My mother died and I inherited her ill-tempered cat HELP! - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-11-2007, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
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My mother died and I inherited her ill-tempered cat HELP!

(I added this comment many months after the initial posting of this thread - you have to read the end of this story to believe it !!!)

My mom went into the hospital a month ago and died two weeks ago, leaving behind a ill-tempered and unpredictible cat that doesn't seem to like anyone. The cat is aptly named "Sassy". Mom was very attached to this cat and was worried what would become of her cat after her death. I promised mom I would take care of the cat. Mom knew her cat was not particularly nice and wrote me a note while she was on a ventilator "just ignore her- feed & water". My mother died shortly thereafter. I have returned to my hometown and am now living with my partner in my moms house with the cat.

This cat has a history of bad behavior when mom was living. There are numerous stories of visitors getting a nasty deep bite despite my mom's warning not to pet the cat. Often she will lie still and appear quite pleasant. She will often let a stranger pet her for just a bit, but then suddenly and without warning whatsoever she slaps quite hard with claws fully out and bites very hard, then retreats, hisses and growls angrily. Obviously I never tried to pet the cat again after she did that a few times to me.

When we moved into my mothers house about a month ago the cat hid from us completely. Whenever we got near her she would growl and slap violently at us (this was how the cat always reacted to strangers - it is not new behavior). Otherwise the cat behaves fine. She unfailingly uses the litter box and eats what we feed her. Gradually the cat has began to warm up just a bit. We have tried to be kind to her and most of the time I can hold a pan of food and let her eat from it. She usually purrs. Sometimes she rols around on the floor as if she wants to be petted. We found a back scratcher and we pet her with that. She seems to like it and never gets angry. But every now and then she hides and when I pass near her she growls and slaps at me. So I've moved her feeding place into the basement and made a nice cozy place for her to sleep in a nice dark corner under the bottom of the stairs. She seems to like it there.

But this unpredictible behavior is really not a good thing. I would love the cat to be a part of our life and feel comfortable around us and enjoy being upstairs with us. But quite frankly I'm afraid of her and do not trust her. I don't feel I can give the cat away to anyone as I feel she is too dangerous. I cannot bring myself to put the cat down and really see no reason to do so at this time. But I am not planning on staying here any longer than it takes to get moms estate in order and sell the house. a year at the most, hopefully. And I wonder what will happen if I move and take the cat with me.

This is just a horrible situation. Could this cat have some sort of psychosis? I've only known one other cat in my lifetime that behaved so badly. Is there something I can do to make this cat more mellow? I don't want to declaw the cat and even if I did we would still have the problem of her biting so violently. A vet told me cats can be given prozak. Has anyone else tried anything like this? Or should I simply follow through with my mom's suggestion to leave the cat alone and just make sure she is fed and has water?

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post #2 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-11-2007, 11:56 PM
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Wow, I don't know what to say.
Obviously you want to honor your mother's wishes, but that cat! Wowsers!

You could take Sassy to the vet and see about prozac or some sort of drug to mellow her out...but you still gotta get it into her, every day.
I don't know that I could keep such a disagreable animal. Because of health problems, I'd have to consider humane euthanasia due to her biting/clawing, OR, keep her entirely in one room with a run to an outside cat-cage and just treat her like a feral with very little contact.

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post #3 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 06:00 AM
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With all respect to Heidi, I have never understood the notion of putting a cat to sleep because it has behavioural problems. And I think it would be wholey unnecessary in this case.

In my humble opinion just give her the food and water as you Mum suggested and keep her nice and comfy in the basement as she likes it down there. Once you move I'm sure you can find somewhere else in your house that she can make herself comfy in.

I'm sorry for your loss. This cat must be putting extra pressure on you when you need it the least.
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post #4 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 08:28 AM
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First, I am very sorry for the loss fo your mother. I agree with Melysion, this is the last thing you need to be faced with. However, it also seems from what you say that it was very important for your mother to know that her cat would be cared for and not desserted or put to sleep.

Personally, I feel there is absolutely no reason to put the cat to sleep. I have lived with an anti-social biter for years. And, I've had her since she was a kitten. Whether it's mental, or just their personality, you'll never know. I think you should give her a space of her own where she can be left to do as she pleases and feed her like your mother asked. My cat Franny, wants nothing MORE than to just be left alone. She hisses at the wind and will bite if you pet her. Just as you describe, she will wander over from time to time, act like she wants to be pet but about 3 seconds later she'll turn around and smack you or bite your hand. But really, what's the big deal? She's not the cuddly cat I hoped she'd be, but it's no reason to do something drastic.

