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Help! Schizo Kitty!

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

Okay, so here's my story: My friend Sarah had two cats, Demmu and Lucy; the first is male and 4 yrs. old, and I'm fairly sure that Lucy was the same age. They had lived together and with Sarah since they were kittens; and Sarah wasn't shy about showering them with affection and spoiling them rotten. Then, Sarah decided to move out of the country, to be with her new boyfriend in the Islands, and the cats had to be re-homed. Not sure where Lucy went, but Demmu came to me. Sarah knew I had always wanted a kitty, so when she asked me if I wanted to take him, I was ecstatic, and immediately agreed.

That was three months ago. I shower Demmu with affection -- or rather, I try to -- and he seems to have warmed up to me . . . well, sort of. He will not get on the bed or sleep with me, will not take treats from my hand, will not get on my lap, will only rarely return my slow-blinky kitty kisses, does not rub against my outstretched hand when I let him sniff it 90% of the time, and about 50% of the time (well, maybe more like 60%), whenever I try to pet him and love on him, he tries to avoid me. When he does let me love on him, he will only allow me to scritch the sides of his neck and his head -- I get nipped at or swatted at if I touch him anywhere else, or if I even act like I'm going to. If he sees me (or my hand) coming at him and he's not in the mood -- which is a lot of the time -- I will get scratched at or bitten. If I reach down to stroke his back, he will push his back up to meet my hand as he goes past, but once I reach the area just before his tail, he suddenly turns into Attack Kitty, even if he was purring. Much of the time, when I try to jus incidentally pet him, he ducks and weaves around my hand, bending his back down and away from my hand in order to avoid me touching him.

Sometimes, he makes growly noises and then hisses at me and then bolts away from me whenever I reach for him. 70% of the time, he will give me a "warning mew" with flat ears and dilated eyes, watching my hand intently, just before he strikes, but then sometimes, I don't get the warning at all, just the attack. (Oddly, he loves to be wherever I am; he will sit or lie on top of my desk and watch me write, will come up and lay down on the book I'm reading, or will lie just under the desk, or right behind my chair, or in the window nearby. He also wakes me up to feed him every morning, and follows me around the apartment.) Usually, though, whenever he swats at me, he doesn't do it with his claws out, and he doesn't bite down hard (or at least not most of the time); other times I've gotten the full "grab the hand and bunny-kick it" treatment. I should say that whenever he swats at me, his claws are usually only partially unsheathed -- most of the time, mind you -- which tells me that for the most part, he doesn't really want to hurt me, just warn me or make me stop. Like I said, he likes to lie down on the desk and watch me work, always fascinated by what I'm doing, but if I try to touch him while he's up there -- or at least, whenever he sees me reaching toward him -- it makes him get scared and make a frustrated "meeew!" and will then move to a spot a few feet away from me, where he knows I can't reach -- and will then watch at me with wide, dilated eyes, crouched as if ready to leap away -- or worse, he'll swat at me and give a frightened little "maaeeew!" and maybe a little "growly meow" with wide eyes as he strikes at me.

Other times, he is not shy AT ALL about coming up to me and begging me for affection, which -- so long as he asks for it -- is okay. And, he always greets me excitedly whenever I come in the door (when he's not trying to figure out how to escape into the hallway outside, that is), and, he loves to sit on the top of my bookshelves and survey his domain. Other times, though, when I reach down, he acts like my hand is a mouse and he has to get it; he'll even get up on his hind legs to come after it. Last week, I was so very excited because while I was watching a movie with a friend, Demmu came up and very cautiously laid down in my lap for the very first time -- which he never does, ever -- and let me stroke his sides and back for the first time without getting angry or upset, and stayed there for about fifteen minutes solid. But since then, he seems to have reverted to the old behaviors. He meows a lot and goes to the door every once in a while and meows at it plaintively, but spends a lot of his time with his head between the window blinds gazing out at the apartment grounds, which is normal, I guess. (And if a stray cat wanders onto the porch, OH MY GOD he sounds like someone lit his tail on fire; he squalls and screams and hisses and punches the glass trying to get the evil usurper-kitty, all to no avail.)

Other contextual stuff that might help: He is good with his letterbox -- never goes outside of it -- has a healthy appetite, is well-fed, likes to play and has toys, and gets treats when they're offered (just not if I'm doing the offering). I've ordered a Feliway diffuser from Amazon, and it should be here today. (I hope it works, I really do.) Anything to get this cat to just chillax a little and allow me to love him, would be great. Any advice?
post #2 of 23
Oh goodness. This sounds just like Kramer's former evil self.

