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Barney & savage attacks

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
My husband found this site in the first place because Barney was so savage from time to time. The advice at the time was that he had been separated from his mother too early to learn how to behave like a nice boy and to hold his head down. I tried that and he nearly screwed his own head off his neck! Then I tried cutting out his red meat and that helped a lot but now, he is starting up again. Today just before I left for work, he scratched me badly down the chin, bit me on the thumb and bit and scratched me on the leg. I really did go to work dripping blood.

I really need some advice on this because even though I love him dearly, I am starting to become afraid of him. He attacks me about 4am each day but I wear gloves and long thick socks to bed to protect myself and when it happens, I get up and put him in the carport. It happens mostly to me, rarely to my husband.

My husband was Barney's first contact with us. Does that have something to do with it? Really, I'm getting a bit fed up with it all. Any advice please.

Diann in Australia
post #2 of 15
Hi Diann,

I am not sure who gave you the advice to hold his head down, or to what extent you were holding his head down, so I took a quick review of Barney's history and he has sure been in a wringer in his short life. Between being bit by a snake, and then getting into a fight, it could be easily said he is in high stress at the moment. Any type of injury can easily turn a cat's personality around. One minute he is minding his own business, the next he is hurting, then put into a small box and taken to the TED (The evil doctor) who performs tests on him and hurts him some more.

You mentioned you are feeding him red meat? As in raw meat? That will just bring out the predator in a cat who is stressed out to begin with. When you say he attacks you, when does he do this and how is he doing it? Does he launch himself at you from across the room? Or is he lying beside you peacefully and then attack you?
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
This morning, I was just leaving for work and he ran out of the kitchen and jumped up on my leg and scratched me and bit me. I leant down to smack him and that's when he leapt up and scratched my face and then bit me on the thumb. Then he wrapped himself around my ankle and bit and scratched again.

When he attacks at 4am, he leaps onto my bedside table and then across to a sofa opposite the bed and then from there to the bed and my ankles. Then he jumps up to my arms and pulls me out from under the pillow and bites and scratches me again.

His life has been fairly stable these last few months, although I have only just gone back to work and also, I've been looking after our grandson one day a week and they object to Barney being anywhere near the baby. He is very confused by that. Maybe that is the problem. The red meat was roo meat and also steak.

I really am at my wit's end.
post #4 of 15
Ok first off, let me give you a little bit of history about me. I have been working with feral cats now for over a dozen years. I deal with the type of ferals that even other rescuers believe should be put down, or discarded, because they are un manageable, unreachable, and hard to deal with. Those and also severly abused ferals and strays seem to be my calling in life. I do this out of my own pocket. Right now, I have 15 cats.

When Barney launches at you from across the room- you freeze. Do not move, just stay still. Please don't smack him, because then you turn from his friend to a predator, and he will take every opportunity to attack you from there on in. Take an old cloth that you don't care much about and strip it out into fine strips, about an inch wide and long enough to go around your ankles and tie. Take some Vicks Vapo Rub or mentholateum and smear that on this cloth, and tie it around your ankles before you go out into his territory. I guarantee you will only have to wear this style of ankle bracelet for a few times. It stops them in their tracks.

Take a couple of old washclothes and roll them up tightly and tape them. Keep them at strategic places around the house and when he starts to attack drop that in front of him, or thrust it in front of him as an "instead of" type weapon.

If he attacks you, take him immediately and scoop him gently up. Kneel down, place him on his back, his head will be flat against the floor, so he can be safely grasped gently by the back of his neck. You have him scruffed, place your other hand gently but firmly on his stomach- don't press or hurt him- tell him once "NO!" then release. Do not hold him past 3 SECONDS, and do not get your face close to him either.

Buy a large peacock feather and tie it on to an old fishing pole with fishing line and play with him about 20 minutes every day, actively making him run, jump up on things and chase this feather. If he plays nice, give him a small treat (and not raw meat) give him cottage cheese, or yogurt or something else, but nothing with blood in it.

You can also play classical music softly in the background (harp music really soothes them quickly)

You can buy Rescue Remedy and drop some of that in his food (wet food) or in his waterdish.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hissy, I don't usually smack him. He just caught me by surprise today and hurt me really badly and I reacted. I usually clap my hands and say very sternly "Don't!" I don't know that I would be able to get him on his back. He really does look like a wild animal when this happens. Even his eyes change.

I have been giving him fresh fish and chicken and canned white meat for the past few months and the attacks have been less, except for the 4am one. That happens each night and I think it's just his way of letting me know he has cabin fever but I don't want him outside in the dark. I could put him in the carport when we go to bed, but I want him to know he can sleep with us if he wants. He was abandoned as a baby and I was trying to show him that we want him to share our whole house with him.

When I was holding his head down, it would have been for about 10 seconds and by then he was really distressed, so I let him go and he would have another go at me. There doesn't seem to be any warning about when it's going to happen.

I thought he might be upset about me going back to work and/or babysitting the grandbaby.

