibition, the Actress or another?
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messageAdvice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 04:52PM

We took in a cat about 3 months ago. Unfortunately, she's like Jekyll and Hyde. She can be very sweet and affectionate, gently playful, but then if out of the blue she turns -- hissing and she will actually attack us with her claws. (sometimes its because of a sudden noise, other times there is no reason that we can see). She seems comfortable here -- she has the places she likes to sit, she goes outside (though she can't seem to figure out a cat flap), she follows us around, etc...

But because of her unpredictable nature, we don't know what to do. We can't live with her in this state as we have a lively house with people coming and going. We've looked into getting a behaviourist, but a) its expensive and b) there are no guarantees that she will change (and we can't really change the way our house works!). I assume the previous owner gave her away for the same reason, though they denied it. And I know it will traumatise her again to be given away again.

Does anyone have advice about what we can do? Or does anyone have the patience to home and work with this cat? She's quite beautiful....a British short-haired grey, we think. She's spayed and litter trained and vaccinated. And as I said, she has some great qualities, too. (she can be quite funny...though she can also open doors with levers!)

Help!

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by KidKruger January 04, 05:17PM

Some cats just donít want to be petted much / at all.
A friend has one like this, itíll sniff your hand as you offer it before stroking, let you start stroking - then attack with claws and youíll see blood.
I now offer my hand for a sniff, and just donít try and stroke the cat anymore.
As long as the cat is not outright attacking people for no reason, sounds like thereís no problem unless your determined to stroke the cat.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 05:19PM

I know about the petting...as I read a lot of info on this.

No, this is when we're walking past her! Or even just nearby. No stroking involved if she hasn't asked.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by first mate January 04, 06:18PM

Have you tried using a Feliway diffuser? Has she got plenty of spaces she can escape to? Has she got vertical spaces she can climb up to and watch events from?

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by singalto January 04, 06:38PM

I agree with first mate. I use a Feliway diffuser. And have you tried catnip toys? Good luck...

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 04, 06:42PM

Have you taken her for a check-up at the vets? She could be in pain or have another medical issue which could be resolved thereby remedying her behaviour. If the vet gives her the all-clear you could think about behaviourists - lots of advice online (ie US behaviourist Jackson Galaxy has a website & youtube channel and has worked with cats where he has advised vet check for medical cause before looking at behavioural issues). Don't give up. Try Felliway or similar and work on slowly building trust and confidence.

Another thought, as you have a busy house with people coming and going, have you thought of giving her some high perches where she can observe the action from above without being uncomfortably in the middle of it unless she wants to be? These might be a cat tree, high accessible shelf, top of cupboard etc. A lot of cats feel safe having a high spot they can retreat to, but still be part of the household.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was january 04, 06:50pm by IlonaM.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 07:18PM

She has plenty of space -- can climb, go outside, climb a wall, etc... she seems pretty comfortable with her environment, in fact when she goes outside, she is pretty quick to come back and cuddle up on her bed.

Re: Fellway, I read a lot about them, and the only research that shows they actually work is research that's sponsored by the company. There is virtually no evidence that they actually work. (and a lot of stuff online that seems to show it doesn't work) It seems an expensive outlay for something that's not proven.

We will try and take her to the vet again, but its not when we touch her, it could be walking past and she decides to attack, which is why we think it's psychological rather than physical. She was at the vet a couple of months ago and was given the all clear.

We've watched lots of Youtube videos. Tried all of the advice!

Tried catnip too -- doesn't seem to be interested in it.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 04, 07:26PM

Three months is a very short time - patient persistence over a longer period and working on all of the advice you've 'already tried' over time may well bring positive results. You don't know her past history and how she has been treated in the past so it is going to be a slow process.You haven't mentioned her age, estimated or known.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 07:30PM

She's almost 2 years old.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by first mate January 04, 07:35PM

It could be stress related and it could also be territorial, one feeding into the other. That is why vertical spaces inside the home may be a good idea. Your cat may have decided which bits of space are hers and lashes out when she
doesn't want to share. Her 'feelings' about her space may change over the day and will be exacerbated if she is startled, by a noise or similar. If she can get up high and rest there you may be able to reduce the chances of confrontation. That said, attacking cats are no fun and can be downright dangerous. It might be best to get professional help. The cat is probably as stressed as you are. Cats are highly territorial and some individuals even more so.