Before he came to live with me and Boots, Kramer was an absolute nightmare. He was an only cat living with my stepsister and her boyfriend, and they both worked 8+ hours a day away from the house. He did everything you describe Demmu as doing. (It's actually kinda weird how similar it is...) He also liked to scratch and bite everything, living or not. He wasn't allowed outside.

And then, there was Boots.

Boots was born feral, but he had been socialized very early in his little life, so he wasn't all wild, just very skittish at first. I got him when he was 8 weeks old, and Kramer was a year. (This was in August, btw ) At first, there was the requisite hissing and tail puffing, but after just two hours they settled down, came out from their hiding places, and started to groom each other. I was astonished. And, after that, Kramer was a changed cat: no hissing, no biting (aside from the occasional love nip), no scratching, no being generally mean to everyone. He's even friendly to strangers, INCLUDING the vet and all the techs. He is a total purr bucket and can't do without his daily snuggles.

And the good behavior continued even after school started up again, and I had to be out of the house for several hours a day. Because there's another cat here that he could play and socialize with, Kramer isn't deprived for attention, so he doesn't lash out to get it when I get home.

I know that it doesn't seem like your kitty wants attention from you, but he could be showing it in ways you wouldn't think of, like biting or scratching.

All of this very long story is to say: Do you know how he got along with the other cat before? If they were kitty bffs, they would have been better off being rehomed together. I know there's probably zero chance that the other cat who lived with him before could come to live with you now, for a host of reasons. But if they got along well, and if there's any chance, you might want to see if she can come to you.

As for getting another entirely new cat, I would be cautious at best on that, since you describe how violently he reacts to strange cats even through the window.

Best of luck!!
post #3 of 23
My cat is mostly like that, and I think he's just loveable! Not quite as bad though... he lets me pet more than just his head, but never down on his stomach! Then I get the bites, bunny kicks, scratches, but I still think he loves me. Sounds like he misses his old meowmy though. Don't have too many suggestions either, hope Feliway helps!
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
An update for those who have responded --

Well, I tried Feliway -- got it on Monday, just unplugged it this morning, as it was making things WORSE. He became more aggressive (he actually "goes after" the petting hand now,even if it's two or three few feet away), more withdrawn (won't let me touch him hardly at all now), and even a little more territorial (the top of my desk is HIS now, as is the plastic bag on the floor), plus he will not leave the room where the diffuser is/was.

Anybody know how long it takes that stuff to dissipate once it's been unplugged? His behavior really is worse; I find myself wishing I had my usual antisocial "companion" back, now.

Sigh. Guess it's a trip to the vet and some SSRIs for little Demmu, then. Poor baby. I know he's only acting this way 'cause he's scared and upset (though over what, I do not know), so I don't hold the scratches against him. Just wish I could make him happy, is all. I ordered a cat-tree, thinking that maybe an easier perch than the bookshelves would maybe make a little difference, but it hasn't gotten here yet. Does anybody know of any other behavior-modification products out there, maybe similar to Feliway only that ... oh, y'know... actually help, and that are sold OTC?
post #5 of 23
Demmu does not need medication, he needs understanding.

First, stop reaching for him. He has told you over and over that he doesn't like it. Stop doing it.

Think about things from his view. He has lost his mother and his sister and his home. His entire life has been turned upside down. He doesn't know where he is, or who you are.

Do take him to the vet to be checked for any illness, if he has a pain somewhere that may be making him grumpier than he normally would be. Have the vet take a urine sample and do an urinalysis. Stress can make cats sick, especially UTIs.

Other than that, offer play time, but stop trying to force petting. Let him come be near you when he wants to, but just let that be enough, don't reach for him, for now.

In time, as he adjusts and learns to trust he may eventually enjoy being stroked by you. But he's had a shock and needs time to adjust.

PS play with him with toys that can allow him to keep his distance from you. A long string on a stick that you can drag for him to chase, or throwing toys for him to chase down, such as crumpled paper balls or balls with rattly noises. Playing will start to build a bond.
post #6 of 23
The cat tree will be nice for him, once he gets used to it.

You can try Rescue Remedy, it may help him cope with his losses. Remember, he is grieving, having lost everything he has ever known.
post #7 of 23
PS another bonding activity besides playing, is meal times. Feed him on a schedule and spend time with him when he eats. Make at least one of his meals be at the same time you eat, so you are eating together.

Feed smaller portions, so he will be more engaged with you. Put a small amount of food down and hang around while he eats it. When he finishes it, ask him if he wants more. Answer for him too.

In fact the more you talk to him, just engage him in general conversation the more he will be able to get used to you. Talk to him all the time. Demmu, I'm going to take a shower now. Demmu, look at that bird! Demmu, you look so gorgeous sitting on that book case. Demmu, look at this mess, I've got to clean it up!

