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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24384
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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My cat (16 years old) won't eat and is growling at me when i

Customer Question

My cat (16 years old) won't eat and is growling at me when i try to feed her
- Found a kitten (4-5 months old) and brought her home 3 weeks ago
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I believe that you're seeing Princess's displeasure with the kitten being in Princess's territory and that displeasure is manifesting as aggression redirected toward you rather than at the kitten. This occurs when the target of Princess'saggression (you) is not the stimulus that triggered the state of aggressive arousal (the kitten). 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 (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. You may have to be quite the detective as stimuli can be imperceptible to owners. Medication can be beneficial for reducing Princess'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 her 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.

I'm also concerned whenever a cat of her age becomes anorexic for any longer than 24 hours. She doesn't have the reserve of a much younger cat and degenerative conditions are far more common at her age as well. It would be prudent to have her vet thoroughly examine her including having diagnostics in the form of blood/urine tests performed. The stress of having to cohabitate with the kitten may have decompensated a cat well-compensated to renal or hepatic insufficiency, for example. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.