BTW catnip stimulates some cats, something your cat doesn't need. Other cats are totally immune to its effects.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was january 04, 07:36pm by first mate.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 04, 07:43PM

DiD Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> She's almost 2 years old.


She's still a teenager/young adult. I think that calm responses from you - not rewarding her unwanted behaviour with yelps etc. - and calm, consistent and patient routine will help over time. Vets can be very helpful with behavioural issues once medical issues dismissed. Hang on in there.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by Monkey January 04, 08:02PM

Sounds like within the range of normal cat behaviour to me. We also have a rescue female British short hair. Sheíll attack my husband when heís on the phone as he paces around (it annoys me as well!) or when he takes too long to start the fire. Weíve had her 10 years and love her funny ways.

My advice would be:

- Give her time - 3 months is nothing.
- Make sure bed, litter etc are away from sources of noise.
- Ignore her for a while - no talk, no fuss, no nothing.
- take her for a check up. Shaun at Neighbourhood Vets is excellent with cats.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 08:08PM

Sound advice @Monkey and @IlonaM.

But the attacks do leave us quite traumatised and my son (and me at times) can be quite frightened. If I knew that over time (a few months, say) the attacks would stop, we would be fine -- but can't live with these for 10 years! We've had cats before and never had these problems.

Vets is the next step, it sounds like.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 04, 08:59PM

Was just wondering how much play you all engage in with her. If she's bored or is an intelligent, energetic lass she might decide your leg/foot/hand would make super prey. You can find interactive toys for when you're out (even diy ideas online!) and playing with long handled prey toys or laser pens, so that you are not close enough to swat/grab etc., helps drain some of that youthful energy. BTW my cat is geriatric (20+), but still likes to chase a laser pen and other prey-like toys on a regular basis!

There are some excellent ideas online for diy toys and someone has even written a book. One way for your son to start having more positive experiences with her might be by planning imaginative ways to entertain and challenge her and then bringing those ideas into being by making some diy toys and cardboard castles etc. It could be a family project!

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 09:17PM

Thanks @IlonaM, yes, we have toys for her...play using a fishing rod/feather thing, string and other stuff, including a flashlight, balls. She's definitely kept busy, and they do play together. But, for instance, my son and I were doing some play chasing each other, and she decided to attack in a VERY SCARY WAY, even though we were nowhere near her. It wasn't play, I can assure you. It was fear. Another time, she was in another room and I was in a kitchen, but I dropped something and let out a small yelp and she ran in and attacked me. Her claws broke right through the skin via my trousers. (we have tried to keep them trimmed but its a dangerous endeavour). At other ties, she's sweetness and light....

So now, we find we have to prance lightly around the house which is pretty difficult! We locked her up safely in a room with her bed and and litter tray when we had a party recently, but she knows how to open door handles, so she got out and attempted to attack some small kids who were here. They were extremely frightened by her.

It sounds like you are really familiar with cats, though! We thought we were too, and did a lot of research before I took in an adult cat, but this one is exceeding my worst expectations. I'm quite angry at the previous owner for not revealing all about her.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 04, 09:52PM

I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of this. Shaun, Rory and Topaz are three very good vets at the Neighbourhood Vets. Topaz has cats of her own (not sure whether Shaun does!). I can find it challenging to trim P's nails and the vets and nurses at the NV step in on occasion if she really screams blue murder and I can't do it for a while.

Your little one is at an age where she's challenging boundaries and maybe wasn't properly socialised when she was younger or taken away from mother too soon perhaps?, so doesn't know boundaries. It must be very difficult for you and your son to feel it necessary to tiptoe around her in fear of a strong reaction to you guys having some fun and I'm sure with time and practice you'll be able to feel more and more confident around her as hopefully her behaviour calms down (even if she remains an occasional quirky cat like Monkey's). If she can open doors she's an intelligent young lady!!!

