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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24440
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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My cat and I just moved to Colorrado. She is 15 years old,

Customer Question

My cat and I just moved to Colorrado. She is 15 years old, and she was gentle and loving until yesterday. She now is very hostile to me, she growls and slaps at me, and screams at me. This morning she let me pick her up for a short time, then she ate and purred then got onto the bed and screamed at me growling and slapping at me. She doesn't seem to be sick, or that she is hurt. there are three other cats in the household, and I know she doesn't like other cats, and I have isolated her in an up stairs bedroom, and she has been downstairs and she has been gentle when she has seen the other cats. I'm just up in the air as to what to do about her.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I have advanced training in feline behavior and can tell you that Mea is most likely demonstrating redirected aggression towards you. This occurs when the target of Mea's aggression (you) is not the stimulus that triggered the state of aggressive arousal. Territorial, fear-induced and defensive aggression are the types of behaviors that are likely to be redirected by her. Stimuli that can cause an aggressive state of arousal include the sight or sound of another cat which by the principle of Occam's Razor is the case here (but at times quite far away from the home), unusual noises, odors of other animals, unfamiliar people, and unfamiliar environments. A common situation is one in which the pet becomes aroused upon seeing or hearing another cat while sitting in a window. When the owner attempts to pet it, pick it up, or nudge it away from the window, it attacks. It may show aggression toward another pet when approached in similar situations. Redirected aggression is a common cause of the sudden appearance of aggression between cats in the same household that have been living together amicably for quite some time. This type of aggression is probably the most dangerous type of aggression cats exhibit due to the uninhibited nature of the bites. Treatment involves identifying triggers for arousal and then removing the pet's access to the stimuli. Medication can be beneficial for reducing Mea's response to environmental stimuli - psychoactive drugs such as Prozac have been used. The most important thing that I can impart to you is to be careful around Mea when she is aroused. Too many of my owners have ended up in the hospital due to infected bite wounds. One encouraging fact is that many of our cats will habituate to the arousing stimuli and "self-cure" within weeks to months.
Is your current living arrangement temporary? Ideally, Mea needs to be an only cat. I can't recommend psychotherapeutic drugs for such an elderly cat when a change in living arrangements would be more appropriate.