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Looking for advice about my cat’s behavior…

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I apologize for the terribly long first post . I’m not always this wordy; but I think that all of these issues may be related somehow, I’m just not really sure how and am looking for advice.

I am the ‘mom’ of Terry. He is an almost 3 year-old kitty. He’s kind of the oddball of his family, in numerous ways. I won’t get into all of them right now; suffice to say that even the vet and all the people at the vet’s office agree that Terry is 'a very unique cat'. But, I’m hoping that I’m not the only one with these behaviors going on…
Terry is my ‘only child’ it’s just him and me in my fairly large apartment. He is an indoor kitty, doesn’t even try to get outside.

1)\tMy vet gave him the diagnosis of IBD, about 6-8 months ago. (Interestingly, his problems with vomiting began only after he was neutered when he was 7 months old, he never vomited even once before then.) It started out as only once in a while, progressively getting worse, so that sometimes is was every day or several times a day. We first tried Sensitive Stomach, which worked at first, and then gradually didn’t; we then progressed to Low Allergen formula, which was the same. Now, Terry’s been on prednisolone for just over a month and only vomited once – on the dining room table! What a nice gift…

2)\tAnother fact – Terry is a huge cat! He’s 19 pounds, but not really fat – just tall and long. He is NOTHING like his littermates. I’ve heard about instances where kittens from the same litter may have different fathers, well this must be the case. His mom was part Siamese, part unknown; his 3 littermates were all tiger striped kitties, he was the black sheep so to speak – all black except for about a dozen or so white hairs here and there. All the others are petite kitties, much smaller; with no problems similar to his.

3)\tTerry has always been a pretty dependent cat. When he was a kitten, he would howl when I left, I thought it was only when I was still beside the door, but a friend who stayed with me told me once that he cried by the door for about 5 minutes after I left Now if I’m outside on the balcony or in the back courtyard, I’ll hear him meowing loudly.

4)\tHe is a ‘licker’. I have tried to discourage this since he was a kitten, but its no use. If you let hem lick you, he’ll never stop. A friend once watching him while I was out of town, sat down and thought that he’d feel comforted by licking her arm – she has to stop him 20 minutes later! He doesn’t lick himself excessively, only me and friends. I try to stop him every time, consistently.

5)\tHe has a huge clawing problem, but this is not terribly remarkable because he’s a normal cat in this respect. But this problem plays into the next issue…

6)\tHe eats carpet. I’m not talking about just chewing on it – I mean, picking at and pulling out the carpet fibers from the floor, and he doesn’t stop there, he then progresses on to the nylon fiber base of the carpet, and just keeps going – How do I know this, you ask? I once caught him chasing his tail round and round, and realized he wasn’t chasing the tail, but the tail of something trailing from his behind – I was able to stop him and very gently pulled it out (I know – very dangerous, but I wasn’t really thinking at the time) It was an 18 inch long piece of nylon carpeting fiber!!!!!!!
The carpet fiber must have come from one of two places – either the carpeted scratching post that he had because of his clawing problem, or it came from a seam in the carpet in my apartment that he continually is picking at. I can’t get him to stop. I tried those aerosol sprays – don’t work, tried vinegar water – doesn’t work. Then I thought I was smart and thought that he would be repelled by cayenne pepper. Ha, not this cat! He rolled around in it like it was catnip!

So my question is: do the IBD, the dependent personality, the licking and the carpet eating all go together? do other cats have the same problems? Or are all these issues separate?
I love my cat very much! I love the way that we play fetch with his favorite mouse, how he leaves his favorite ‘killed’ toys in a heap around his food dish. I just would like to try to help him to get past some of these problems that he is having, do any of you have any suggestions at all? I want to help him to be a healthy happy kitty.

post #2 of 14
Your cat sounds like he either has some sort of neurological disorder going on, or something called PICA. It is very dangerous to pull thread, string or anything else out of a cat, as it could have been wrapped around something vital. You were lucky in that respect-

The licking is more than likely related to the type of soap you use. A lot of the commercial soaps have animal renderings in them, making them very attractive to cats once they are on our skin. Try using an organic soap and seeing if that makes a difference? I have one cat that used to lick the skin off my arm, but when I went to natural homemade soaps she finally quit-

Here is a website on PICA you need adobe reader

post #3 of 14
Hi Lauri-

Your boy sounds like a sweetie, but also anxious. I don't know if the problems he has are all related, but I think what's more important is to try to tackle them as best as you possibly can. And, yes, other kitties have these problems too!

