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severe kitty aggression problem- please help

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I am new to this site, but could really use any advice you have.
I adopted a cat from the humane society approx. 4 years ago. She was 1 1/2 at the time, and a very sweet gentle girl. She was left at the humane society by the people who raised her from a kitten, and a note on her chart indicated that the reason was that she attacked their daughter when there was screaming (unclear exactly what happened) At the time I was a bit suspicious and thought she must have come from a bad home, and possibly abused, because she seemed such a gentle gentle girl. So I brought her home and everything was great. 6 months later we got a kitten, and after introducing them slowly they became best friends (more like mother and daughter really).
about three years back one day my husband was playing some sort of ambient music- it freaked the cat out, and she attacked him. we separated her briefly, turned off the music and she was fine. about a year after that - my husband became ill and had to be rushed to hospital- he couldn't breath, and was making scary noises. she attacked him, pretty severely, and then attacked the kitten and me when i tried to separate her. i left her alone in the bedroom for about 12 hours, and she was fine when i returned.
so four days ago, we were watching a movie, and there was a scary sound, and she freaked out and attacked my husband, our other cat and me. i put her in the washroom, and she was making crazy growling noises, and hissing. i kept going back to check on her, and slid some food and water in there, and she growled and hissed all night. the next day she calmed down enough to put her in our spare bedroom with litter food water etc, and by now she is almost back to her old self(except still separated from our other cat) so the problem, which our vet identified as redirected aggression, is not one which can be controlled since what sets her off is so random.we have been using feliway, but i am afraid that this is going to happen again, maybe without us there, and she will injure our other cat.
i am very much against declawing, but i need to ensure that everyone, people and cats, are safe. does anyone have suggestions? soft paws? something else?
i have to stress that the attack was pretty severe.

thanks for any advice and i am sorry this is so long
post #2 of 14
Thank you for posting here...I went through this redirected aggression phase w/ my Cassie when we introduced Napoleon. We tried to keep them separated, but he was too fast one day...and he got out of his room. Cassie freaked out and instead of attacking him, she attacked my BF. It was scary stuff...but she's been fine since.

There is a posting here about redirected aggression, which as your vet pointed out, is a little hard to diagnose and avoid, since it's so random.

As you said, there might have been some abuse in her previous home that wasn't noted, and that loud noises freak her out. One thing I would suggest is Feliway diffuser for a room she frequents (like the living room)...it's aromatherapy for cats. Next is get an interactive toy...a lot of aggressive tendencies has to do with stress. If she is primarily an indoor cat, she probably doesn't have a lot of release. I make it a point to try to play with my kitties each day with "Da Bird" (the best toy in the world, as far as I'm concerned).

Good luck with everything...hope your hubby is better
post #3 of 14
i wouldnt reccomend declawing purley because it wont stop the aggression and may even make it worse. without her claws she will feel vunerable (and will be in pain for a while) which might lead to further attacks.

de-clawed cats tend to bite too so instead of a cat that scratches, you'll have one that bites

i really wish i had some advice for you about what to do, its good that you've tried feliway, has that seemed to help?
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
thanks for your responses. I know, it makes me ill to think about declawing. I have started with the feliway, and I'm not sure if it is helping or if she is just calming down because she's had some time. my main concern is for this happening again- there is just no identifiable warning- she doesn't give any signs before the attack it is just immediate, as soon as she hears the scary noise. i'm really scared for my other cat, and frankly, still scared for me because though she seems to be getting better, i am just not sure. I'm not sure what to do really, and I don't want to have to keep her separate forever, it's just not fair to her.

honestly, it all just makes me want to cry. Has anyone had success with soft paws? The reason i am focused on this is because the attacks don't happen frequently- three times in four and a half years. If I could just be sure that she wouldn't injure anyone while she had a freak out I could deal with it a lot better.

oh- also about the interactive toy- we do play with her everyday- and she loves to scratch her scratchey post everyday- i'll look into the toy you suggest though

(thanks blue monday- my husband is ok)
post #5 of 14
i dont know about soft paws but have you conisdered consulting a cat behaviouralist?
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
yes I have actually contacted a behaviouralist, and one is supposed to call me, but from all I have read, what they are good at is identifying the problem, and suggesting ways to overcome it, i.e. desensitization, rewards etc. My problem really is that it is so random- I know what makes her react, but it is something that is sort of beyond our control- once it was music, once it was my husbands gasping sounds, once it was a movie. it isn't all noises, and it isn't all the time. she is not generally very afraid of other loud noises, no more so than the other cat. so although I am going to speak with bevahiourist, i don't hold out a lot of hope. also, although this was an emergency situation to me, the earlist appointment with the behaviourist is mid january!
I am afraid that i will not be able to prevent the next attack, so i really want to be able to prevent the injuries that it causes. reading about soft paws on this site, i'm not sure either whether it is a good solution, but far better than the alternative(which isn't really an alternative to me)

thanks- i am going to get her some more regular nail trimming too, and maybe that will help, but not sure how much damage she will still be able to do with trimmed nails..
post #7 of 14
Just a thought, bu your cat may be responding not to noise, but emotions?

They can sense atmosphere and emotional "engery" more than we humans can, LOL! And if in the past there was emtional trauma/abuse before you got her??? This could be the trigger(s).

Sensitive to the vibes as they put it.

So, if she feels the "stress" "worry"
feelings from your husband being sick/gasping for air, from the movie
etc... that may well be what sets her off.

Also, FYI, cats can be VERY particular about music. Diablo detests Beethoven classical music, and will claw the furniture if played but all
other compsers seem okay. (Seems to really like Mozart tho. Go figure.)

