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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone!

I'm thrilled to be part of this community! I've read plenty of these cat forum posts for guidance in the past, and I've finally decided to join in on the fun :)

A little bit about me: I live in Washington, DC, am a librarian, and am avid knitter. So, not stereotypical at all!

A little about my kitty: My formidable baby boy is Sarge (short for Sgt. Pepper!), a 3 year old domestic short hair. He is gorgeous and extremely intelligent - which is why he has now become such a formidable opponent when he decides to behave badly. I'm really looking forward to picking all of your cat-loving brains. I could really use some help for certain behaviors I can't curtail, and would love to hear from a community with such wide-ranging cat expertise!

Looking forward to getting to know you all better, and to learning tons about how to be a great kitty mama!
 

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Advice sought for how to discipline a cat in a studio apartment!

Hi everyone!

I thought I'd put this out there, and am happy to repost this in the appropriate forum once I'm a fully approved member :)

My problem: my (usually lovely) 3 year old cat, Sarge, has bouts of serious aggression, and I don't know why. He starts to make this moaning sound, then tries to scratch or bite me.

He's never broken skin, but he's definitely left some bad marks from time to time, and I can't figure out why he gets into these moods. I've tried documenting the conditions around when he becomes aggressive, such as what forms of stimuli are on (computer, lights, tv, etc), when did he last eat, how much play time did he have, what time of day it is. There seems to be no pattern whatsoever.

The problem: I've tried different forms of discipline, but to no avail. Spray bottles, firmly saying no, blowing in his face, getting up and walking away, ignoring him, and finally: time out in the bathroom. I live in a 450 sq ft studio apartment, and it's the only area with a door I can close.

The time outs used to work.. until recently, when he now retaliates by peeing outside his litter box, and he also starts to howl and is tearing up the door/throwing himself against it. He never gets put in there for long (5 minutes usually, 10 at the most). I am truly at a loss for what to do with him. I've asked my vet about this aggressive behavior countless times, to which he's just shrugged and said that cats sometimes get into moods.

Any advice?? I'm borderline desperate - I'm tired of the scratches and cleaning up pee!! Thank you all for your help!
 

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does he have windows to look out? vertical space to climb? what does he see when he looks out the window? Are there other animals he can see or smell? Have you ruled out any physical problems such as UTI or arthritis? is he neutered?
 

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Hi Sargeant Pepper's Mom, from someone else in (or near) the nation's capital! I'm in the Maryland suburbs. We have a few people from this area on the forum, but not many.
 

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I'm just over the line into PA, but born and raised in Maryland. Welcome to the forums, hope you can get your problem solved here, there are some great people on here!
 

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Welcome! Maryland here, too. About your kitty, I also wondered if he has something physical going on which makes him feel poorly. If he's healthy, could it help to play with him more to tire him out? Or maybe an interactive toy?
 

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Hi spm, and welcome to the Forum from another member, like October, from the DC area. I used to post here all the time, not so much recently, but the Forum members really helped immeasurably with my own problems with my Fab Four.

As for your scratching/biting dilemma with Sarge, I have a few thoughts/questions but nothing prescriptive. As you probably know, many cats who are susceptible to the behavior you describe display it when they are overstimulated. That is, they are being petted beyond their tolerance level. Since you did not mention petting in connection with that behavior, I will assume the behavior arrives totally unprovoked, or so it seems, which indeed does seem peculiar to me, particularly if he is an only cat.

So, another tack to take--does he have enough toys, things like toy stuffed squirrels, mice or balls that he could stalk and put into his mouth and carry around? Might he be bored by lack of stimuli in his environment? One of my cats, Hershey, would occasionally start giving me play bites, but only when we were playing and he decided to treat a limb of mine as part of the play. I would tell him no and stay perfectly still, whereupon in about two seconds it would stop. Moving sometimes triggers the "predator/prey" response, where any movement by me causes him reflexively to go after it. But that subsides really quickly if I do absolutely nothing, other than tell him no. Another thing I do is cry out, in an exaggerated way, to let him know he is hurting me (and he could!). Since he's a sweet cat and doesn't intend to, he has figured out that behavior is unpleasant to me, and so it rarely happens anymore.

Those are just a few comments to get you thinking more about the circumstances under which the biting/scratching happens. I am of course assuming it is not a health issue. Good luck.
 

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Hi everyone!

Clearly I am new to this forum - I couldn't figure out where to check this thread! :p

Thank you all so much for your thoughts! I'm so thrilled to also meet so many neighbors! To respond to all your questions:

CJinCA: Hi! He does have a huge window to look out, which he does a lot of, and happily so. Unfortunately, not much vertical space besides jumping on and off furniture, since it's such a tight space. I'm on the top floor of my building, so when he looks out the window, he mostly sees just the other side of the building, but he also see some trees and hears lots of birds in the morning. There aren't any other animals nearby, either. He seems perfectly healthy, especially because he's been doing this for over a year now, and he's seen the vet twice in that time. And yes, he is most definitely neutered!

October and Beckie: Hi there, neighbors! Thanks for your warm welcome!

