Articles Home About the Dr. Reference Make an Appointment Furry  Friends Pet Store
2015 Petpsych.com
Peace of mind... for pets and their people.
Behavior may indicate confused kitty
I was out taking a walk Wednesday morning in the dawning hours of the day. The temperature was dropping... or at least that's how it seemed to me as I met the cold rising with a hot, body-warming shower .....and the outside temmmmmperaturrrr, when dressed in layers, ...felt pleasant, especially as I turned my first corner to see the beautiful colors of the dawning sky. Chase, my Ridgeback, was with me, and my mind began to move in thought. As we all know, thoughts can go, or grow, in any imaginable direction; they can take us (or we can take them) in any direction our imaginations choose. I began to think about this column which I was preparing to write, and the less than fascinating letters I had to work with. One in particular had some interesting quirks, but it lacked details, or facts, needed to draw solid conclusions and from which one can make sound/logical treatment recommendations. This is how it read: DEAR DR. DAVID SPIEGEL, MY MOTHER-IN-LAW HAS TWO CATS BOTH OF WHICH WERE STRAY KITTENS. I HOPE YOU CAN HELP US. THE ONE CAT IS VERY STRANGE. SHE IS A LITTLE OVER A YEAR OLD AND IS SPAYED. THE PROBLEM IS WHEN YOU WALK INTO THE HOUSE SHE ATTACKS YOUR FEET BY HISSING, CLAWING, AND ZIG-ZAGGING between FEET; TO THE POINT IN WHICH YOU ALMOST FALL. I MYSELF FIND IT VERY ANNOYING BECAUSE SHE ALSO SURPRISES YOU WHICH IS WORSE, I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES I OR SOMEONE ELSE HAS ALMOST FALLEN OR ACTUALLY STEPPED ON HER. HER NAME IS SEVEN. ALSO SHE DOESN'T SEEM TO DO IT TO THE FAMILY MEMBERS THAT LIVE WITH HER, JUST FRIENDS AND FAMILY THAT VISIT. WE HOPE YOU CAN MAYBE ANSWER THE BIG QUESTION ...WHY? WE WOULD APPRECIATE ANY SOLUTIONS YOU MAY HAVE TO CORRECT THIS PROBLEM. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CALL. SINCERELY L.H., HOCKESSIN Reading the letter again, more facts became apparent than the first time I read it. But still I had questions: WHAT DOES SHE DO TO THE FAMILY MEMBERS THAT DO LIVE WITH HER? WHAT IS SHE CLAWING AT? WHERE DOES HER HISSING SEEM TO BE DIRECTED? HOW FAST IS SHE MOVING (ZIG-ZAGGING)? WHAT'S HER BODY POSTURE? IS SHE LOW TO GROUND, CROUCHED, LYING, OR ROLLING AROUND? ANY RUBBING OF PARTS OF HER BODY AGAINST ANYTHING? WHAT HAVE PEOPLE DONE TO RESPOND TO THIS BEHAVIOR AND HOW HAS SHE REACTED TO IT? WHAT'S THE OTHER CAT DOING @ THE TIME? DOES SHE ACTUALLY "ATTACK"... MAKE CONTACT W/ FEET/LEGS? HOW DOES ONE GET OUT OF THIS SITUATION W/ HER? WHAT'S SHE LIKE AFTER YOU GET IN THE HOUSE... MOVE FROM THE DOOR? IS SHE THE SAME WAY WITH COMPLETE STRANGERS? AND... THE MORE SHE HAS SEEN SOMEONE, DOES THIS BEHAVIOR CHANGE IN INTENSITY AND/OR FREQUENCY? As I have not yet heard back from the message I left on L.H.'s machine, I am left to take the puzzle pieces she's already provided, and attempt to piece them together with my own thoughts which are fueled by my knowledge of cats and my clinical experiences. The likelihood is that this young, energetic female is experiencing some mixed motivations. At once she wants to be social. She wants to greet. Otherwise, she would be off hiding or observing from some more distant and secure location. But at the same time she is also scared. A hissing cat is a scared cat. If she were perfectly confident and felt invulnerable, she would have no need to give this threat display. The clawing can be related to the threat. It's kinda like, "I'm scared and clearly agitated, and you're not leaving, so I'll swat at you to drive you away... because you don't seem to be respecting my hiss." The clawing can also be play-related. Though this is a less-likely combination with a scared, hissing cat, it is possible. The zig-zagging is indicative of high energy in motion. This high energy may simply be the product of this unusual combination of motivations. She's scared, but at the same time she wants to greet. This creates conflict, and conflict, like friction, produces apparent manifestations of energy. That manifestation of energy is, in this case, the behaviors you have described. Treatment options ("solutions") would require my obtaining more detailed history and having the opportunity to observe lucky "Seven."