Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a cat, Boo, who is about 2 years old. I found her in my backyard when she was just a kitten: she still had blue eyes and could barely walk. I think she was abandoned by her mother because she was very small and had a cold. During this time, she was loving towards everyone, and especially my dad when she was old enough to go into heat.
But when I had her spayed, everything changed. She now hates my dad and almost everyone else. My sister and I are the only ones she likes and will be affectionate towards, and she tolerates my mom. But everyone else, she hisses at if they so much as stand near her, and sometimes she’ll swat at them, especially if they try to pet her. Sometimes she’s in the fearful aggressive position, but other times she’ll just be lounging and will hiss.
Why the change in behavior? My dad feeds her in the mornings so that’s not a possible solution. Neither is a behavior consultant because my family things it’s “stupid and unnecessary” though I would love to have her looked at. I’ve tried (at the advice of my vet) calming collars and those calming aroma plug-ins but they are no help whatsoever. I currently have two dogs that she tolerates, and will affectionately rub against and a third temporary dog. The third dog is a recent addition so it’s also not the source.
I think it could have something to do with my dad being a generally loud person, as she also severely dislikes other loud people. But that wasn’t a problem before she got spayed. I love my Boo, and I hate that everyone else only sees her as evil.
Siouxsie: Well, Haley, we know how heartbreaking it can be when your kitty does a 180 in her personality, but we think we’ve got a couple of solutions for you.
Thomas: First of all, if you don’t have any high places like a nice, tall cat tree or some wall shelves, you need to get some. A cat that lacks confidence — and it sounds like Boo is lacking confidence after her experience at the clinic — needs places where she can get out of the way of dogs and feel like she can watch her territory from above.
Bella: Besides, tall cat trees are fun because you can run up and down them and goof off and play catch with your toys and jump on top of other kitties …
Siouxsie: Hey, knock it off!
Bella: I already did knock it off. See? My favorite mousie is on the floor right over there!
Siouxsie: That’s not what I mean, and you know it. Now, get serious because we’ve got work to do here!
Thomas: Anyway, Haley, having some high places is a great start. I’m talking like a seven-foot-tall cat tree, like this one Mama got for us!
Bella: I remember that cat tree. It was super-fun! And I was sad that Mama had to give it away when we moved across the country, but I’m glad Mama got us another one almost exactly like it.
Thomas: You can also get shelves to install on the walls, and suction cup-mounted window perches. Basically, try to create a “highway” that Boo can use to get around the house without having to be on the ground.
Siouxsie: It doesn’t have to be expensive to do stuff like this. Here’s a great how-to article on building DIY cat shelves.
Thomas: And here’s a great IKEA hack cat tree.
Bella: And here’s another cat shelf tutorial.
Siouxsie: You’re also going to want to play with Boo more. Playing builds confidence and it makes a shy kitty feel like she “owns” the space a bit more.
Thomas: Use an interactive cat toy and move it around like prey. Also, make sure your dad plays with her. You want her to start associating other good times with your father so she doesn’t feel so fearful around him.
Bella: By the way, if you want some tips on how to play with Boo LIKE A BOSS, check out Mama’s article on Catster.
Siouxsie: You can also coax her up the cat tree or onto her cat shelf by using an interactive toy.
Thomas: So, Haley, if you give Boo some nice, high places and a “freeway” around your home so she doesn’t have to get cornered by dogs or visitors, that should help her to calm down a bit.
Bella: And playing with her every day will also boost her confidence. Try these things and let us know how it goes.
Siouxsie: How about the rest of you readers? Do you have any other tips for helping a frightened cat calm down and feel confident again? Please share them in the comments.
Is it possible that Boo experienced some sort of trauma during her procedure? I just wonder if maybe a male handled her a bit roughly if there were any issues at all during her time at the vet. One of my mom’s cats was TERRIFIED of been after being kicked in the mouth by a male neighbor :(
Where did you get that wonderful tree in the video. It would be perfect for my three babies, I’ve never seen one that tall that didn’t have a footprint that took up half a room..
Thanks, from Darby, Mia and Ian.. >^!^<
It’s an Armarkat tree, which I got at Amazon.com. It’s about seven feet tall and cost about $125 when I bought it. It held up really well, too. When we moved from Maine to Seattle, we donated it to one of our local cat shelters, and as far as I know they’re still using it today.
Time. Often time is required for kittie to get to know you. I suspect someone at the vet’s abused her. It happens. So try lots of TLC. Good luck.
