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Tuxedo is feeling better....and is becoming VERY aggressive (long, sorry!)

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
This is an interesting situation.

The background for those who don't know. Lazlo and Sheldon came inside shortly after the mom and kittens were discovered living near us. After they were pets, we instituted a trap neuter return program for the ferals living on this property. There were five kittens. As soon as the remaining three were at least 12 weeks old, we had mom spayed. She disappeared. When we had Sheldon and Lazlo neutered, we trapped the other three kittens and had them spayed and neutered. But they were living out back, and we were now feeding a colony of - I don't know - 10 or more older cats at the time. Spooky and Julius were friendly (the other two siblings). By that Winter (2002), we'd trapped and had 20 some cats spayed and neutered.

Tuxedo was VERY aggressive and disruptive to the colony - attacking the other cats (even after being neutered). To the extent that the vet recommended we euthanize him. Gary refused, and simply started feeding him separately, and far away. Tuxedo, even as a little kitten, would actually attack Gary's hand when he was putting down the food - it was not that he would just arch, hiss and spit.

He physically attacked a kitten (one of three) that turned up around Thanksgiving that year. She needed stitches, and we brought her in, fostered her and adopted her out.

That Winter was hard, snowey and really, really, relentlessly cold. One day Tuxedo didn't turn up - and by now, he was coming running any time we went out - even though we still couldn't pet him. Gary dug out the opening in the groundhog hole where they were born - and an hour later, there he was, his little pawprints coming down from that hole.

It was January that year that Tuxie attacked Gary, Gary sat down on the bench (in the snow) crying in frustration - and THEN Tuxie came and headbumped him. We'd already adopted out all the other kittens. From then on, Tuxie and Gary were pals.

The Winter was so severe, we didn't know what to do. We thought he needed to be an alone kitty in someone's home, so we made an agreement with a cat-only boarding facility. (Too little room in here to socialize). We took him there, visited him frequently, and the owner of the facility spent time playing with him and socializing him. He was there three weeks (March of 2003), and developed a UTI. He lost weight rapidly, and of course we took him to the vet as soon as she alerted us. He stayed in the hospital there a week - but wouldn't start eating. When Gary would visit, he would LEAP out of the cage into Gary's arms.

The vet suggested that the only way to save Tuxie was to bring him home. So that's what we did. (April 2003)

The intro wasn't too bad - he didn't like Spooky (his sister that we'd took back from someone we'd adopted her to), who was always very aggressive with new intros (we fostered several small kittens in the meantime). Lazlo was always very good with new intros - that was fine. Sheldon is alpha, and that was fine.

Tuxedo had frequent problems with UTIs until we put him on a diet of c/d (late summer/fall 2003). He was eating fine, gained weight, etc.

Fast-forward from fall of 2003 to March of 2004. Tuxedo was completely listless. Would leave the room if anyone were there. Would turn his back on all of us - not interested in play.

Turns out he was seriously anemic. Eliminated all of the diseases that cause anemia - had biopsies, had to have a blood transfusion. It's an autoimmune disorder. He went on Nupogen and Epogen. The transfusion got his PCV from 12 to 24. The Epogen got his PCV from 21 to 31 before the numbers started falling again. That took - about two months. Then he went on anti-cancer meds to suppress his immune system, as the Epogen kick-started his red blood cell production and his reticulocyte count is good.

His behavior improved each week - more active, more playful, hungry, etc.

He's on Leukeran. Three pills every other week. He started treatment exactly two weeks ago. last week his PCV went from 21 to 31 on the Leukeran. He has been leaping from the floor straight up to the top of the 6' cat tree. He comes out to play - he'll play with the little mice he loves so much by himself! He hasn't done THAT since he was a kitten! He loves brushes, is constantly headbumping Gary, and sleeps next to us.

He plays with Flowerbelle. He challenged Shel for alpha once or twice. He used to tolerate Lazlo - but we've seen Tuxedo attack Lazlo twice for no apparent reason. And Spooky - he always seems to have hated. We thought maybe Spook was doing something to bug him. A couple days ago, Tuxie was on top of the high platform on the cat tree. Spook bounded up to the top of the treehouse. Tuxedo leaned down and grabbed a biteful of hip. He didn't draw blood, but she went streaking into the bedroom - and Tuxedo was left with a large mouthful of hair.

Last night, Spooky was sitting on the window perch, very involved with a squirrel out the window. Tuxedo was on top of the cat tree - jumped directly onto the couch, bounded into Spooky, and didn't tap her on the rump or head to get rid of her - he throttled her. I mean BLAM BLAM BLAM and then a grab with the mouth.

Sometimes he and Spook sit on the back of the couch - a foot apart - peacefully watching birds and mice. But he literally attacks her at least twice a day now - yowling, crying and her fleeing into a corner.

Any thoughts on what to do? He's the smallest of the four siblings (9.5 lbs vs 11 - Spooky, 14 - Lazlo, 16 pounds - Shelly, and teeney deaf non-sibling Flowerbelle at 7 pounds) - but he's built like a football-player of cats - and stands about 2/3 as "tall" as our Basketball player of cats, Shelly. Tuxedo has a wide stance, is stocky and powerful with big huge paws. Spook is stocky - but with these dainty little legs and teeney paws. She used to try to defend herself - now she doesn't bother. She just tries to flee and hide.

The only thing we can think of is to move into a larger space. (We live in an RV, but we've created cat heaven in here with most of the surfaces and space dedicated to them. Overhead cabinets, we took out the dining room and put in cat trees - I'm looking at five separate levels of bed off to my left - plus the back of the couch, the window perch - and there's the other side of the RV and the bedroom, which has three levels for them on each side of the bed).