He truly is loveable and I do love him but it doesn't seem like he loves me.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Also, when he launches at me from across the room, that is the 4am attack and I am in a dead sleep so it's really difficult not to react badly!!
post #7 of 15
Ok, glad you clarified. It is natural to smack or hit when you are in pain, it is harder to not follow those natural tendencies.

I would again encourage you to make time to do interactive play with Barney. With an object that keeps him well away from your body, and in an area large enough for him to run and jump and get some of this aggression and energy out of his system.

If he freaked when you held his head down, as most cats do- that is just a normal reaction, because no cat likes to have their head forced down. It is not a natural posture for them and all they will become is more agitated with you. I am curious, does your husband ever restrain him in anyway or is it always you because you are home?
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Bill has never restrained Barney. On the few occasions that Barney has gone for Bill, Bill bellows something murderous like "cut it out or I'll beat the living crap out of you." And Barney just seems to stop and then calmly walk off. And as I said, he rarely goes for Bill. Apart from the 4am thing (when he only goes for me, never Bill), there doesn't seem to be any pattern to his attacks, although certainly they've escalated over the last couple of days with the red meat. I am cutting up an old sheet and smearing it with Vicks as we speak!
post #9 of 15
Good luck, please let me know if I can be of further help. But I do highly recommend Rescue Remedy as well to help calm him down. He is neutered correct?
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Just going back to your first reply, do you think Barney has been forced to become feral because of his early childhood? It's just that my mother made mention of him being feral. If so, is that something that can be overcome?
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Yes he has been neutered. He was about 14 weeks old when I got him but then we went away for 9 days after having him only 7 days and I had it done then. Thank you for all your advice. I really appreciate it. I do love Barney and I just so want him to have a happy home and feel loved.
post #12 of 15
The way a cat is forced to become feral is when that cat is abandoned for whatever reason and left to fend for himself. It is then that the survival mechanism kicks in and he has to live by his wiles and avoid any confrontation with humans.

Barney has a big trust issue, and as you talk to me here, I see that he has been abandoned more than once. First by his mother, and then by you- although you did not do it intentionally, when you left him for those 9 days early on, you enforced his feeling of abandonment and he is responding to you so negatively because of it. In other words, he is waiting for his life to again change and where he will become alone again.

You need to show him this won't happen, and do the interactive play, feed him on a routine schedule, if you leave the house, leave behind a piece of your clothing, or better yet, stick a pair of old tennis shoes on your feet, and without socks just walk around and exercise till you get them nice and sweaty. Stick them in a plastic bag (ziplock) and before you go out, leave one shoe on the floor for him to lay near and know you are still nearby.

he really sounds like a neat cat. Good luck with him!
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
He was also abandoned by his first owner. The guy just moved out of the house and left a can of food (unopened!) on the back patio. Our neighbour was doing work on the house and rang Bill about Barney but by that time, Barney had been surviving on his own again for about 2 weeks, as far as I can find out. I had to go away just after I had him. We had a wedding in another state to go to.

I am certainly going to try everything you suggest and will let you know how things go. Thank you again for your help.
post #14 of 15
I had a feral just like Barney. This was my first experience with a feral cat and I learned a lot from working with him.

Spike was one of the most loving cats you could imagine, but out of the blue he started attacking just like Barney does. I even ended up in the emergency room one day because of an attack!

What I did was to put him on St. John's Wort (liquid) and then I began a strict behavior modification program. Of course, the behavior modification will be difficult for when you are asleep, but during waking hours keep a very close eye on him. What you want to do is to learn his pre-attack signals so that you can stop an attack before he actually makes the first move. ALL cats have a signal they make before an attack. Spike would perk his ears forward and the very tip of his tail would twitch. (Barney's signals may be different, so you will have to learn his personal signals.) The very instant I saw a pre-attack signal, I would immediately pick Spike up by the scruff (gently) with one hand on the scruff and one under his butt. NEVER hold an adult cat by only his scruff, you must support his weight with the other hand. Scruffing merely acts to prevent an attack -- it should not be how you hold the cat. I would then GENTLY toss (not throw) Spike out of the door (the only reason for the GENTLE toss was so that I could shut the door before he got to me and attacked). I would then leave him locked out for about five minutes. By then, the attack was out of his system and he would be loving again. Between the St John's Wort and the behavior modification, Spike learned how to interact appropriately with humans. He now lives on a farm with a family and their German Shepard. Last I heard all was well with Spike and the family!

I do want to mention that if you are feeding Barney only meat and no cat food, one of the problems may be that he is not getting the nutrients he needs to be healthy. If you want to feed him only meat, you will need to supplement his diet with vitamins and minerals necessary for cat health (such as taurine). He could go blind or have heart problems if he goes too long without these vital nutrients.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the advice. I have completely stopped the red meat and substituted chicken legs. Barney is now very close to being such a lovely boy! I've used the Vicks and rags on my arms and legs. I've used the Rescue Remedy and although he won't let me cuddle him,he is being delightful. Thank you again.
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