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Old Problem, New Twist

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I've started this message several times, and then stopped and erased what I wrote. I know it's an old problem; I know advice has already been given a hundred times before. I just happen to think I have a new ... twist ... on the issue. The thing is, it takes a LOT of explaining ...

I have two cats. I adore them both. They're wonderfully affectionate, expressive, delightful critters. That being said, one of them is making me crazy. Both my cats are about two years of age (they were strays adopted from the Humane Society, so it's hard to be certain), both are neutered, both are very healthy and generally pretty easy-going.

Spike is mildly brain-damaged. For one thing, he's a permanent kitten, to the point where other cats (we used to live with a couple who also had two cats) will treat him as a kitten, ignoring food-stealing and other examples of kitten-ish behaviour. For another, he is completely incapable of recognising the difference between positive and negative attention; a squirt from a water bottle is as acceptable to him as being given pets or a treat, so long as you're paying attention to him. Another thing is, he seems to have trouble remembering things. Oh, he knows when it's time to be fed, or where the litterbox is, or who his humans are, but if he and I spend the afternoon in the same room together and he leaves the room, he'll forget where he left me and wander the apartment crying because he doesn't know where I am. In Spike's world, water isn't always wet, fire isn't always hot, and "hey! I've never seen that table before! I should jump up on it!" (the table's always been there, he just got scolded for being on it, and then five seconds later he's doing it again). Other cats will look at you as if to say "Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be up here, but what are you gonna do about?" because they KNOW they're misbehaving; Spike REALLY doesn't remember that he's not allowed to do ... whatever it is he's doing.

So ... yeah. We've discussed Spike's behaviour with the vet (we go to a clinic that is just for cats and has extremely good veterinary care), and she agrees with us, that he is brain-damaged. We don't know how it happened (birth defect? accident? illness?) and, frankly, it just means we love him a little bit more, because he really DOES need us. He's hopeless.

Spike goes through phases where he suddenly desperately needs attention at three o'clock in the morning. Or he's starving at four. Or he has to attack me under the comforter at five. For the record, I don't like ANYONE in the wee hours of the morning. I like sleep. I NEED sleep.

We've tried ... well, everything, I think. We have a Feliway diffuser, which cost rather a lot for the little it appears to do. (After having read so many rave reviews of it, I'm a bit disappointed, but I keep hoping ...) We play with Spike before bedtime in the hopes of wearing him out. We ignore him when he claws at the door (or our feet). We keep to an extremely regular schedule, and try to keep him on it. He is in all other ways happy and well-adjusted. He receives frequent vet care; we know this behaviour is not the result of illness or injury, and that he's not trying to tell us anything's wrong. He's just ... lonely. I admit I'm a bit reluctant to put him on drugs to deal with this; I don't want to sedate my cat (which has been suggested to me). I'm not sure how to explain this, but I want him to still be MY cat, and not be chemically altered, if that makes any sense?

I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for here. Sometimes we'll try something and it will appear to work, and then suddenly it stops working. Sometimes we'll try something that has no effect for days, and then it suddenly STARTS working, only to stop again. Spike is healthy and happy, and he and Oz get along wonderfully (and Oz exhibits NONE of these problems). I just want to be able to sleep the whole night through without my cat yowling in my ear, demanding attention, or clawing me through my comforter.

Sorry, this is a LOOOONG post, but I'm at work and I'm afraid I'm rambling a bit.

post #2 of 7
What do you do when he wakes you up at night? Like if he's crying in your ear, do you, um er...*gently* push him away? Or do you grab him, play with him etc?
I take it you keep the door closed at night...what happens when you leave it open?
Does he have a comfortable bed, such as fleece or something cuddly soft(Reason I say this is that Beauty use to sleep with me all the time until I made a bed for her...now she spends most of the time in her bed)?

Most people that I know have said that the Feliway works within the first week. Do you have it in your bedroom? If not, you may want to look into getting it in there, also right outside the door. Also if you're looking for a lower price, try www.revivalanimal.com. They offer the refills for $14 ea. A lot better then the $30 price at Petsmart!
post #3 of 7
Hi Mirinae...I am reading your story and thinking...oh my goodness...I could be writing this...

We adopted Napoleon Dynamite from a shelter over 2 months ago. We've had Cassie since she was a baby, about 6 weeks old. So this is basically the first time she's been socialized with other cats, meanwhile Napoleon is just happy to be here.

I have the same exact issues you speak of...that we keep to a routine, that we will scold him for doing bad things (like jumping on the tables...or on Cassie ), and praise him for good. Yet, he is -- as you call it -- perpetually a kitten. When we rattle his food bowl, even if we have not given him a new food bowl or new food, he will come RUNNING. Yet, he is ALWAYS in Cassie's bowl, eating whatever food she's left over.

We attributed this to his old environment...we think he might have been neglected in his last environment. Neglected in the sense that he was found in a college town, and probably ate lots of human food and went a few days without food so his owners could go drinking, and he believes every meal is his last one. He has gotten better with his food (he will actually have some leftover when we get home after feeding him in the morning) but he will still go and eat in Cassie's bowl. Plus, I've been working with a behaviorist on getting his "obsession" with Cassie to a minimum...he follows her around constantly, and she's a typical loner cat. She will chase him around the house, but on her terms...

