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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28009
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My cat that I have had years just went crazy and attacked

Customer Question

My cat that I have had for 9 years just went crazy and attacked her brother cat for no reason. He wasn't even looking at her. She bit him and he yowled and ran off. She started chasing him and trying to attack him again so I tried to catch her.She bit me and scratched me with full-out, deep scratches which she has never done before. She is mostly an indoor cat but she likes to go out at night for a few hours when the weather is nice. Could this behavior be a symptom of rabies? What should I do? I put some cat treats in a box and trapped her in the box and took her out in the back yard. She immediately pushed the lid off the box and i came back in the house. I can't let her attack her brother.
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 have advanced training in feline behavior and can tell you that she is most likely demonstrating redirected aggression toward her brother and you. This occurs when the target of her aggression 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 (at times quite far away from the home), unusual noises, odors of other animals, unfamiliar people, and unfamiliar environments. I wouldn't allow her out at night - at least for a few weeks - lest she meet another cat that is likely to have incited this behavior. 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...as you've found out. 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 her 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. This usually occurs when another cat outside leaves your area. Until they do don't hesitate to sequester her away in a quiet and dimly lit room. You can then "test" her behavior every couple of days to see if she can be allowed to commingle once again.The symptoms of rabies in cats don't come and go. Most cats will die within days of the initial symptoms of aggression, biting, altered voice, paralysis, seizures, and ataxia ("drunken sailor"). Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your insight
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. Michael Salkin