And so on.....
post #8 of 23
Was he like this at all with your friend or when you went to her house? How long were the 2 cats together? and were they friends?

He fixed? Any outside cats in your area?
post #9 of 23
It's only been 2 months....I've had cats hide for 6 months when brought in. He sounds terrified, let him have some space.
post #10 of 23
Oh, I've got another idea, you might want to put a well-worn (ie sweaty, smelly) t shirt of yours under his food bowl. He'll associate your smell with eating...(assuming he likes eating LOL)

My Smudge is a little the same way. I got a Ragdoll thinking I would have a cuddle cat, and he's just sort of a hell-raiser LOL. Although he does follow me everywhere, hes not particularly fond of being petted, or of being picked up. And GOD HELP the person that tries to scratch that beautiful white furry tummy! LOL!
post #11 of 23
How about an update on Demmu? Did you take him to the vet? Have you started follwing any of our advice? Remember, you will not get instant results, it takes time for cats to adjust. Poor kitty, I'm sure with time and love and patience from you he will start to get used to these changes in his life.
post #12 of 23
Originally Posted by otto View Post
How about an update on Demmu? Did you take him to the vet? Have you started follwing any of our advice? Remember, you will not get instant results, it takes time for cats to adjust. Poor kitty, I'm sure with time and love and patience from you he will start to get used to these changes in his life.
Not the answer anyone of us likes to hear
post #13 of 23
I kept thinking the cat name sounded familiar. Good hell, she has no idea what she is doing and has brought another cat in. I can't believe she sheltered him. This makes me so sad for Demmu.
post #14 of 23
I don't understand why people ask for advice and then don't even try the suggestions. Poor Demmu... I hope he manages to find the right people to give him a chance, he sure hasn't had any luck in the human department so far.
post #15 of 23
All we can hope for is that life with the second kitty goes better..
post #16 of 23
Great, so his original mom decides to move to the islands. Gives her cat to a friend who takes him to a shelter after only 30 days because HE isn't making HER happy. Trades him in for another toy off the shelf. That's what I call responsibility -NOT. It's a good thing the names are not posted here bc that person would be a DNA where I live.
post #17 of 23
No kidding. I didn't know if anyone else had noticed it.

I can't believe it.
post #18 of 23
My gosh. I'm speechless. Poor Demmu. I'm praying for you, little sweetheart.
post #19 of 23
His behavior seemed quite rational to me. I wish people would realize that a relationship with a pet has to be give-and-take, compromise, understanding each other.
post #20 of 23

Yes. thank you.  It does need to be give and take, or it cannot work.


I tried for several months with Demmu, to no avail.  Night and day.  I spoiled him rotten, gave him treats, bought him toys, let him have full run of the house, petted him whenever he initiated it, and never punished him physically, never even used a squirt bottle on him.  And for the record, there was no "forced petting."  It was me reaching toward him gently, softly, down on his level while talking to him sweetly with a treat in my hand -- for which I got scratched.  Toward the end of our relationship, he was no longer sociable at all; shortly after I wrote the above post, his behavior deteriorated even further.  He was damn near feral.  He was not only attacking me, but attacking my family and friends whenever they came over, and their kids, and he was doing it unprovoked.  I.e., without anyone reaching for him or going near him.  Rather, he would go after us.  He refused to even look at the cat-tree when it came -- I would up selling it to a friend.  I took him to the vet and they could find nothing physically wrong with him; I asked if they were sure, and they said yes, they were sure.  They recommended I put him on an SSRI (one similar to the drugs that I myself take), but it was going to be around $500 for a single month's supply.  (The name escapes me at the moment.)  I checked around on prices, but the lowest I found was around $450 for the stuff.  As it is, I live on disability, about $800 a month, plus $450 from my parents that they can barely afford.  Swallowing hard, I decided that I would "tough it out" with him, drugs or no drugs.  But over the next few days, his behavior continued to get worse and worse, and by this time (going on three months, not one, as someone incorrectly stated), I was accumulating a very hefty collation of scratches and puncture wounds, most of which I did not ask for.  It not only hurt me physically, but emotionally, too; I got him, originally, thinking he would be a good companion seeing as how I am bipolar and have social anxiety disorder, and find it difficult to be around people.  So there was an element of rejection that I felt, and it was very hurtful to me to face each day.  But still, despite the physical and emotional pain of it, I tried to keep him and do my best to love him on his terms.  To no avail.


