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Sudden Role reversal! Please help.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

I am new here, so I checked through the forum and didn't see anything quite like my issue exactly so I need to ask this separately.

So here's our backstory: 2 Cats - Teddy - Male (4/5ish yo), erin - female (3ish). I moved in w/ my b/f about 1 1/2 yrs ago - so I'm not new and nothing in the house has changed except for the arrngment of the bedroom furnuture about 2 weeks ago. Traditionally Teddy has been the one to chase Erin around and make her hide in the various cubes and closets to find some peace. It has only rarely come to the point where my b/f or I have to intervene on her behalf, he generally gives up after she hides and bats at him for a minute.

Now here's what happened today: Teddy went off on his daily freak out around the apartment, specifically targetting the bedroom as the window was open to let a breeze in. Suddenly I hear a huge thump/crash (I thought he had knocked stuff off our bookcase). I ran in to inspect the damage and could find nothing out of place. I turned and looked at Teddy lying just outside the bedroom door - he seemed a little contorted on the floor, waist down facing the wall front legs up lying flat on the floor looking at me over his shoulder. I was very concerned thinking he'd hurt himself, maybe he'd lost his footing hitting the floor and sprained/broken something. I moved towards him and he made that warning mewing sound (it's real low and sounds like he's in pain) so I freaked and moved closer I figured he had to be hurt and he hissed at me sounding very angry.

By then Erin had come over to inspect the situation - then everything went so fast I think this is how it happened - She tried to get close to sniff, he mewed, hissed swatted and ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed, mewing and hissing the whole way, Erin takes off in hot pursuit (totally not her style!) chaos ensues under my bad and I'm screaming "NO!" trying to grab someone (I know dumb - still new to cat craziness) finally I get Erin in my hands pull her out and as I'm walling out of the bedroom she pees on me! I inspect her quickly and put her in the bathroom and go back for Teddy because by now I'm thinking he's really hurting - howling and hissing! I move the bed and he won't let me near him swatting and hissing. I call the b/f he so he's on his way home. I get a towel and manage to pick up teddy as continues to howl but doesn't swat at me. He lets me pick him up in the blanket and lay on his back while I carry him but makes that mewing howl the whole time.

I've checked him out and can't find anything externally physically wrong with the him. Now my b/f's home and the cat calms right down for him and we both look him over again still nothing. I open a can of wet food to see if he'll walk out to the kitchen...No problem there, he came running. I let her out of the bathroom (probably the biggest mistake) she comes out and joins him for a minute or two of quite eating (sharing a plate - another mistake!) then suddenly she starts the mewing sound and starts swatting at him he freaks out and backs into the space between our stove and the counter and I put her back into the bathroom.

OK, so that's where we stand. whenever they see each other she starts the mewing sound and he's scarred to death and hides and hisses. Depending on the situation he's been mewing and hissing at me as well as if I'm going to hurt him. I had put her away in our kitty room for a while and let him calm down and come out of his shell a bit and play with his favorite toy. Now I have her wrapped in a towel so I have control of her on my lap and he is free to roam, however he is hiding just out of her line of sight. I've been working with her to stop the mewing as soon as she starts after she seems him (sometimes it takes her about 2 minutes of staring before she begins). I'm probably going about this all wrong because I've always had dogs and I keep trying to solve this like I would with dogs and I'm certain it's not right.

Ok so what's the question? Any explanations for her sudden assertiveness or his sudden timidness? If not best way to get them reintroduced...I'm going slow here but afraid it's going to take too much time. I'm still thinking he may be injured (like a sprain or something) and he's feeling weak. I will be taking him to the vet tomorrow if his behavior is still so atypical, just to be sure.

I just don't know and I have got to figure this out because I know my b/f won't really tolerate the bullying and would rather get her a new home instead. But I've grown to love both of these cats so much I can't let either of them go.

I am so sorry for such a long post but i wanted to give you all the information so that you get give me the best answers possible.

