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a feline Jekyll&Hyde

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hi everybody,

I thought I'd write in to see if any of you had some ideas on what may have happened to my formerly so sweet and even-tempered cat. He's around 10 years old, spayed, originally from the countryside and now living with us in a very calm and green suburb - we've had him for a couple of years. Because he was already used to outdoor living when he came to us we've found it impossible to keep him as an indoors-only cat, so now he does get to go out to roam in the backyard and hunt squirrels and such, although we keep him strictly at home at night.

I took a dog a few weeks ago and they got along very well - the cat has had doggie friends before. They seem to like each other. Anyhow, yesterday he went roaming further off than usual and stayed away for quite a while. I found him and took him back home - I had a friend with me and my dog, too. Everything went well until we got on the staircase leading to our apartment, when suddenly he just lashed out at me in complete fury. I've never seen him like that before - I've never even heard him hiss before! - and as far as I know he's never behaved like that before he came to us, either. He scratched and bit me frantically and with such force that he managed to bite right trough my fingernail. There was no warning, he wasn't restless or try to get down from my arms, it was as if something had just completely snapped in his head - suddenly it was all just hissing and biting and scratching. I've held him before in situations where he's been annoyed or frightened, but he's never behaved that way - he's never bitten me hard enough to break my skin or with such visciousness. If frightened, he's usually just tried to get away, and never actually attacked me. I don't think he was trying to resist going inside either, as I had to let go of him to take the dog safely inside first, and when I came back for the cat, he was right by the door, waiting to get in.

What really freaks me out is that for the life of me I can't understand why he behaved the way he did. There was nothing particularly unusual about the situation he was in, I do not think he was frightened, and he knows and likes me, my friend and my dog well enough - he's never displayed aggression towards any of us before, apart from mild playbiting and such (which he's more or less stopped since he's had the chance to go out and hunt). I took him to the vet on the same day, who did a general checkup and found nothing - her response was "oh, it's perfectly normal, cats are like that - minitigers!" I completely disagree on that, I don't think it's normal for our cat at least, who's been very sweet until now.

The trouble is that now he's done that once, I don't really trust him anymore, and I'm scared for my dog's sake - I don't want them to have contact with each other at all now, in case it was a jealousy attack and he might do something to my dog, who's still just a baby (11 weeks old).

So, if any of you might have any clue as to what might be up with my feline Jekyll&Hyde, and what I could do about it, I'd much appreciate any comments! Consulting a cat behaviorist/psychologist might not be an option as I don't know any in my area and I can't drive (I usually take the train or the bus), so it would be difficult and expensive to take him anywhere too far or inconvenient.
post #2 of 5
He may have been spooked by something at your staircase earlier or felt threatened.

I'd also be tempted to take him to another vet and ask for a thorough examination including a full blood test to rule out any illnesses. An illness in a cat can result in sudden changes in behaviour or for a cat to lash out.
post #3 of 5
This is behavior we see when either (1) the animal is injured or (2) the animal has been frightened by something and has a primal "fight or flight" response. Sicne you would not let him flee, his brain automatically switched to "fight." He did to you what he would have done to a predator who had him in its grip. It was not him who attacked you...it was simply his body's reflexive response to something his brain interpreted as dangerous.

Since your vet ruled out illness (how much of a check-up did the vet do?), my bet is that this was a fight or flight response....purely reflex and not an indication that the cat has behavior problems.

So, what to do now? First, try not to be frightened of him. The cat will detect your fear and he will interpret it as you telling him the there is danger in the room. This will make him more tense and more likely to freak-out again. So, calm yourself!

Then, calm the cat. Try using a Feliway Comfort Zone plug-in or buy some Bachs Rescue Remedy from a health food store. Put 3 or 4 drops in a small amount of food or in his water to help keep him calm.

Work on repairing your relationship. Sit with him and pet him for a few minutes at a time. Each time, increase the length of time you pet him until you both are comfortable again with each other.

Finally, keep an eye out for other cats or dogs who might have been aggressive toward him and do not let him out when the other animals are present.

I hope this helps!
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for your advice! Come to think of it, my cat may have been scared by the combination of my friend & dog coming up behind us a bit too suddenly and maybe a bit too close for comfort. At the time I didn't think he looked frightened, just aggressive straight away, but that's probably the only explanation that somewhat makes sense.

He does need a more thorough check with a vet, though. I don't think our vet really took the whole thing seriously at all and she didn't take any blood samples or anything.

In the meanwhile, I've kept the cat and dog strictly separated from each other just in case. I've been spending a little extra time just petting the cat and such, and he's back to his old sweet self, really. We're taking it slow and easy, and I'm trying to avoid any situations that might stress him out or frighten him.

So thank you again for such good advice!
post #5 of 5
Been thinking about you- How is kitty?
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