Sometimes you have to remove your emotions from the situation. Adding to the fact that you just lost your mother and this was her cat, this makes it 10x harder...but at the end of the day, if you just leave Sassy alone and make sure she's fed, is it really so bad? I think putting her to sleep is an awful alternative and treating her as a feral is not a good way about it either. Putting an already scared indoor cat outside (even if it is in enclosure) would likely drive her very insane. My cat Franny got outside the door a few years ago while I was bringing in groceries. I didn't realize it and din't think for a second she'd be there, because she had no interest in going out...but then I heard this loud thumbing on the back door. Don't you know she was literally throwing herself into and smacking the door for me to come let her back inside. She hid under my bed for 3 days after that...

I am sorry that you are under so much stress and I'm sure just worrying about this is the last thing you need, but I guess what I'm saying is try not to worry too much, and just leave her be and feed her as your mother asked you too. Every so often, enjoy the two seconds she chooses to come out for a pet and just don't push the limits with her...

Good luck.
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post #5 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 09:42 AM
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I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom. I'm sure that you would love to establish a relationship with her kitty since it would be a little piece of your mom to hold on to.

How was she with your mother? If she was friendly then I think there's hope she may warm up to you after an adjustment period. I wouldn't try any major drugs at this point. Just make things comfortable, keep things quiet and don't stress her out. The fact that you expect to be there for a year is her a lot of adjustment time. I would keep her away from guests, just close her in a room or the basement. You can try some Feliway diffusers (synthetic cat phermones intended for calming).

Also remember that she is feeling the loss of your mom as well. The only human in the world that she (possibly) liked and accepted has gone AWOL and she doesn't know why. That's also going to increase the crankiness.

It may take a couple months, but I think you can probably get to the point where there's a truce and maybe some mutual respect. Good luck....

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post #6 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 10:45 AM
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I am so sorry about the loss of your Mom, and commend you on taking care of her cat. You are a special person.

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post #7 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 12:03 PM
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Ouch. It seems clarification is in order because my post has been misunderstood.
Originally Posted by Heidi n Q
Because of health problems, I'd have to consider humane euthanasia...
Because I have health problems I would have to consider euthanasia or keeping that cat completely seperate from me. I am taking several immuo-suppressant drugs that also cause excessive bruising and bleeding and must be very diligent to avoid injury and infection from everyday living, let alone a cat bite/scatch which most agree can be of the nastiest variety of injury around.

Because of my health problems, I could not care for a cat like this unless I kept it seperate like a feral...providing a safe room for it to live with an outdoor access to an attached and secure cat cage that the kitty could use if it chose to do so. Never did I intend to suggest to the Original Post-er that her cat be arbitrarily put outside or even put to sleep. In fact, my first suggestion was a visit to the vet for a medical solution to her behavior.

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post #8 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Heidi n Q
Ouch. It seems clarification is in order because my post has been misunderstood.
Sorry Heidi. I hope i didnt come across as harsh. Thats never my intention.
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post #9 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 12:35 PM
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First, I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother... those are terrible hard times, and I admire how dedicated to this cat you are while being under such pressure. Your mother must be so relieved to know you are dealing so kindly with her beloved cat.

I second what's been said so far, that she will need time and patience, and may or may not warm up to you in the end. I have another question though, besides asking if she was friendlier to your mom: was she checked by the vet in the past few years?

Just asking because my neighbors when I was a kid had a terribly aggressive cat. She would let them pet her a little, but would bite and claw anyone else dared touch her. After a few years of this - the cat was getting older too - their vet found out that the cat's back caused her a lot of pain, causing her to lash out at anyone touched the sore area.

Obviously even if your mother's cat did have some health problems causing her to feel pain when someone pets her, there must be more than that, since she lashes at you even when you just pass by... but it might be worth a shot to have her checked and make sure nothing piles up on her already antisocial behavior.

I would recommand trying the Feliway plugs too, see if that would mellow her down a little... and just tons of patience, of letting her come to you whenever she wants to (kudos for the idea of the back-scratcher too, very clever!!) and never forcing her to do anything that she does not feel safe doing. Maybe you could look up resources about dealing with feral cats, and apply some of those techniques with her?

Good luck... keep us posted!
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post #10 of 60 (permalink) Old 11-12-2007, 12:37 PM
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No, you weren't harsh, it made me see that I wasn't very clear.

I will say, I do feel some animals with behavioral problems do need to be euthanized. If the animal becomes a consistent danger to itself or others (animals or people), that warrants considering the option. Granted, I have never come across a cat where this needed to be considered, but I have heard of plenty of dogs and horses where this needed to be done, even after attempts at training to re-direct and eliminate the behavior. Luckily, cats are small and usually will keep to themselves and do not require such drastic measures.

My elderly neighbor in California had a similar temperament cat.
Snookie would run up to you and if you bent to pet her, she would bite or claw your ankle. This behavior became even worse after she had a front leg amputated. Owen loved her, just the same. He never tried to pet her very often. ...and because of her behavior, I never tried, either! If I saw her coming towards me in the yard, I'd speak sharply to her to get her to stop some distance to me, then I would talk nicely to her, but I would not try to get close or let her get close to me.
That sort of arrangement worked for me and this cat.

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