LadyK: Hi there! I was actually born and raised in Maryland too, I should have mentioned that as well :) As for my little man, he is perfectly healthy and the vet has given him a clean bill of health twice since he started this odd behavior. I've tried playing with him more and more, especially right before I go to bed, but it's really hit or miss in terms of whether the playtime affects his energy that much. He's got an extraordinary amount of it at any given time. He's also VERY spoiled, and has tons of toys, yet another reason why I'm at such a loss..

NRD: Thank you so much for all your thoughts! I was talking to a friend of mine who used to work in a shelter, and she warned me about the overstimulation issue. She was the one who recommended I try documenting the incidents to see if I could trace a pattern (ie, too much noise, too much light, too much of everything?), but no pattern emerged at all. It's totally unprovoked every time, and usually when I'm just sitting at my desk - and especially when I'm getting ready to go to bed, once I've laid down.

Also, as I mentioned to LadyK, my little guy is terribly spoiled! :p He's got a couple of rat tails, mice, jingly balls, a laser pointer, a scratching post with a toy attached, etc. I worry that he gets bored easily with his toys, and maybe that's part of the problem.. but if it is, I'm going to go broke trying to keep him satisfied!!

I hadn't thought of the fact that my reactions could be triggering the "predator/prey" response like you mentioned - I could definitely see that being part of this, or exactly this even. I've tried really hard to stay still and ignore him, but the number of times - and the severity of the pain he inflicts - has steadily increased before I just can't stand it anymore and I react. Either he's bitten me a little too hard, he's tried scratching my face near my eyes, etc. I have no idea what to do because it's completely unprovoked, and even if I play with him for 30 minutes-1 hour before bedtime, it doesn't always make a difference.

He is such an affectionate, caring, sweet boy otherwise, so this behavior frustrates and confuses me to no end. He is perfectly healthy and it doesn't seem like I'm doing anything to trigger this behavior, and it can literally just start up any time.

Thoughts?? Thank you all so much for your help!!
 

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Hi Mitts & Tess! Thanks for your welcome :)

He was 9 weeks old when I got him, and I got him from a coworker whose dog didn't get along with Sarge. Sarge was apparently really unhappy in their home, primarily because the dog would play in his litter box and would eat his food. He started acting out by peeing on clothes and around the house, which clearly was unhappiness since it seemed so calculated (and he's never had urinary problems for as long as I've had him). Once my coworker and I agreed that I would take him as my own, another coworker kept him for a weekend before bringing him to me (I was really sick the weekend I was supposed to get him), and she had another cat.

Thanks so much for the redirected aggression link - just finished reading it. Could this be it? Is redirected aggression just between animals, or could the two in question be Sarge and me?
 

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Its other animals that cause redirected aggression. Cats can become agitated when they see other cats in their territory even if its outside the window. Then they turn on the other cats in the house or can towards an owner.

My tuxedo use to go nuts when he'd see a white cat which I was feeding outside. He would become unhinged. If I touched him or tried to pick him up at that time he'd take it out on me or any other cat in the room. He broke thru the screen to chase this white cat out of the yard. He usually Mr Zen and balanced but not when it came to that white cat.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Ohh, I see. Sarge doesn't actually see any other animals, since I live in a huge apartment complex and am on the top floor..

Any suggestions for how to behave when he gets into one of these moods? Did anything in particular help whenever your tuxedo would go nuts?
 

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Well if he is not seeing other cats or animals then its not redirected aggression.

The only other thing I can think of is he gets over stimulated but the moaning sound does add into that. I'm stumped! I have no idea what is causing this.

What might help is to try Feliway plug ins. Ive also had good success with using Composure Liquid by Vetri Science to calm my adult foster cats. It is totally natural and not a drug that would sedate him.
 

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It's a bit of a relief that the issue is such a stumper - I feel less like I'm failing as a kitty mama! If I can capture an episode on video, I'll be sure to post it/link to it so everyone can see what one is like.

I've never heard of Feliway plug ins! How do they work? Do you like them? Is it natural like the Vetri Science product you mentioned?

Rhyll: Hello from across the pond! I actually lived in Edinburgh for a year and attended uni, so the UK is my home away from home! :)
 

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Feliway® Use in Cats - Test Subject Report!

website explaining Feliway for behavior modification. The cheapest place Ive bought Feliway is on Amazon.

Composure Liquid is a liquid you syringe into a cats mouth twice a day.
Vetri-Science Composure Dog Cat Supplement

shop the internet for Composure Liquid. I found it $10 cheaper a bottle than what I paid at the vet. I think KV vet had good prices on it. But search around and see.
 

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Hi Sakishana! Hahaha I've actually tried that!! I've hissed and roared and done all sorts of crazy stuff, and all he does is challenge me! He's a very self-confident, unintimidated fellow! Does hissing work for you??
 

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I use that technique with my 2 cats. You could try letting him outside on a leash. I have this brand- Premier Gentle Leader Kitty Harness & Bungee Leash- My cats love going outside to eat grass.They are comfortable for your cat, and don't pull on the cat's neck. The harness is adjustable, too! Maybe he has cabin fever. I can just move a leash,or pick it up, and my cats go FLYING to the door. Keep us posted!
 
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