The persistent licking could be due to him having been taken from his mom too early. How old was Terry when you adopted him? Usually, by this age, it would start to decrease in frequency, but all cats are different.

Get Terry a different scratching post, one covered in sisal rope rather than carpet.
Carpet covered posts only teach cats to scratch ALL carpets. Cats can really get a good grip on the sisal and give their muscles and claws a great work-out. Since Terry's a big boy, make sure the post you get is substantial and sturdy so it doesn't tip when he uses it. There's a great product called Sticky Paws - (basically double-sided tape) that you can apply to most upholstered furniture if clawing the furniture is a problem.
It discourages cats from scratching - I've used it and it works. As for the carpet, I'm wondering if putting some type of material over the seam would work (like aluminum foil) if it was something that wasn't fun to scratch.

I agree with you that it certainly seems Terry's got a very dependent personality. You're his mom, and since it's just you and him, he's lonely when you're not there. Is there any chance you could adopt a friend for him? I think he would benefit greatly from having company.

If not, make sure to continue to have play sessions with him each day. Leave the radio or TV on for him when you're not home (lights, too). If possible, set up a birdfeeder near a window, and put a perch there to provide some entertainment. There's something called a Snugglekitty which is usually used for orphaned or single kittens. It's a plush toy cat with a battery operated heartbeat which kittens find very comforting. Maybe this would help Terry, too.

Other members may have more experience with IBD, so I hope you'll get some good suggestions concerning that.

Terry is very fortunate to have a mom who loves and cares about him so much. I hope things will improve soon for him.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you both for the replies,
I just bookmarked the Pica website, skimmed through it and will do more research later.

I'm not too sure about the soap residue on the skin, but will look into it. The thing is, Terry's not picky about who he licks, he will lick anyone who lets him. And if you don't allow it, he will try to 'sneak' in a lick when you're not paying attention, or when you walk by! ha

I already tried the StickyPaws, it didn't have any lasting effect - it worked well while there, but the only bit of furniture that Terry really likes to claw is the side of my bed, and the tape didn't stick very well on the sheets.

I have newspaper or magazines on the floor in the doorway where there is the seam that he likes to pick at, but he is not too 'picky' - he'll go for the edges of the carpet around the room. Sometimes he will just pick at the rug in the middle of the room!

I've looked for the scratching posts made from sissal, but every one that I've seen has the carpet stapled to the base, I guess that I could get one and remove the carpet, I've also thought about getting a sissal floor mat.

He was almost 3 months old when I got him, he was the 3rd of his littermates to leave mom. I know where 2 of his brothers and sisters are, and am close friends with the mom of his sister Miss Jane who is very well adjusted and is as proper as her name implies!
When I got Terry and he was crying so much when I left him, I borrowed one of those teddy bears that have the heartbeat sound that they use for babies - He would have nothing to do with it!

There is a tree just outside my window that birds spend most of the day in, Terry loves to sit and watch them, and sometimes the Jays like to taunt him!

We try to have alot of play time each day. Terry's favorite game is to play fetch with his little fur covered mouse toys - He will come and drop it at my feet and look at me, and meow. I'll throw it across the room and he chases after, tackles and 'kills' the mouse and then brings it back to me and the game starts again. This will often go on for 15 to 20 minutes! I've never had a cat that has done this before, it is SO MUCH fun!

Anyways, Thank you for the advice!

[edited x2: I really have to learn how to type!
post #5 of 14
Hi and welcome... I'm sorry your cute guy has these issues! There's only one I know a bit about that I can help you with - his dependency on you.

I've read in books that it's never a good idea to have a cat dependant on you... what if something were to happen and you were stuck in a hospital (heaven forbid) and couldn't see him for days or weeks on end?

To get him over his dependency on you is a process - basically you have to make your coming and going a non-event. Don't make a big deal when you leave, try to sneak out and sneak back in, if you will. Sometimes it's good to do some practice trips... leave your apartment for a short while and then come back... do it again for longer and then come back.

If you're interested I can go find the book and tell you more about what it says. Good luck!
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
He's dependent on me, yes, but not as bad as he was when he was a kitten. I guess that part does make it seem worse that it is. He still meows when I am outside and he knows that I am nearby. But he doesn't cry beside the door like he used to.

I have gone out of town numerous times, ususally no more that 3 days at a time, but twice for over a week. He did well with having someone come in and look after him, they would come in and feed him and spend an hour or so with him. He didn't have any problems (rather, the problems were no worse than ususal). The carpet pulling and vomiting were no worse than ususal.