3607 228th ave., SE
Oh Haley, that must be difficult. I knew a cat that no one could walk by without getting swatted. I believe that when a being is in pain, this can be a response to any external stimulus…Think about how you are when you’re feeling very sick. I’ve always been irritated by most extraneous sound; I get very angry. Maybe trauma has created a particularly delicate warning/boundary system for this cat.
I agree with Jerry, above. Meanwhile, be especially aware of her ‘tude, and act accordingly. ALSO, once in awhile there remains some pain from undissolved stitches or other aspect of the spay ( a very painful procedure).
Cats are very sensitive to humans’ attitudes; your cat may have unfortunately have been ‘imprinted’ by one bad experience with a male at the vet’s, and once imprinted, it has the same effect as a ‘phobia’ has on us humans: almost impossible to get over. it’s so sad so many people dislike cats because they don’t understand ‘catness’. Cats are one of the last animals to be ‘domesticated’ by humans, who mostly don’t understand where cats’ ‘tudes’ are coming from.
There are several good cat writers out there, Anitra Frazier for one, who wrote books including cats’ sensitivity issues. A large bookstore is a helpful place to start by looking through an index in one of the cat books. Or go online; find a cat site/ask around. I hope you and your cat find resolution – meanwhile, you might try asking ANY MALES nearby to walk around your kitty carefully, and make sure she has a space where she can feel safe from humans AND their noise.Does your dad walk heavily, or the floor shake when someone slams a door or walks heavily, or does your dad put the TV up loud…cats have hearing that’s 15% more sensitive than ours. Sometimes having a cat’s bed near some activity that startles them will cause them to react. Good luck. – been there
was it your dad who took Boo to the vets for the operation? if it was, maybe its a trust issue now???
good luck xxx
I’m so sorry for your kitty trouble. I’ve been watching “My Cat From Hell” on Netflix but you can watch on Animal Planet.com also, if you don’t have Netflix. Jackson Galexy is a great cat behaviorist & most of his cases are about your exact problem. If you can experiment with some of his suggestions, you might find that they work for your little Boo. However, JaneA is correct, I have 2 cats & almost all behavior problems stopped once they were able to climb their cat tree.
Thank you & God Bless
@Joanna – there are so many different types of ‘trees’ available, it can be daunting. If you don’t have a local Petsmart or Petco type store (which really can’t stock every type anyway) try searching online. DrsFosterSmith.com has a pretty impressive variety.
Look for something that has a tension pole that will anchor it at the ceiling, they are generally pretty narrow, but nice and high.
Also, watch the placement of the shelves/levels on them. Make sure they aren’t lined up closely or it will be difficult for your fur-baby to come down. I once bought a 6ft tree, complete with a hidey-house and everything. But after a half dozen or so trips from the boxy shelf on top to the floor, the larger of my 2 fur-kids (that I had intended it for, so she had lots of space to stretch) refused to climb anymore. The shelves were stacked exactly over each other – meaning she couldn’t jump from level to level without also twisting to reach the next one.
Although ultimately, the bottom legs and the little ‘house’ that made the 2nd and 3rd shelves took a beating — they never again tried for the 2 uppermost levels…
Good luck with your little lady – hopefully, you’re able to find out both what caused these changes, and, what will bring her back around to being the sweet little girl your family remembers.
Haley, my gut feeling while reading your post, was that your kitty is in pain! Something’s not right, so I would take her to a new veterinarian to have a very thorough check-up.
I would have to agree with the comments above. I think there must be something wrong with you cat. However, it could also be a trust issue due to the fact that she is consistently aggressive towards your dad. Best to bring her to the vet and have her checked.
I have a girl that changed and became anti social after she was spayed. She also lost her ability to meow and had difficulty swallowing after her surgery. I believe they harmed her when putting the tube down her throat and who knows what else happened to her. She was spayed at the Humane Society, and will never take any of my “babies” there again. I gave her “Bach’s Pet Rescue” from Amazon for a few months and she has gotten much better. You may also want to check out Jackson Galaxy’s herbal products for animals with specific issues. Also all the other advice from those that commented before me can help her too. Diet may also be an issue. I feed my cats a raw diet that was really easy to implement, There are some great recipes on the Web. Some cats can be affected by what is put in cat food. I also feed some of my cats Wellness, 12 oz, $23 for 12 cans on Amazon, free shipping. It’s grain free and organic.