Q: My cat is moody. Since we adopted him, we’ve had a problem with him biting to show his displeasure and annoyance, particularly toward me. He gets so vicious sometimes that I have to lock myself in the bedroom until he calms down. We hope to have children soon, so we’re concerned. Any advice? — D.A., Palatine, IL
A: Dr. Vicki Thayer, executive director of the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation (which funds cat health studies), says first, it’s important to determine what’s going on with your cat, starting with a veterinary visit to rule out a medical explanation. If your cat is in pain, from a gastrointestinal or dental issue, for example, this might explain his behavior. Due to the extreme nature of the cat’s response, the problem could conceivably be redirected aggression or feline hyperesthesia syndrome.
Thayer, of Lebanon, OR, suggests keeping a log of where and when these attacks occur, and exactly what’s going on at the time. For example, did you just return home? Is your cat looking out the window just before attacks occur? If possible, videotape an attack, if only with your phone, and play it back for your veterinarian.
Feline hyperesthesia is a little understood syndrome during which a cat’s skin ripples, the pet vocalizes, and then often attacks. This little understood syndrome is thought to be partially neurological, and might involve a dermatological issue. Usually, medication is required, as well as behavior modification, which may mean petting the cat less and rewarding him for calm behavior.
Other steps to deal with this aggressive cat may include enriching the cat’s environment (such as adding more places to climb and food puzzles that dispense treats), and lowering the anxiety level with Feliway (a copy of a calming pheromonep to relax anxious cats), Thayer says.
If the problem is redirected aggression, it could be your cat is seeing something outside or smelling something on you, then directing his aggression at you. If redirected aggression is diagnosed, your veterinarian will suggest behavior modification, as well as using tools like Feliway, and perhaps psycho-pharmacological intervention, as well.
©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC, Tribune Content Agency