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I'm not sure how to describe this, but it has been bugging me for a few years, so here goes.

I knew my cat Oliver's mom-cat. She was a really sweet calico, but about a month after having her first and only litter of kittens, her temperament drastically changed. She started hissing and being mean to her kittens, and it steadily escalated to the point where she was randomly attacking people. Her owner fed her and cared for her, got her shots, etc, but didn't neuter her or spend any time with her or anything like that. He ended up taking her to a humane society in a large city, and he said that he was told she had some sort of respiratory disease, and she had to be put down. He didn't ask for any details, so that is all I know.

What I'm wondering is, are there hereditary respiratory diseases in cats, that could present themselves later in life? Also, could these diseases cause a cat to drastically change temperament? Has anyone ever heard of this kind of thing happening to a cat?

My second wondering is if anything was really wrong to begin with with Oliver's mom-cat. Oliver has more than once became very cranky to the point of seeming quite mean more than once in his life. But it always turned out to be caused by some small detail we missed, such as cluttering the top of the fridge with stuff that wasn't his. Once the small issues are fixed, he's happy and back to his old self again. So far, Oliver has had a shining bill of health from the vet, but we love him so much, so we do tend to be on watch for any signs he might be getting sick. He does breathe oddly sometimes, almost like his lungs are shaking with every breath, but he's not purring, but the vet says it's nothing.
 

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I wonder if she wasn't sick and or in pain to start behaving that way to her young kittens.

I don't know of any hereditary diseases that would case what you describe.

Oliver's socialisation must have been somewhat lacking, which can have an effect on how he deals with frustration and change later on in life. The weaning process usally takes place gradually from 7 weeks onwards and during that time the kittens learn little by little that they can't always get what they want.
 

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It is not at all uncommon for queens to become increasingly aggressive toward their kittens as they approach weaning age. The fact that her owner apparently never socialized her would likely only add to her stress during that transitional period with her kittens. HUGE hormonal swings + non-socialization + kitten weaning = aggression.

As far as the upper respiratory infection is concerned, it's likely something that she just picked up out of her environment. I saw a TV report on a New York City (I think) humane society that routinely euthanized any cat with a URI so that it wouldn't infect the rest of the feline population in the shelter. Of course, it's not at all necessary to euth cats with URI's, but in a metropolitan shelter with far more cats than they can ever place in homes, I'm sure they'd rather euth cats with any type of illness and spend their resources on healthy animals that are immediately adoptable, instead.

I am not aware of any URI that is hereditary, but most are highly contagious.

Laurie
 

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Her illness could certainly have made her feel cranky. Tho there are cats that are bad tempered and/or have a low frustration level, and this can be hereditary. I've seen it on the show bench where a certain stud cat with a temper was known to sire kitties the same. I remember avoiding any breeding stock with him in the pedigree, and I only ever had studs with a very even gentle temperament and he sired kitties who had outgoing, friendly sucky temperaments.
 
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