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PLEASE HELP! Serious behavior problem/sudden change

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hello fellow cat lovers! This is my first post here, and I sincerely need any help or advice you guys can give me. This may take a bit to explain, but I'll try to be brief.

I've had my 3 cats for the last 2 years. Jack (male) and Lilly (female) were adopted together from a rescue shelter about 4 years ago, and may have even been littermates. They got along great together. Almost 2 years ago, I adopted Kasey (male) as a 4 month old kitten. There was some friction at first between the established pair and Kasey, but eventually they all got along great, and everything was nice and peaceful. Jack was the mellowest of my babies, a very affectionate, sweet, loving lap cat. Lilly is the princess, and Kasey is just the most adorable cat I've ever seen. I love them all so much, but Jack is definitely Mama's Boy.

About 3 months ago, my boyfriend and I decided that we couldn't live together anymore, and I moved in with my Mother to help her with the care of my grandfather, who has Alzheimer's. I brought my 3 babies with me, and we moved into my grandfather's house with my mom and her 6 cats. Naturally, there was some kitty friction at first, but we introduced them slowly, and most of the problems worked themselves out naturally. Mom's cats are free to go outside, and until the move my cats were strictly indoor cats. ALL of the cats are spayed and neutered, and all stilll have their claws. After a little consideration, I made the decision that my cats should be allowed outside as well.

I'm getting to my point, I swear. As I said, the friction between the established cats and my new additions died down after a bit, but about 6 weeks ago, Mom and I noticed something a little disturbing between Jack, and one of her female cats, Delilah. It seems that Jack is out to get Delilah, there's just no other way to describe it. Everytime he sees her, he goes into a predator stance, twitching his tail, locking his eyes on her, even 'chittering' at her, as I've seen him do when he sees a bird through the window. She is absolutely terrified of him, running in abject fear whenever she catches so much of a glimpse of him. It's getting dangerous, as we live rather close to a very busy street. About a week ago, Jack was stalking her, and chased her into the street right in front of a speeding car. She turned aside at the last moment, but both of them came far too close to being run over right in front of me. It was horrifying for me to watch, I thought I was going to see one of them die right before my eyes, and I was very, very shaken afterwards.

We have tried everything we could think of. We've separated Jack, keeping him shut in my room, but he is a slinky, sneaky little guy, and he always gets out. We've tried using a squirt bottle, and squirting him when we catch him stalking Delilah, but it hasn't had a noticable effect, plus it's hard to catch him doing it as it usually happens so fast.

Along with the problem with Delilah, Jack's demeanor towards Lilly and Kasey has changed completely. He hisses and swipes at Lilly when she comes near, and he and Kasey have gotten into at least 2 fights. Most worriedly, his demanor towards ME, which before was very, very cuddly, and loving, almost to the point of neediness, has done a similar change. He barely purrs when I hold him, or pet him, and where before he would look at me, and I could SEE the abject love in his eyes, now he looks at me angrily all the time. It's very distressing, and I've cried over it more than a few times.

I've thought that something to do with his health, might be affecting his behavior, but have not had him into a vet yet. He scratches, and obsessively grooms so much that pacthes of his fur are thinning dramatically. I noticed a few fleas on him, though not infestation numbers, so I've given him a flea treatment, (I don't like using the chemical treatments, like Advantage, but I found a similar type treatment that works well and is all-natural) in the form of drops on the back of his neck, and I'm going to try powder next if the vet says he still has fleas. However, after the first treatment, I haven't seen any fleas on him. Last night I noticed that he had what looked like dandruff, very flaky skin, and lots of it.

If anyone has any advice for me, about either the behavior problems, or the skin condition I noticed last night, I would be very, very appreciative if you would share it with me. I'm about at my wits end. Thank you!
post #2 of 5
It sounds to me like a trip to the vet is definitely called for. I recently asked on this board about some new "all natural" spot on for fleas I saw advertised and was kindly advised against it as you can never be too sure about those products and the ingredients listed probably wouldn't help anyway.

I'd rather used the Advantage, Frontline or Revolution recommended by the vets and feel more secure that I am actually helping my kits.

Being so close to a busy street, it may be a better idea to keep your kits in. I do know that going outside an roaming free does tend to change the personalities of the cats here. They tend to be a little more independant and not quite so quick to cuddle.

Not being the Alpha male now may have effected Jacks overall attitude somewhat since he only had the female of the same age and a much younger male to live with before.

I really do hope you'll take him to the vet and have the skin condition looked at. If you have any of the spot on that you used on him, take that along with you and get the vets opinion on it. It may be the cause of his itching.

I hope you can get the issues worked out and turn Jack back into your little love bug real soon.
post #3 of 5
Ok the very first thing you can do would be to go to your vet. As for the skin issue I dont know much about but I would definetly talk to the vet! Its nothing serious I'm sure. Vets know more about this kind of thing than anyone so be sure to have a visit with them! Now keeping them indoors is something that you need to think about. Cats are pretty smart and know where their home is, but i would suggest keeping them inside. That is probably a good thing to do. So talk to your vet about suggestions, they know more about pets than us on the site! Keep Posted!
post #4 of 5
Much of what you described sounds stress-related (not the fleas of course, but the other behaviors and skin problems). So, getting the inter-cat aggression under control is very important. Please follow the directions below that come from the Best Friend's network.

BTW, I was afraid to use Advantage and the other chemical treatments until I read how they work. Basically, they cause the material that makes insect's (and some worms) external skeletons deteriorate. Since mammals do not have this substance in their bodies, it has no effect on cats, dogs, humans or other vertebrates, but it kills insects and worms whose bodies are made of this stuff (whatever it is). So....these treatments really are safe for animals and they work wonderfully. If it turns out that your cat has flea allergies, you owe it to her to use one of these flea treatments.