Trimming claws can be very effective IF she doesnt bite. I always trim
my guys before doing any VET related stuff. Less scratches all round!!
post #8 of 14
Hi, I think it's from one of the nastier instincts in cats (and some other animals) - when they sense or hear what sounds like another one in trouble, pain, and/or weak in some way, it triggers a killing instinct. One of ours gets the same way and wanted to kill a new kitten we had last year when he fell and hurt himself (not at all seriously - but he cried for a minute or two) - it was very scary and I had to get into a room with the kitten and close the door to escape. Now they're best friends! But I've seen him react in a similar way when one of our others is sick, etc.
post #9 of 14
It sounds like you have a tough situation here. It's unfortunate that the exact trigger can't be pinpointed. If it were my kitty, I would continue using the feliway, use soft claws or trim her claws regularly, play with her with a 'prey' toy like Da Bird or Cat Dancer everyday to release some aggression, and prepare your family on what to do when she does have an episode. Have blankets around the house ready for use if she attacks. If/when she does, throw the blanket over her and use it to herd her to a room where she can be isolated until she calms down. I've read that picking up a cat in attack mode exacerbates the situation and is obviously dangerous for you. Good luck.
post #10 of 14
Wow! Poor kitty and poor you! I hope the wounds were treated promptly and everyone is healed up?

Have you looked into the Bach Flower Remedies? I would suggest Holly or Rock Rose, or better yet go to www.littlebigcat.com and email Jackson and ask him what to give your kitty to take the edge off. He might make you a special mixture, or send you something that is premade.

Sounds like she indeed was abused. Do you have any music in the house with harps in it? Harps really calm down raging cats for some reason. I would try also burning several comfort zone room diffusers all the time to help. Keeping her claws trimmed will help a bit, and Soft Paws are indeed a aide as well.
post #11 of 14
Difficult situation - sounds like you've handled it the best you can so far.

I would stick with the Feliway, definitely, it works wonders with some cats, it particularly has for mine (but they had anxiety problems because of our dogs, not aggression) and my vet is very known to ask why they can't invent the same thing for humans, it is so good.

I also agree with the above poster who suggested that the kitty is perhaps responding to the emotions surrounding these situations rather than the noises themselves.

I know this sounds like a stupid idea but I would perhaps try a few different things to see if it sets off an attack. It sounds mean to deliberately try and upset your cat, but that's not really what I'm suggesting. I was just thinking maybe if you could identify certain triggers you would know to avoid them in the future, and you could prepare yourself beforehand so if you do get attacked then it won't be as severe. Ie, pop the Soft Claws on your kitty and then play some ambient music and see what happens. If there is no reaction it may not have been that? Also, it seems your kitty attacks your husband and the other cat, but not you. Are there any dominance issues here? Ie doesn't attack you because you are the boss? Perhaps getting your husband to take over some of your duties with your kitty may take him away as a target?
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your responses. It is really great to be reassured that we are approaching this the right way, it is such a stressful situation. Opilot- i think you are 100% right that she is reacting to emotions, she is generally a very protective cat- though in regular life she is very gentle, I guess this is just her reaction to worry. Thanks Hissy- I am healing ok- cleaned wounds right away and keep applying antibiotic ointment so should be okay. We have been using rescue remedy- it's hard to tell if it is effective, but since she doesn't mind it, i will keep giving it to her. we have been trying to acclimitize her to noises that might make her react- nothing major, just ordinary noises like knocking on door etc, to try and get her re-adjusted. Sarah- you raise a really good point about dominance- you are right, I am the one who takes care of them, feeds them etc. And she has never directly attacked me, only when I had to break up the attack. iN fact, that may be why she was so terribly scary when I checked on her after putting her in the bathroom to chill out- she was probably very confused/scared because she attacked me, the boss. I'll see if getting my husband to take on more of a boss role will help.

today she is totally fine with us- we go in and visit her alot, and she definitely wants out of her room, but we are taking it very slow. I have been letting the cats smell each other under the door, and there is no reaction at all. I have also been feeding them at the same time on eithre side of the door, with it open a crack so they have some positive reinforcement.

before we let cassidy out with billie, i am going to let cassidy out alone, so she can readjust to the rest of the apartment. we have been letting her out for five- ten minutes so she is less nervous out there. it is a slow process,but hopefully effective.

last night i only managed to trim one of her nails. i am still afraid of restraining her in anyway, so i just got one while she slept, hopefully i can do more tonight.

if not, i may have to take her to the vet to get her to trim them and apply the soft paws. don't want to freak her out further, so hopefully it doesn't come to that.

thanks so much everyone, your comments really are very useful and much appreciated....
post #13 of 14
while I am a newbie to cats I have noticed that there is always some teensy warning. eyes, ears the tail, something physical is triggered just before the pounce. of course i am not dealing with the seriously of your situation, I have a playful loving little kitty thank heavens, but even if she decides to playfully go for my fingers, there is always a physical sign before she does it.

Hope you resolve this soon and get back the cat you;ve loved for so long.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
i can understand why you say that- but there really is no sign here that can warn us. she comes charging out of another room attacking. it's like the tasmanian devil. if it wasn't so scary and stressful it would be funny

anyway- i have managed to trim 8 out of ten claws(not worrying about the back ones) YAY! i am so relieved.
she is still pretty relaxed, i think the rescue remedy must be doing something, because she seems pretty laid back

she still is showing no negative reaction to our other cat- either seeing her or her scent- ( i rubbed under their chins and let eachother smell- nothing)

so we still have to readjust her to the rest of the apartment, but any advice on how the kitty introduction should go? i know usually you do a neutral spot etc, but not sure how to approach it in this situation- cassidy is in the 2nd bedroom, and billie has been out in the rest of the apartment

when they are ready to meet- where should it be?

thanks in advance
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