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CalCatDoc
CalCatDoc, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 273
Experience:  I have 31 years of clinical experience, with the past 22 years being in a feline-exclusive practice.
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Our cat, Tucker is a neutered male, approximately 11 years

Resolved Question:

Our cat, Tucker is a neutered male, approximately 11 years old. (He came to us as a stray when he was quite young and badly injured). He's an indoor/outdoor cat living in the country and until a year ago was the happiest, most well adjusted cat ever. We returned from a week long vacation to find him anxious and fearful of certain things. (He's a people loving cat so we always hire a pet sitter who stays at the house and spends the early evening and night with him whenever we're away.)

His anxieties took this form:

Fear of crossing thresholds.

Fear of crossing certain rooms. Example: When joining us in evening TV watching he would make a mad dash across the carpet and leap into my husband's lap. When time to
go up to bed he would leap to another piece of furniture, sit until coaxed down, and then another mad dash out of the room. Similar mad dashes would take place in other rooms. Sometimes he would walk the perimeter of a room rather than cross it directly.

He became afraid of our bedroom and bed. He used to enjoy coming up to bed with us at night and spending most of the night curled up in bed with us. Then he became terrified of the bed. We've worked very hard to help him overcome this, but he still shows a lot of anxiety and needs coaxing, petting and gentle talk for him to get comfortable.

Curiously, this behavior waxes and wanes. Just when we think he's back to his old self, he gets weird again.

My husband travels a great deal and is often gone for three days to a week at a time. Although I don't travel so much, I do accompany him on occasion. Could the anxiety of our leaving him be the reason for his behavior change?
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 12 months ago.

CalCatDoc :

Hi! I'm CalCatDoc and I can help with your questions about Tucker.

CalCatDoc :

Since your vet has already checked him out, we can probably look at this as a purely behavioral issue.

CalCatDoc :

It sounds like something upset him when you were gone. Cats normally bond to their environment, and while we are not a major part of that environment, we are a part.

CalCatDoc :

He may very well benefit from long-term use of an anti-anxiety medication like buspirone. I have used it in cats for various problems and it's very helpful.

CalCatDoc :

You should probably also get some Feliway or Comfort Zone pheromone diffusers to plug in to help him feel more at home.

CalCatDoc :

Oops, have a real life emergency hat just walked in - and I see that you are offline. I will switch to Q&A mode but we can still have this discussion. Please bookmark this page for easy return, also. I will be back in about 20 minutes to help with additional questions.

Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 12 months ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

My vet suggested all the things you suggested with the exception of buspirone. I tried Feliway, but it didn't help. Also, if something disturbed him while we were on vacation a whole year ago, wouldn't those fears have subsided by now? I think it must be something else.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Relist: Other.
Received an answer to which I replied wanting more information. Follow-up response is taking too long.
Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 12 months ago.
Checking back in - I will need to be away for up to another hour with patients. Feel free to ask any questions you have here.
Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 12 months ago.

Regarding the time since the behavior first started - either things have just been snowballing, which can happen, or there is something in his environment that is still setting him off.

 

I do think you should try the buspirone. I start them on 5 mg twice a day, and if it seems to be working after a couple of weeks, I keep it up for a couple of months. Then it can be decreased to 5 mg once a day. My current mascot is on it for her redirected aggression problem and it really helps - she has been on it for 18 months with no side effects. I have some patients who have been on it for 2-3 years.

 

Has the pet sitter been able to offer any insight as to what might have precipitated this? It sounds like a single event that frightened him badly might be behind it. Fireworks or thunder or other loud noise just as he was crossing the middle of a room??

Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 12 months ago.
I am sorry that you consider this poor service. I would be happy to have an actual conversation with you about this problem. I will be alerted should you decide to get in touch with any additional questions you have in this matter.

In the alternative, it might be a good idea for you to enlist the help of a behavior specialist to come to your home to observe the problem and evaluate his environment for anything which might be causing this behavior.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.

I wasn't so much dissatisfied with your suggestions as with the way this web site works. It took nearly three hours to complete our conversation, which was way too much time. I realize now that you are a working vet and had to interrupt our conversation to take care of patients. There must be a better way to serve on line questioners in a timely manner.

Expert:  CalCatDoc replied 11 months ago.

I agree the format is imperfect, but it works for most people. On our end we try to chat and often the customers never respond and just disappear into the ether after we spend 20 minutes typing out War & Peace, lol. I wouldn't give up on it altogether - most people are satisfied in spite of the limitations. And there are some vets on here who do this pretty much full time. If you find one, you can bookmark their profile and ask questions of them specifically.

 

If you are happy with my response you can upgrade it. In the alternative, we can continue troubleshooting Tucker's problem. I will be in and out today and throughout the week (unless I die of heat stroke, lol).

CalCatDoc, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 273
Experience: I have 31 years of clinical experience, with the past 22 years being in a feline-exclusive practice.
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