From: Clinical Medicine for Small Animals. Dr. Karen Overall DVM, ACVB (Mosby 1997)
(Note: these are handouts that the author has given permission in the book for Veterinarians to copy and distribute to clients

Generally, inter-cat aggression occurs either between cats that have been recently introduced, or between those cats known to each other since kitten hood. It occurs when one of the cats becomes socially mature (sometime between two-five years of age), or when one cat perceives that the other cat in the household is becoming socially mature. Owners often comment that the cats lived together perfectly well for the first several years before suddenly becoming aggressive.

Treatment for this disorder focuses on establishing a social order that is tolerable for all cats involved, without danger of injury. The cats may never be best friends. But they may be able to get along together with a minimum of stress. Sometimes, the only solution is to find one of the cats another home. One thing is for sure, you should avoid getting any other cats. That would only added more fuel to the fire.

The basic protocol for solving this problem is as follows (source: Overall, K; Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, 1997):

1. Make sure all cats are neutered.

2. Trim all the nails as short as possible.

3. Whenever the cats are not directly supervised, they must be separated. The cat that is the aggressor should be banished to a less valuable or less desirable area. This does not mean a dark closet, a basement, outside, or a garage. Doing this would only teach the cat to avoid you. Instead, if the bulk of the aggression occurs in a bedroom or in front of a favorite window, let the cat that is being victimized have the valued area and put the aggressor into a neutral area like a spare room. Remember to provide water, food and litter boxes for all the cats.

4. Try to find out if there is a distance at which the cats can see each other, but at which they will not react aggressively while they eat. If such a distance exists, then there is a reasonable chance of being able to convince the cats to tolerate each other. You start by putting a dish of food for each cat that they love at this safe distance. This may mean that you have to change the feeding schedule or the type of food given. Several times throughout the day, bring the cats out and feed them at the safe distance. Let them eat this way for several days. Then gradually start moving the dishes closer a couple centimeters at a time until the cats can eat calmly side-by-side. If at any time you reach a distance in which the cats start showing aggression, anxiety, or fear, move the dishes back to the safe distance and start over. If you cannot succeed in getting the cats to eat side-by-side, let them eat at the distance at which they are happy. Remember, the goal is to decrease the anxiety-especially for the victim. Be very observant for any of the subtle signs of aggression-like staring. Watch how fast the cats eat. If the victim bolts the food and leaves, or doesn't want to eat, there are probably threats involved.

5. If marking and appropriate elimination is involved, use the appropriate behavioral modification in addition to what is outlined in this protocol.

6. Only allow the cats to freely mingle under the following circumstances:
-when they have the bell on their collars that allows you to distinguish between the individuals
-if you are able and willing to visually monitor the situation at all times
-if you carry a water pistol, compressed air canister, a whistle or a fog horn at all times. At the first sign of aggression, you must interrupt the cats by directing the device towards the aggressor. Use common sense in choosing the device to use.
-if the threats escalate to frank aggression, do not reach between the cats. You will get hurt and make the situation worse. If you must get involved, throw a blanket over the animals, or use a broom or a piece of cardboard to separate them.

7. Use harnesses and leashes for all involved cats. If there are two or more people in the household, you can take turns monitoring the cats. If you are alone, attached the leash of the aggressive cat to the furniture and hold the leash of the other cat. The cats should be restrained at a distance at which they cannot touch each other even if they lunge. Find a food treat that they love. Any time the cats ignore each other praise them vigorously and given the treat. If the aggressor voluntarily looks away from the victim, reward that. If the victim stares at the aggressive cat reward that. Do not give a treat to any cat that shows signs of aggression, fear, or anxiety. These include shaking, cringing and hiding.

8. Use a harness to correct the cat verbally or with a startle at the first sign of any aggression. If the aggression continues, banish the aggressive cat to the undesirable area.

9. Use the harnesses to arrange the cats so that they can't reach each other. Then alternate between the involved cats and groom and massage them. Start with the victim. The goal is to get them to not react to each other. Any cat that react aggressively is banished. You can couple a favorable response to food treats. If the cats ignore each other gradually begin to move them closer together. They should not become distressed or aggressive by the moves. If they do, separate them and try again at a greater distance.

10. If the cats are able to lie side-by-side without becoming distressed or aggressive and if they can eat together, you can leave them alone for gradually increasing amounts of time. If you notice at any time that either cats is injured or avoiding the other cat repeat the previous steps. Some cats will never tolerate being close together but can live peaceful and separate lives in the same house.

11. Cats generally require and use more space than the average house or apartment gives them. Adding three-dimensional space can help in the form of kitty condos, cardboard boxes, beds and crates in all rooms once the reintroduction of the cats has begun.

12. Some cats may benefit from antianxiety medication. If medication needed, it is used to complement the behavior modification process and not to replace it.
post #5 of 5
I agree about the flea treatments. Using any kind of over-the-counter type is much more dangerous than the ones prescribed by a vet, even if they're "all natural" as some of the ingredients are something things cats either hate the smell of or are allergic to. The skin problem might be a reaction to whatever you put on him. Do not use any kind of shampoo or powder, unless you are talking about diatomaceuos earth, which I love but don't recommend for cats allowed outside.

I would also recommend trying to keep them all inside, but I know it's your mom's rules and it would be hard to keep three in and let six out... something to think about though, especially since you almost witnessed two of them meet very easily preventable deaths.

You've been given excellent advice already, make sure he gets to a vet.

And make sure to get some Feliway plugins.

Good luck!
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