Thank you so so so so so much!
Freaked out!
post #2 of 8
One of them probably saw another cat outside (this happens a lot!) and because they can't attack it, they'll attack who they can inside, cats, dogs, people, whoever. Anyhow, they usually get over it in a day or so, but it's best to separate them for now if you can, til they forget and/or get a new set of 'house' scents on them. They are 'wild' animals, just domestic enough to behave so we'll feed them, but still have wild instincts.
post #3 of 8
gosh, i don't know what to tell you! the only time i've heard such noises from my crew is when a stranger cat has somehow gotten in [happened once - i didn't realize the screen door had a hole in it].
i'm sending & that you'll get some sage advice!
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
I did have the bedroom window open for the first time this spring. I guess it's possible he sa and got a whiff of an outside cat as they do tend to cut through our yard. I have them separated epesially when we're not home. I am just shocked at my little girls sudden aggressive behavior, she's always been the fraidy cat and now she's so forceful. I thought I was just making headway but I think I tried to go to fast. Carried himinto the room she was in and they were both fine, so I knelt(?) down and they were fine (the sniffed each others noses and nothing happened) until he thought about getting down then she made a little noise and he started with the hissing all over again. Now I have him in the room she had been in with the towel she was wrapped in most of yesterday. Hoping the scents will help him with the reintroduction.
post #5 of 8
Female cats can be very territorial, so if she saw a strange cat outside in "her" territory, she might possibly freak out and do exactly what you've described. I've seen it before.
post #6 of 8
You are dealing with re-directed aggression. Whether or not Teddy was hurt, he was very frightened by what happened. He now ties in Erin and you with the being frightened yesterday. He may have been injured and Erin is sensing that in him as well so she may be aggressive to him because of that. Since he is acting afraid and acting like something is wrong, she is responding to his fear by being aggressive and taking it out on him.

You may be in for a long slow process of healing this rift. First, I would take Teddy to the vet to make sure he didn't do some sort of injury - he may be feeling stiff and painful - to rule that out. Cats will often address former companions in an aggressive way when one of them is sick or injured.

If he is fine, then you are going to start a long slow process of re-introduction. Keep them separated when you are not in the area for immediate supervision. They are both primed and trigger-happy for any little disturbance or stress to set them off. Keep blankets or throws around your living space ready to throw over top of one of them if they start getting aggressive with the other cat or with you.

When they are out together - always supervised - you will want to start practising re-direction. It is good to keep small toys or treats available to try and divert the attention of one or the other if it starts to focus on the other cat. Staring is a give-away. If you start to notice one staring at the other, or the two staring at each other, interrupt their line of vision. Don't stare into their eyes yourself though - they will view that as aggression.

If aggression erupts separate them and give them lots of time to cool down - several hours if necessary. They each associate the other with the fear and the aggression they have both experienced - and Teddy is still stressed, frightened and possibly injured, and Erin is still stressed and frightened.

You can eventually start feeding them within view of each other but be prepared to intervene if one or the other starts to act timid or aggressive. Your tone of voice is going to be very important. If you sound angry or afraid it will re-enforce their fear as well, so talk quietly but firmly and try not to treat it like a big deal. Try to re-direct their attention quickly into something else - a toy or a treat - if you can.

One other thing that helps is the Feliway plug ins. Place one in the room in which you all interact the most and if you can afford a second, place it in the room where Teddy wants to hide.

Good luck. I had to deal with re-directed aggression with 3 of my cats involved. It took 2 1/2 years to get them all back into living comfortably with each other and my not having to worry about another incident. There are still times when I have to intervene to prevent a possible incident. Once it has happened, its re-occurence is always a possibility.

Definitely read up on everything you can find about re-directed aggression and you will find yourself recognizing what is happening and how you can mediate. Good luck.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
That's great advice. Thank you! I will share this with my b/f annd make sure teddy gets to the vet tomorrow.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hey all!
Thanks for everything! my cats made a miraculous change on Tuesday. My b/f was home most of the day Tuesday and played with them and he said he let the boy out of the extra bedroom and they were fine. And since then everything's been fine.

Thanks again!
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