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cat became abruptly aggressive
Posted: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:34 pm
My boyfriend adopted a stray cat several months ago. According to the vet, she's about 3 or 4 years old. For the most part, she's always been pretty chill; she'd let me pet her, sometimes curl up on my lap,etc. The only time she'd be aggressive was when I'd walk past her too quickly, and then she'd just hiss and swipe but get over it right after. He has two other cats (a 2.5 year old male and about 1-year-old female) and she mostly gets along with them as well.
A few weeks ago, though, her behavior with me changed drastically; it was like a switch was flipped. My boyfriend and I were both lying on the floor petting her, and when I stood up she freaked out. At first I thought I had just startled her because I moved too quickly, but she didn't calm down; she actually chased after me and attacked my leg. Since then, she's been super aggressive toward me-always growling or doing that scary loud warning meow if I stand up or start walking anywhere and chasing/attacking me (drawing blood and biting so hard there are bruises around the bite marks). We don't know what caused this change or how to reverse it.
A few additional notes:
-My boyfriend took her to the vet, who said it was probably just stress. I think he did some lab work on a stool sample but everything came back negative.
-She hadn't been fixed when my boyfriend got her (since she had been a stray) but he just had her spayed last week.
-She's totally fine around him; no freaking out when he moves, no attacking.
-She did jump up on my lap and let me pet her last night, but after she left and I stood up a bit later, it was right back to being scary and aggressive.
Thank you in advance for any insight or advice you might have!
Re: cat became abruptly aggressive
Posted: Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:23 pm
Hi and welcome
Many unspayed females can become aggressive due to frustration/hormones, so it could well be that the problem's already solved and your girl will start to calm down. It won't happen overnight but it's hopeful in that you've already noticed an improvement.
Something else also occurred to me; I've known dogs be sensitive to human hormones/female menstruation, and I wonder if this can happen with cats? Especially unspayed females? I once had a dog who would start to play me up for no reason - after a while I realised that it was always when I was premenstrual, and cats I imagine are equally sensitive.
And the standing up, as far as she was concerned, when you grew huge and suddenly towered over her ... if only we knew what went through their minds ...
All the best with her. Try not to react if she does become aggressive; don't shout or call out. I have one who was aggressive from kittenhood despite spaying and I find that a hissed 'no!' works for us, and to withdraw all attention for a few minutes lets her know that rough play is not acceptable. Then to tell her that she's a good girl once she's calmed down, and give her lots of praise in general. Lol, it would be useful to be a trained psychologist wouldn't it?
Hopefully more people will be along soon but hope this helps for now
Re: cat became abruptly aggressive
Posted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:15 am
Cats are definitely sensitive to hormones when a woman is pregnant so why not to the more subtle cycle changes?
The trouble with cats is the way their brain works, very different to dogs, that makes habits hard to break. If she has always been a bit edgy about you walking past her quickly, then this issue is not new or out of the blue. An ounce of prevention then would have been worth a pound of cure now. She sounds similar to my girl, except that yours attacks and mine runs away, but what's going on in their heads is probably similar.
Do you sometimes wear loud shoes or floaty flappy clothes around the house? Do you tend to move quite fast, unpredictably and without warning? If she is ok with you when you're sitting quietly, I would suggest looking at the way you move around for clues. When I got Molly I learned fast to get up slowly and move in a way that give her 1) plenty of warning that I was on the move and 2) every chance to run to her safe place if she needed to. It becomes second nature surprisingly quickly.
You need to see the world from her point of view. You're already a big creature to her and therefore potentially dangerous. If you get dressed in a flappy way, jumper above your head arms waving, and tend to get up suddenly and walk quickly, a cat forms an impression of you as being liable to make unpredictable movements and reacts the way it has learned to react best for survival as a stray. (This is why it's more common for cats to 'dislike' men who are often louder and more abrupt in their movements than women.) Usually that is to hide but maybe having been a stray and now in a confined space unable to run far, she feels cornered and has to make you go away and the best way to do that is to be unpleasant.
But you are where you are and you can only start from here. I'm guessing because you say she is your boyfriend's cat that you don't live together? So she has had time to learn to trust him, but if you are a visitor and she doesn't see you as part of the household and as her need for a safe human bond is being met by him she doesn't 'need' to learn to trust you as well.
Does the cat sleep on the bed when you're not there and not when you are there? She might seem to be happily choosing to sleep elsewhere but if that is her usual place of choice and she feels she can't, that would add to her sense of stress around you. Noticing these little details can really help you get into a different way of being that will help her feel more secure around you.
When you get up, try giving her a signal she will recognise like talking to her softly, moving away from her before you start to stand up slowly. Look in her direction but not directly at her as this is threatening to a cat that isn't comfortable with you. If she gets tense as if she is going to run, or puts her ears back or hisses, freeze, talk to her gently, then when she relaxes start moving again but extra slowly. You can even take a small movement backwards, or make it obvious you're going round her. You can move a bit faster once you're walking away from her, I think it helps reinforce that you're making an effort with her. Also if you tend to have doors closed, try leaving them open a bit to give her more options like running away to another room, she should prefer that to attacking.
If she plays, sit on the floor and play with her. Hand feed her treats when she is relaxed around you but never give her treats while she is tense. Practice the slow-blink with her as well when she is on the other side of the room and relaxed, that tells her you are relaxed in her presence and helps her to build trust that you won't hurt her. If she does it back, you're winning.
As Lilith says do not cry out, shout at her or flap around when she is about to go for you. Freeze, then slowly move away talking softly to her and avoiding eye contact. There are always signs, you just have to get to know them. This way you are developing up a unique communication between you and her that all helps to build trust. But as above it will be harder for you to win her trust if she already has that need met by her special human, your boyfriend, and or the fact you are starting from a negative position. But well worth it in the end. They do reognise when we are doing our best to help them by meeting them half way.