I'm sure the vets can give you some good advice and I have found loads of helpful things both online and in books (one of my favourites is Catlopaedia A Complete Guide to Cat Care by JM Evans & Kay White - deals with everything from health to behaviour - I think I found mine secondhand on Amazon or Abebooks). I also used to watch 'My Cat From Hell' when it was on tv - also available on YouTube - you'd be surprised how many people have similar problems in terms of overly strong play/attacking family and visitors and he had very positive and constructive advice which had good results. It's worth a google. My cat is more of a very early riser demanding attention and breakfast, rather than overstimulated play/aggressive, so I have not had your experience.

That said I had a steep learning curve with P on chronic health issues, but she is a wonderful cat and I don't regret adopting her when she was already a pensioner! It took time to get to know her and to get into a good routine, but it is worth the effort.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by Monkey January 04, 09:55PM

@DiD, sorry, I didnít realise she was so scary. Sounds like it will defo take more than Feliway and that you should speak to the vets. Whatís she like at the vets by the way? Good luck!

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 10:02PM

thanks @Monkey and @IlonaM. Seems like next step is back to the vets.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by LoulaRose January 04, 10:44PM

Iím sorry youíre going through this - it must be very upsetting to be on the receiving end of frightening attacks, when all you want is to offer a loving home to your pet. You have been given some sound advice, and I havenít owned cats for many years, but I do remember reading that playing with flashlights / laser pens can bring about erratic behaviour in cats and dogs - it frustrates them a lot, as their prey instinct causes them to chase but they are unable to catch the light. They can also become very confused and anxious as they do not understand where the light is coming from - these type of games may not help your cat, if already showing signs of being anxious. I hope things work out for you all.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was january 04, 10:45pm by LoulaRose.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by Blah Blah January 04, 11:48PM

It sounds to me as though she is a cat that finds certain types of noise threatening/ certain types of activity around her threatening and expects to rule the roost. Almost certainly, she was not properly socialised as a kitten and that can be difficult to correct later on. I think the advice above is good advice and you should try everything you can. But it may also come to a point where the only solution is a different kind of home. One without much going on, without children etc. There are foster carers that specialise in improving socialisation at charities like The Cats Protection League and Celia Hammond who might be worth contacting for advice and help too. She sounds like a lovely cat though, who deserves every chance.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 04, 11:56PM

@Blah Blah, yes from what I've read that sounds to be the case -- that she was probably taken from her mom too young. Funny thing is I was offered a kitten at 8 weeks and asked the owner if she would keep it with its mum and the litter until 12 weeks, and she refused, so I knew not to take that kitten. Stupidly, I agreed to rehome this adult cat without asking for information about her kittenhood. But the owner insisted she was a lovely cat, but that she simply wasn't around enough to give her the attention she needed...

I'll reach out to the charities mentioned.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by kiera January 05, 11:18PM

I haven't experienced a cat which runs into the room to attack in response to alarming sounds, so my experiences may not be relevant, but I have a cat which I took in as an adult and which kept attacking me initially. In particular he would grab hold of my leg with his claws and teeth when I was walking past him to leave the room - it was certainly pretty painful and made me wary of walking past him. I eventually worked out that he was objecting to my leaving the room without having put down some food for him. I haven't taken him to the vet about this problem, but, for some reason he seems to need more food than other cats, so I give him a bit more and he's overweight, but I'm still not giving him as much as he'd like. Nowadays he walks right in front of me, so that I'm nearly tripping over him, in order to make sure I get the message that he wants more food. One reason for a cat following its owner around could be because it's hungry.
My mother had a cat which loved being stroked, but only up to a point, then she would suddenly hiss and bite and run away, similar to Kidkruger's experience as has already been mentioned above. The cat had joined the household as a kitten and remained the youngest pet among other cats and a dog. It wasn't until she was much older and the dog had died that she stopped behaving this way. We hadn't realised that it was the presence of other animals in the house, the dog in particular, which had meant she could never allow herself to be completely relaxed. So, perhaps your cat is staying alert to some perceived danger in the house. Had she had kittens and is still feeling protective? Could she be following you because she feels safer with you?........ the