I usually don't make a big deal about entrances or exits. But Terry always greets me at the door when I get home. (When my mom was visiting last October, she said that she could always tell when I drove up outside the building - Terry would get up and stand quietly beside the door, even before I entered the building and walked up the flight of stairs to my apartment)...But I don't make a big production out of getting home, yet I greet him, usually try to sit down and have a good play or petting session within 10 minutes of getting home.

I'll have to ask my vet about Pica. Another question that I have: if he has food allergies and IBD, is there any kind of food that I can give him that is high in fiber that might be a reasonable substitute for the carpet? Something that won't make him sick? I don't know if that might work, I guess these questions are for the vet. I have been faithful with the adjusted diet and Terry eats NO food besides the low allergen formaula food (except the carpet...)

post #7 of 14

Try giving him some canned pumpkin with canned cat food. Also elevate his plate when he eats and if you feed him dry, smash the kibble up first with a hammer and see if that might help-
post #8 of 14
It most likey is not the case, but I am fairly sure worms can make cats vomit too or so I have been told. Has he been checked for worms in his recent past?
post #9 of 14

I would suspect the carpet eating and the vomiting are related. He could still have little remants of carpet in his intestinal tract or he replaces it with new remnants and that would definitely irritate the bowel. Several things to talk over with your vet . . . did he do xrays of the intestinal tract and did they show inflammation? Interestingly enough, when one of my cats had an inflamed bowel the vet did a barium x ray and one of the side effects of the barium was that it coated the bowel wall and immediately reduced the inflammation along with helping push out whatever might have been irritating the bowel - we never did identify what it was. You may try feeding him tonic lax or one of the hairball remedies as well. It may help to coat anything that shouldn't be in the bowel and is undigestable and allow it to exit more easily. One of the other things you can do along with the pumpkin is to give him acidophilus - you can get a brand specifically for cats at some of the pet specialty stores or you can use the same ones humans use - just break apart the capsules and sprinkle the contents on the food or even right on a plate. Mine like to lick it directly off of the plate dry.

I have a licker too. Even now as I am typing this she is lying across my lap and trying to lick my wrist and fingers. She also licks the other cats - and one of mine takes shameful advantage of that to get her to wash his face for him:-) !I also have her full sister from the same litter who will occasionally lick but certainly not to this degree. I just think it is part of the mutual grooming that cats do with their 'family' members so your guy is showing his affection and 'belongingness' by licking.

Regarding the carpet eating again - pica does sound like a strong possibility, and is usually related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency - which could also relate to a bowel disorder and the allergen food he is on - he may have some type of a nutrient lacking that he is trying to obtain. If his bowel is not able to absorb nutrients properly that could be the source of all of the problems. Regarding the carpeted scratching posts, you can buy 1/2" or 3/4" sisal rope at almost any hardware store. It isn't expensive and you can wrap it around the carpeted parts of the post yourself. I have done that on the unsisaled posts of my cats' trees and scratching posts. You can use an industrial strength stapler or can purchase metal electrical staples that you can nail overtop of the sisal ends and hammer into place on the posts to secure the sisal.

Good luck with your cat - he does sound rather adorable. Do you think a playmate might be a possibility for him? He may be less dependent on you if he has a compatible companion.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your ideas and suggestions! I just recently found this forum and amazed by how helpful everyone is!

A few answers / replies:
- on the suggestion for pumpkin: right now Terry is on a strict diet and eats nothing at all except for the dry Low allergen food. This along with the prednisilone has controlled the IBD and vomiting. Will giving him the pumpkin cause problems? I guess I should ask the vet, and maybe it wouldn't hurt to try it
- about worms: he hasn't been checked recently; however, he is a strictly indoor cat, and I have never seen any evidence that would lead me to suspect worms.
- The suggestion about laxatone: that was actually one of the intems that continued to make him sick. The vet and I tried many different ways to solve the vomiting problem. I was always diligent about not giving him any 'food' except for the special diet, but still gave him the laxatone and he kept getting sick! Once I cut out the laxatone, his vomiting decreased by about 75 to 80%. He rarely has any hairballs in his vomit, and when they are there they are very small and not likely the cause (at least this is what the vet said.)

One nice thing: he thinks that the AmoxiDrops (he's been on them 3 times in the past 2 years...) are the best treat he's had and almost sucks it out of the eyedropper! He also doesn't even fight me when he has to take the prednisolone!

