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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 29829
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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I have 2 cats. 1 is about 9 mths and the other about 1yr 2

Customer Question

Hi. I have 2 cats. 1 is about 9 mths and the other about 1yr 2 mths. The older cat had never taken to the younger cat really. They can have fur flying fights particularly at 4am at which time I give up and let then out. However, lately my older cat seems to be terrified of everything and anything inc me. A couple wks ago she came flying in growling frantically and darting to different places in the house, running away from me included which is very unusual as she is very loving normally. She was followed closely by my younger cat trotting along and rolling over submissive near her as she excessively growled. When I could get hold of her, her foot was swollen so I took her to the vet and she had an injection in her back. The vet thought it was a bite or a sting. The swollen foot soon died down. Since then though it's as if I have a different cat. She NEVER wants to be in, seems to be eating a very small amount and grumbles at me even when I hold her or just doesn't want to be around m
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. I have advanced training in feline behavior and am pleased to discuss Tsavo's behavior with you. I would consider the following scenario...

When she "came flying in" a couple of weeks ago she had just been involved in a territorial dispute with another cat who had bitten her. She's now pre-occupied with this other cat who continues to threaten Tsavo's territory. Tsavo is currently hypervigilant - a common pyschologic set in this species. Her behavior toward you shouldn't be taken personally. Her "grumbling" represents redirected aggression which occurs when the target of her aggression (you or her housemate) is not the stimulus that triggered the state of aggressive arousal - in this case, the other cat outside. 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 Tsavo'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 Tsavo 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 - particularly if the cat whom she fought leaves her territory.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.