We already use Feliway.

Any suggestions?
post #2 of 8
I'm afraid I don't have any suggestions, other than that things calmed down with my cats after I moved from a small apartment into a house. I don't know if that's an option for you, though.

I hope you can find a good solution.

Glad Tuxedo is feeling better!
post #3 of 8
Laurie, we have a new behaviour expert on TCS and your situation sounds like something he may be able to help with. You might want to PM Jackson (LittleBigCat) and direct him to your post.
post #4 of 8
Awwww Laurie i hope you can get sorted

But it's great news about Tuxedo
post #5 of 8

You must be soooo frustrated (and sad). I can't help but wonder whether having more "personal space" would help things out. I have one little holy terror in my crew (she's only about four years old while the others are all over 10), but in my house it is very easy for the old folks to simply avoid her when she goes on a tear.

Of course, I can't help but wonder whether he is feeling poorly and expressing his discomfort through behaving aggressively.

I wish I had some better advice.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas and well wishes!

Renae - Tuxedo is definitely feeling better. He is active, alert, perky, inquisitive, exploring like he hasn't before - WAY more active than he's ever been inside.... and though there's the odd scrap with Lazlo and the occassional challenge of Sheldon, he is completely tolerant of Flowerbelle (who is the most outgoing of the bunch and is constantly nagging all of them and us to play with her). His aggression is pretty much directed at Spooky. And it seems so random. Sometimes he'll hop up on the back of the couch - right next to her - settle down and watch birds and squirrels. He'll get up, have a bite to eat, a drink - and hop back up and directly go for her. And not in a Shelly, Lazlo or Flowerbelle way - it looks like a powerful fit of anger! He'll chase her into the bedroom, his tail HUGE and fluffy. Satisfied that he's chased her into a corner, he'll come back out and do whatever he was doing.

When he didn't feel well, he avoided interaction with everyone, us included. But the difference is amazing. His eyes are sparkling - and the difference in his "alertness" is so apparent - I find it almost incomprehensible that we weren't sure he was sick! On the other hand - he's never been like this since coming inside, and with all the problems with the UTIs, eating a little bit of litter every day from the beginning - he must have been sick or under the weather for almost the full year inside! I mean - he was active - but not like this. He was alert - but not like this. And he was never that inquisitive, and didn't explore all the nooks and crannies we've created for them here - and he's been checking EVERYTHING out.

If I thought it was that he wasn't feeling well, I wouldn't be so worried. It's because we're almost positive that this behavior is because he's feeling SO good that we're so worried!
post #7 of 8
Laurie - that's what struck me - that he is feeling his healthiest in a long while and it seems like he used to attack a lot when younger and healthy, stopped doing it (not so healthy), and has regained his youth.

I know you have 5 in an RV and all the vertical space that can be found. I have 13 in a 9 room house with a condo in almost every room and still have issues from time to time.

I'll give you my background on a situation I'm dealing with right now - it's clearly hierarchy issues where 4 of them attacked each other. I had 4 of the adult males go strange on me when Bogart became terminally ill and continued after he died. Bogart was clearly Beta male, and the 3 lesser males became territorial and attacked each other and the alpha. As much as I like for them to work thru their hierarchy by themselves, I had to intervene on a regular basis as it was getting excessive at times. 2 of them are back to normal (the alpha and one of the lesser males) and the other 2 are acting out far less frequently (we are not done yet with the situation).

Stumpy (alpha age 9) was easiest to deal with. As king of the house, we promoted his rank thru first feeding, feeding on the table, extra attention from us and made it clear to the others that his rank didn't change in our eyes. If 2 jumped in our laps at once, we made sure Stumpy had the best spot on our chests and the others were relegated further down the lap. The attacks on him stopped.

Pinky (4 year old) idolizes Stumpy, so once his role was re-established, Pinky simply started worshiping him again.

Tigger and Eight-ball (age 8-1/2) are my difficult boys. They are the most feral in the household, and they often surprise me with their behaviors. They will arbitrarily attack each other, and some of the other household cats get caught in the middle. I watch them like a hawk, and any sign of aggression is immediately stopped and they are removed from the situation. Sometimes it is a simple big NO, other times it is a pick up and scruff, and other times I have to just run them off while clapping my hands.

If they act out, they lose privaleges for a while (like sleeping on the bed with me or sitting in my lap). Interestingly, this has been working. Neither was really a lap kitty until Bogart got sick, then both decided my lap was the best place in the world (because Bogart had that place and he was Beta). Using the lap privalege as a reward or not allowing it as punishment, I am establishing their ranking and the fights are diminishing.

Yours sounds like a hierachy issue also. Perhaps find what motivates him to be a good cat, and use that to reward him or obviously withhold it for punishment. Sounds strange, but it's brought these boys a long way in my house.

Hope this makes sense and helps even a little bit.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Amy, you bring up a really good point. It's clear that Sheldon is alpha. But there's no apparent (immediately apparent, to Gary or I, anyway) beta. Lazlo's a loner - snuggles with Spook occassionally. Flowerbelle still acts totally like a kitten - she probably always will until the wear and tear of age wear her down, LOL! I guess that makes Spooky the unofficial beta, though I've only seen her be aggressive with newbies - never seen her act out against the other cats. Must be Tuxedo wants to be second cat on the totem pole. What I don't know now is - do we encourage it? Or discourage it?
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