Friday, November 30, 2012

Confession #3: Maybe Getting a Cat Wasn't a GREAT Idea

This week I'm going to write posts about things I've had on my mind but have avoided talking about here on this blog because I'm embarrassed or even slightly ashamed about them. I'm calling it The Confession Series. 

How was I supposed to know that this little, tiny, super well-behaved little creature was going to turn into

this giant, crazy, insane bully of a cat?

I, of course, did not know about future Zelda or I would have politely said, "thanks, but no thanks" when offered that cute fuzzball.

Zelda is a good cat 95% of the time. But it's that 5% of the time that has us stumped, our vet stumped, and (heavy sigh) the cat trainer stumped.  Did you even know there was such a thing as a cat trainer?  Well, there is.

Here's the deal. Our cat is a hunter. She likes to hunt. Hey, that's awesome because we're never going to have to deal with a mouse in our house, but it's also NOT awesome because when she's bored she hunts US. She'll sneak up on us and bite our arms and legs. And let me tell you, those little kitty teeth are sharp. My upper arms are filled with bruises and teeth marks from this cat. And this biting? Is completely unacceptable. If we can't figure out how to channel her huntress ways, we may have to consider rehoming her which makes me feel like the worst cat owner in the world.

We've taken the following steps to curb her insanity.

1. Bells on her collar. I sewed five more bells on her collar so she is less able to sneak up on us to attack us. So when we hear her bells and she's stalking us, most of the time we're able to proactively distract her so that she engages in an activity that doesn't involving harming one of us. I made the comparison to a toddler when I was talking to the vet and the vet very seriously nodded and told me it was exactly the same thing.  Redirect, redirect, redirect.

2. We play with her for ten minutes at a time twice a day.  Seriously. I set a timer.  The problem is that she isn't a good play partner because all she wants to do is hunt and that's really boring (for us, the humans).  We use the feather toy,  the laser pointer (she doesn't really like this as much as she used to), a remote control mouse, or we hide her other toys in and under boxes and furniture so she can hunt them. It's tedious and boring for us, but she loves this attention so much it's hard to deny her some fun.

3.  Daily walks. I referred to this a little bit last week. She attacks us because she has so much energy. I take her outside for 10-25 minutes a day on her harness and leash. The vet and trainer say it accomplishes a couple of things for her. One, she can practice stalking things (blades of grass for the most part - dumb cat) and two, she gets to use more of her senses and that tires her out a little bit. 

4. Constant rotation of toys. The cat has so many toys, it's embarrassing. She usually has five or six toys out at any one time (plus a box or two for her to hide in and make a den). We rotate new toys in and out every couple of days or so.  So if she hasn't seen her favorite mouse toy in a while, she gets so excited when she sees it again.

I think we are actually making some progress with her. In the week before we left for Thanksgiving, she had only tried to bite me a couple of times. We left her for a couple of days during Thanksgiving and she's been a bit of a pill every since then, so I'm pretty sure we've learned our lesson and the lesson is that she'll need to go to a kennel when we travel because she can't be left alone. I love my kitty and I adore her, but I also know that if we can't provide the best environment for her, she'll have to go somewhere else.  We will obviously do everything in our power to avoid this because she's so sweet most of the time, but I am embarrassed that two well-educated, smart, and relatively kind individuals are so incapable of training a cat.  *sigh*


  1. I know this sounds insane, but have you tried valium?

    Our cat is on it now to treat anxiety and to get her back to using the litterbox after suffering a kidney infection. She's been on it for 9 days, and for the last 7, she's been using the litterbox every single time. It also calms her down, but she's not dopey or lethargic like I expected. She's a little loopy for the first half hour after I give it to her, but after that she's fine. Her dose is pretty low because she only weighs 5 lbs. (she gets .45 ml twice a day).

    What's even better is that she's more cuddly and playful and just generally back to being the cat she was 2-3 years ago. The change in her behavior is a MIRACLE. She's less angry at the dog (I caught them cuddling yesterday for the first time EVER) and she doesn't pace as much anymore. Another bonus is that it's an appetite suppressant, which is great for her, because she is way too skinny (she also has kidney trouble).

    When I was reading up on the pros and cons of valium, it was mentioned that it's also used as a treatment for aggressive (i.e., BITEY) cats. So it might be something worth looking into for Zelda. It's relatively cheap ($11 for a 2-week prescription) and can be given in pill or liquid form. It is very bitter, so you'll have to hide it in something tasty (for Abby, it's baby food).

    If you have any questions, shoot me an email. Believe me, I've read everything about valium + cats there is to be found. :)

  2. Argh, I meant to say it's an appetite STIMULANT, not a SUPPRESSANT.

  3. Another idea is to purchase a horse and stable, and she can keep the mice away!

  4. I have a friend whose cat is on Prozac. Similarly violent/chaotic in random bursts.

    Other thought, is there a kitty daycare you could do once a week? There was a Pet Camp in San Francisco that had a cat section. Now, I know that in the Bay Area pets were surrogate children, so that may not be typical in most cities, but it might help socialize her and tire her out.

    You all are doing so much to help her stay happy. I really commend you for that!

  5. This may sound crazy...but maybe a companion cat would help? It would be more work for you, but might help her to expend some energy.


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