Terry has several other behaviors in addition to the carpet pulling and eating that lead me to think of obsessive compulsive type beh. One example: If I'm wearing a necklace or shirt with buttons, he cannot, absolutely cannot, leave it alone once he sees it! he'll lunge for the button and try to bite it off, and then just becomes fixated on it and it is very difficult to divert his attention away.
He also plays with his water dish, I have to keep the bathtub faucet dripping and I always keep his water dish in the bathtub because he will play in the water and usually completly empty out the water dish. When he was a kitten we had one of those water bowls where you invert the 20 ounce water bottle and screw it into the dish -- well 20 ounces of water goes a long ways on a kitchen floor!! what a mess, he played and emptied the entire thing! ha!
Oh, and another thing! He is doing this right now as I type this: he has one of those 'cosmic catnip alpine scratcher' things with the cardboard and catnip that he is supposed to scratch. Nope, not sweet Terry: he might scratch for about 5 seconds then he lays on it and licks it for 5 or more minutes! (strange kitty)

I so appreciate all the information that you all have shared! I plan to go see or call the vet and ask him about all these issues again. I've been there so many times with Terry! Disucssed the carpet eating, vomiting, etc. We've been doing the 'wait and see' approach for several of the factors to see if taking care of the IBD stopped the other problems, but I don't really see that happening. I think its time to go back to the vet.

post #11 of 14
The pumpkin is straight fiber and won't hurt but help. I have IBS and I take pumpkin from time to time and also eat dry cracklin oat bran followed up with a large glass of water- helps me
post #12 of 14
Not sure what brand of food your vet has Terry on, but I have heard from several sources that science diet is more likely than any diet to make a cat vomit, aside from my own experience with it making my cats vomit. The main ingredients are corn product and it's very hard to digest. Try another low allergen formula if your cat is on science diet (vets tend to push it because they get $). If the carpet eating was an isolated incident it could have just been that there was a long carpet string that fascinated him and he ended up ingesting it. Is it possible to go hard wood or vinyl with your flooring and have area rugs instead? Also, prednisone will enhance size, if Terry has been on steroids for a while that may be why he's so much bigger than his littermates. Sounds like you're doing everything right (but please think of switching if Terry eats science diet). Good luck to you!
post #13 of 14
wow.. you have one complicated cat!

I'd say defintiely go for a sisal post, change his diet - go for all wet, the dry stuff to control allergies (science diet) is not a good diet at all. The licking is just what he is.. i guess. good luck
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for the great advice and suggestions!
A few replies:

- He eats the Hill's Prescription Diet, Low Allergen Formula. Nothing at all else. I asked again today if the carpet eating/pulling was his way of trying to get more fiber, she said probably not...

- Since the Low Allergen food and the prednisolone are controlling his vomiting, they (and I too) agree that adding something new at this point may not be the best idea.

- The issue of picking at and eating the carpet has been going on for at least a year (maybe a few more months than that - time seems to go by so quickly.) It's not specifically one area that he picks at: the main place is the seam in the carpet in the doorway of my living room and bedroom, but the area beside the walls, and near the front door are also prime areas for him. He also sometimes (not frequently) will pick at the carpent in the middle of the floor. He also pulls at and eats the carpeting on his scratching post (which now hides out in the closet so he can't get to it) also the carpet base on that toy with the spring and pompom at the top. Pretty much anything with carpet is fair game!

- The idea of getting rid of the carpet may be an option, possibly.......I know that there is a nice hardwood floor under the ugly grey carpet in this apartment, most of the other units in this building have wood flooring (it was built in 1904, neat old place. I love it!!) I wonder if the owner would be willing to let me pull it up? Hmm, something to think about.

- Terry has only been on the Prednisone for 1 month.

- Question about the suggestion to switch to a wet diet: a few issues 1: he is on the strict diet as outlined above, which is currently working well (for now...) 2: When he was a kitten (until he started getting sick around 7 months old) I tried to give him wet food, but he really didn't want to have anything to do with it! I tried several brands and he turned up his nose at all of them. This is also the same cat, however, who tried to bury his food dish when I gave him a piece of my dungeness crabmeat! (wierdo! But that means more for me!) He's never been really interested in any meats since he was a kitten! But the sweet foods he loves. You won't believe this, his favorite food (when he was still allowed to have any, I haven't tried lately) is the Seneca brand Peach Mango flavored applesauce!!!! When he hears me open a little container of it, he's right there trying to get to it! I would always let him finish licking the bowl.

Like I said, he's a unique kitty! But I just love him!

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