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 06, 08:04AM

Thanks @Kiera. She is hungry a lot....we feed her wet food twice a day, but also leave dry food on hand for her to munch on. But that is a lead -- I think her previous owner fed her on demand. And she also attacks us sometimes shen we leave the room, as you experienced, in the very same way.

There are no other animals in the house. We don't think she had any kittens.

I think safety is the key element. How do we make her feel safe? At times she seems very relaxed, but more often than not, she seems on high alert.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by IlonaM January 06, 08:26AM

Hi Did,

One other thought to consider. Do you have a lot of local neighbourhood cats? Is she seeing and/or sensing their presence in the garden and outside windows? You mentioned that she does not stay in the garden long. This might be a territorial/anxiety/fear element as well.

I hope you can help her calm down and feel more secure as you're all having a very upsetting and challenging time at the moment.

Wishing you all the best,

Ilona

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by Jules-and-Boo January 06, 10:19AM

hello DiD

I've followed your post with interest. It could have been written by me!

We took in a cat from the forum, a woman who couldn't look after it - she then told us she had taken it in as a stray.
She moved into the upstairs and our other cat lived downstairs, it was this was for around 6 months before they integrated.

She was quite vicious, would swipe at your feet as you walked past and I would end up with a cat attached to my feet.
My daughter was scared of walking past her. The cat was clearly not used to living in a home.

Now, she's fine and very loving but independent. She will still "get me" if I stroke her - no way of guessing when she'll have had enough, sometime she's fine, other times she just attacks my hands - but still normal cat behaviour. I brush her a lot too, she likes that.

I tell her NO when she scratches me and she stops. I trim her claws too. First time, wrapped her in a towel and had help to hold her - it actually seemed to calm her down.

I suppose what calmed her down was that we still included her - so we say No to scratching, but would get something for her to play with instead. Gentle persistence and consistent behaviour - and treats.

I think she needs to learn to trust you and is probably still adjusting.

I would make sure she has somewhere high up to escape to, plenty of treats when she's good (they are intelligent and do know, if you teach them what is and isn't ok). The fellway plug in is great.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by JohnL January 06, 05:20PM

This reminds me of that well known twitter post where the girl gets into a suitcase - the cat which was just relaxing goes crazy and attacks (she ends up with a claw mark over her eye). Seemed to be something where the cat doesn't recognise what's happening.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was january 06, 05:23pm by JohnL.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by carlafindle January 06, 06:39PM

JohnL Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This reminds me of that well known twitter post
> where the girl gets into a suitcase - the cat
> which was just relaxing goes crazy and attacks
> (she ends up with a claw mark over her eye).
> Seemed to be something where the cat doesn't
> recognise what's happening.


Too much meow meow perhaps...

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 06, 06:57PM

thanks @Jules-and-Boo, that's really helpful, especially the idea of wrapping her in a towel to clip her claws! She seems to trust my husband more than me.....he endeavours to pick her up regularly to get her used to it. I'm far more nervous about it, and I think she knows that, as she hisses at me a lot more than him.

If we can get her to use the cat flap, that might help, so she can come and go as she pleases. Now she relies on us to open the door.

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by yard January 06, 11:03PM

had the same problem with a rescue cat, took him to vet nothing wrong found, was advised to morning and evenings take him sit him down, take him by the paws, kiss his paws saying I love you, I love you, in between kisses. do it every day for a month, and he will calm down and be a very loving cat, it worked, worth a try

messageRe: Advice: rehoming a difficult cat
Posted by DiD January 06, 11:09PM

@Yard, what a lovely story! But how did you manage to take his paws if he attacks?

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