I wonder though, if it has to do with him perpetually being a kitten...my cousin has a cat with kitty downs syndrome (I think it might be called something else for felines, but it's the extra chromosome thing going on)...and she acts kind of the same way as Napoleon. Your little guy sounds like mine.

I have the Feliway, and it seems to calm them down, especially the spray bottle. They tend to fight in the same areas, so after I notice a particularly bad one, I will spritz the area. No more fights (it's pretty amazing).

Try playing with him more, at scheduled times. I know you said you do that, but I have an interactive bird toy, which has made Napoleon more *pleasant* with everyone...he chills at night instead of bonzai-ing from the window sill or the dresser onto the bed. He doesn't immediately follow Cassie when she gets up...and now she messes with him just as much so he's a lot better.

I think with time -- how old is he again? -- he may adjust and become more mellow. I call Napoleon a "baby" because he seems to be in his terrible twos. Cassie was the same way when she was that age. Interesting stuff.
post #4 of 7
Could you try crate-training him, kind of like a puppy? Keep the crate next the bed so he's in the same room and knows where you are, but that way he can't attack your feet or pound on the door.
post #5 of 7
Yes! There are other people out there like us!! I knew it! I keep telling my husband that we're not alone in our suffering, but he asks how many people would put up with a cat who rules our lives and never lets us sleep?
Some nights, Wiggies is fine, others it's a constant meowing and scratching and jumping on the bed to meow right in my face then run away quickly..... We get so mad at him, but we do love him so much. We must just be crazy!
Our last resort is to lock him in the bathroom (we're in a 1 bdrm apt and that's the only other room with a door). It's not a great solution as he just gets upset and makes more noise and we feel bad for locking him away, and our other cat gets upset and sometimes cries at the door for Wiggies. It just feels like an endless battle sometimes.
Sorry I don't have any advice, just remember how much you really do love the little guy!
post #6 of 7
Originally Posted by pushylady
... how many people would put up with a cat who rules our lives ...
Oh, just every other cat owner!!! LOL.

What about herbal things like catnip, valerian, lavendar?
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the responses!

Luna'sMom: Yes, the Feliway is in our bedroom. I know it's supposed to be scentless to us olfactory-challenged humans, but I can actually smell the heating plastic (I used to be a secretary in a place where that was a common smell, so I'm quite familiar with it) so I'm considering moving it elsewhere despite that being the best room to impact the cats' behaviour. Also, my response to Spike at night generally depends on what he's doing. I've been told time and again just to ignore his behaviour (particularly because he doesn't appreciate the difference between positive and negative attention), but if he's scratching at the bed (or worse, me!) then I have to react. We can't really keep the door closed for long, because Spike has discovered that with enough force, he can open it; he just throws himself against the door again and again, and eventually, it flings open. He used to have a bed, but he never used it, so we got rid of it; now, he tends to sleep on a folded-up sweatshirt of mine, on top of the laundry hamper. If he would just do that all night, I would be thrilled to pieces.

Blue Monday: I definitely agree with your re: the neglect issue. Spike was returned to the Humane Society four times before we adopted him (he was only four months old!!!). His previous "owners" (I feel quotations are necessary, because people who could discard him that readily were never proper pet owners) thought he was too rambunctious. Um, hello? He's a kitten who's lived his entire life in a tiny crate; I'd be pretty darn rambunctious too! It does seem like Spike has the feline equivalent to Downs syndrome, and yes, he's in his terrible twos, too.

Cloud_Shade: We've tried crate-training, actually, but Spike has been trying to use his nose to push the door open. Even with a towel or a soft T-shirt over the crate door (and it's plastic, not hard metal wires or anything!), he still manages to hurt himself. He rubbed the fur and some skin right off his nose! I would have thought that the fact that it hurt would get him to stop, but nooo ... if he's in the crate, he will use his nose in a futile attempt to push the door open. *sigh*

Pushy_Lady: Actually, Spike ended up locked in the bathroom this morning, along with a bowl of water, a small litterbox, and a T-shirt of my boyfriend's. He yowled like crazy; he also flings himself at the door, which stresses me out a bit because I am genuinely afraid he'll hurt himself. (See above message: Spike apparently has NO concern for his own well-being.) Nonetheless, this may be the best option. I just hate locking him up, because he doesn't understand why he's being separated from his humans.

Kluchetta: I've not tried valerian or lavendar (well, I've used lavendar for my own migraines, and it appears to work for that), but catnip works very, very briefly to keep Spike occupied. As soon as the "high" wears off, he's back to being a little brat. How does valerian work on cats? Or lavendar, for that matter? Because really and truly, if there's something I can try before I'm forced to go down the last resort path (drugs), I'd like to give it a shot!

Thanks again, everyone! At the very least, thanks for sympathizing! I love my cats, but at four o'clock in the morning ... Yeah, not so much!

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