Two weeks later and I had had it.  Finally, I bundled Demmu up -- and got a few new scratches for it -- and put him into his carrier.  I was shivering and crying uncontrollably, sobbing, and blaming myself for not doing enough; I was blubbering when I called my mother at work and told her, moaning, that I simply had to get rid of him, because I couldn't take it anymore.  I'm sure I didn't make a lot of sense.  Wiping my eyes so I could see, I drove him to the local No Kill shelter in Jeffersonville, singing softly to soothe him as I myself cried.  Once there, he and I said our goodbyes.  I almost turned around and left, but I didn't.  The woman who did his intake actually had to walk me to a chair so I could sit down and get myself together, but in my head, I could still hear those horrible, plaintive mews in the car.  Finally, I got myself fairly well calmed down, and went home to a very, very, very quiet and empty apartment.  I was a hollowed out wreck  of a human, and every time I thought of him, I cried, full of feelings of guilt, failure, and self-accusations of cruelty and abandonment.  No, didn't cry -- I grieved.


After a few days, I made up my mind to try again with someone new.  So I went to the local chapter of the Humane Society and adopted a heavyset 6-year-old shorthair named Kitty-Boy.  We bonded instantly, from the moment I first saw him.  He meowed at me, rubbed my ankles, and then immediately flopped over on his belly so I could give him a tummy rub.  I did, and he purred loudly, eyes closed.  The rest is history.  I took him home that very day, and have had him for over a month now (he hid for the first few days, but then quickly came out of his shell).  He is the sweetest, most lovable, most affectionate cat in the world!  Far from aloof, he is always within three feet of me, simply adores being petted and made over, sleeps right on top of me every night, and always wakes me up when it's breakfast time.  He's curious but is not destructive, and whenever he  has had enough loving, he gently uses his teeth to gnaw on my wrist, not even breaking the skin; he might bunny kick gently, but only once or twice, and never to hurt.  He climbs in my lap (or anybody's lap, for that matter) at the drop of a hat and snuzzles into a big ball there, and always tries to groom me if my skin or hair is within reach.  He doesn't mind being held and will let you rub his tummy until your arm is tired.  He's a wonderful kitty cat, the exact polar opposite of Demmu (the thought of whom still fills me with a momentary pang of guilt and sadness).  I groom him once a week and play with him all the time (when he's in the mood).  He always uses his litter box, and doesn't get into things or cause any trouble.  He's become a good friend and companion, and I can't ever imagine letting anything bad happen to him.


When I told Sarah about Demmu, she confided in me that she had known about his behavior problems for some time before rehoming him to me (thanks for letting me know!), and had considered getting him on meds for some time; the only reason she hadn't had been the expense of it; she couldn't afford what they had wanted to put him on, same as me.  And unlike me, she was gone a lot during the week and didn't often have company, so it wasn't as noticeable to her as it was me, since I'm home all the time.  She -- and everyone else I know -- told me that I did the right thing, that I didn't need to feel guilty, and that maybe doing what I'd done had been the right thing to do, because in the end, it had brought Kitty-Boy and I together.


The relationship does need to be two-way, just as it does with people.  I wish people weren't so quick to rush to judgment.  For those that offered support, my thanks.  Things have turned out all right, in the end.  I wish I could've kept Demmu; had things been different, he and Kitty-Boy might be roommates now.  But as it is, I'm glad I have Kitty-Boy, he's brought me a lot of happiness and joy in just the short time he's been here . . . and I hope that Demmu eventually finds a good home, because even a cat with that many problems deserves to be loved.  I just wish I could've been up to the challenge of giving it to him.



post #21 of 23
Cat "behavior modification meds" such as kitty prozac (ssri, fluoxetine) or Elavil (tryciclic, amitriptyline) are relatively inexpensive. Prozac about $30 a month or less. Amitriptyline less than half that.
post #22 of 23

The really unfortunately thing here is poor Demmu.

If he even managed to get adopted, which is hard enough for an adult cat, how many homes will bring him back?

How long will the shelter hold him before he ends up destroyed?


Those are pretty hard facts for most adult cats in shelters.


Completely ignoring a cat other than feeding is the best way to gain confidence is one like Demmu.

I've never met a cat whose curiosity didn't overcome them.


I've waited months to turn cats around that were like Demmu.

Even had one that never turned around, but that was who he was and I respected him for it and let him live his life.


If you want an animal whose behavior you can form and mold into your ideal, then get a dog, dogs enjoy pleasing humans.

post #23 of 23

I understand the bipolar, the anxiety and the financial issues. I myself am on disability for bipolar and borderline personality disorder-- cats are great companions .


When I first brought Bandit home, Smokie became completely inccorrigable, evil, and just plain mean like Demm- But i stuck it out.


2 MONTHS later-- I had my old cat back and he adjusted.


Anyway, it is what it is- hope he turns out OK.

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