CAT ATTACKS OWNER AND OTHER CAT
The cat violently attacks the owner – unproved. He will jump up, eyes dilated, ears back and attack.
“ Darwin is a Siberian cat, bought from a breeder when he was about 12-14 weeks old. He has been neutered and never had any health problems. When he was a kitten he would bite a bit, but I attributed it to teething. Darwin is now almost 2 years old, and he violently attacks me unprovoked. I can be lying in bed, he will jump up, eyes dilated, ears back and attack. I constantly have scratch and bite marks, and he bites so hard that I think it’s only a matter of time before he hits the bone and I need to go into hospital to get it checked out.
I have tried many techniques to help with this. I bought a him a cat tree so he can be elevated. He loves it, but the biting continued, I’d try to smack him on the nose, I’d try to pick him up and give him love and affection, I tried to ignore it hoping he would stop, I tried to give him water right when it would happen thinking maybe it was some weird sign of dehydration, I brought him to the vet on multiple occasions, I’ve sprayed him with water bottle, I’ve bought multiple Feliway pheromone plug ins, I’ve given cat nip, I’ve read every website. I have tried everything. But he still bites me hard, violently, and not as an act of defense, rather as an act of aggression.
… A couple of months ago we moved to a new apartment, and I was hopeful that things could improve in a new environment. I was hoping maybe I could reassert my dominance, and try to start in a new place. This worked for a few weeks and then he started biting again – but not as frequently.
… About a week or two ago, I met a cat ….. She was a rescue, 5 months old and so genuinely sweet that I decided to go through and adopt her. ….. At first Darwin was so curious, he was mesmerized by her and followed her everywhere. …. Now its gotten to the point that Darwin no longer attacks me, but now he has started to attack Olive.
…. Now that Olive is here, Darwin will attack me less. If we were to give Olive back to the shelter, then he’d just attack me again.”
In order to work through this problem, I did some research into the breed:
….. The Siberian is a strong, powerfully built cat.
….. They are slow-maturing reaching full magnificence at about 5 years.
….. Their paws would do a heavyweight boxer proud.
….. They are gentle cats that enjoy playing, clowning around.
….. They use their incredible intelligence to solve all kinds of problems – like determining how to open a door to get
to their owners.
….. They are powerful agile cats.
….. They love to play and will entertain you with their clown-like antics.
….. They adore their human families and their visitors.
….. There is a wonderful depth to their purr and will talk to you with a chirping sound when they come to greet
you when you have been out.
….. Exceptionally agile jumper and are strong and powerfully built. Strong hind-quarters and a well muscled and
….. Healthy, hardy and posses a dog-like loyalty to their owners.
….. Have problem solving intelligence level, but never seem to outgrow the playful kitten stage.
….. Unusual “talking” voice of chirps and chirrups, especially when content.
….. They like to greet visitors and are not shy.
….. Fascinated by water.
….. The overall appearance should be a cat of great strength and size with an excellent physical frame.
MY THOUGHTS AND ADVICE:
I now have a much clearer knowledge of the Siberian Cat. It seems like a wonderful breed, one which I would actually like to own. Unfortunately, Darwin, is becoming a cat that is not pleasant to have around, which is a pity.
The very first thing that I need to ask, is if at any time, Darwin has been checked to see that there is nothing medically wrong with him. Many animals will act in aggression when there are in pain. We might not be able to see that pain (as in the animal is limping etc), but they could have internal pain which is upsetting them.
Looking at the breed description, Darwin is not fully mature, and therefore still kitten- like in what he does. Kittens like to play, especially with other kittens / animals, and many times this play is in the form of attacking. I have watched kittens stalking and then jumping on things that move, particularly, other animals and their owners.
So, Darwin could be “playing” with you, like he would with another animal. I have seen many owners with bites and scratches from kittens, but because they are small, it is not too bad. You have said that Darwin is still behaving like a kitten, but at 20lbs, a cat of this size, doing “kitten play” can do a lot of damage.
Cats are predators, and they love to stalk and attack their prey. I have seen many kittens and cats, stalk their owners and then grab them as if they are prey. Just a slight movement of an arm, hand, finger, can cause this stalking action.
Now, when Darwin stalks and attacks, his size makes it much worse. To him, he is not doing anything wrong, just following instinct, which of course is unacceptable to us humans.
I am inclined to think that Darwin sees Olive as “prey”. She is so much smaller than him, and as his prey instinct is so high, he is stalking and attacking her just as if she was a large rat / mouse / bird etc. Your description of him jumping on her, and with his jaws wrapped around her neck, is very much a description of a cat attacking prey.
I would suggest that you get a chamois leather cloth and make it damp. Rub this over Darwin a few times and then rub it over Olive. You will now be putting Darwin’s scent onto Olive. This sometimes helps to make the other cat friendlier as their own scent is on the cat.
On reading about the breed, it states that it is a powerful breed, with strong back legs, and they like to jump. Perhaps Darwin is not getting enough exercise and stimulation. You say that you bought him a cat tree, but I am not sure of the size. With a breed that likes to jump, he needs to have as many areas as possible to jump around. This would give him a lot of necessary exercise which I think he craves. (Stalking and attacking is a form of exercise.)
I saw a program once where a family built cat runways around the house. This was cat walks about one quarter down from the roof level, and the cats could run around these ramps from room to room. They even cut little holes in the walls for the cats to squeeze through.
You can also investigate if there are any cat toys available – prey toys that a cat can chase and jump on, that hang on poles, trees etc. You need to get Darwin to play with toys and not with you, or Olive. You could also put more cat trees around the house.
Another form of exercise is putting a cat harness on, and taking him for a walk outside (this is if he is an indoors cat).
During the walk he will be stimulated with smells, sounds and things moving – which could be what he needs.
I am a little concerned about your description that Darwin’s eye’s dilate when he attacks. You do say that you are lying in bed. If this is in the dark, or a slightly dark room, then his eyes would be dilated in order to see better.
But, it could also be a “rage syndrome”. I have seen this in Cocker Spaniels. It is genetic and not nice to see. I am hoping that this is not the case with Darwin.
I have also seen aggression in a dog which was really bad. After it had to be put to sleep, an autopsy found that it had a tumour on the brain. I am not saying that this is the case with Darwin, but abnormal behaviour sometimes can be caused by problems with the brain. Just another reason why it is important to find out that there is nothing medically wrong with him.
You have tried the Feliway plug ins, but you say they have not worked. I do think that you could try some medication to help with this aggression. Here in South Africa, we have a few homeopathic products which help to take the edge off dogs and cats. A good one that I often ask people to get is Anxitane and is available from a vet. As it is not prescription, it can be sold directly to owners. I’m not sure if this is available in the US. You could ask your vet if there is any homeopathic medication available and try this. Anything with Rescue remedy is good. You could also add rescue drops to his water.
There is a prescription drug called “Clomicalm” that is used here, but this does need to be dispensed by a vet. I have had a lot of success with this drug. Read more about Clomicalm
I’m not sure if you have discussed this with the breeder, as they certainly need to know what is happening with one of their cats, and maybe this could be something that comes from the parents or grand-parents. It is also very important for any breeder – of cats or dogs – to know what is happening with an animal that they have bred.
The above is just what I have thought through since reading your email yesterday. I look forward to hearing your response to it.
Chairman of the Animal Behaviour Consultants of SA
Professional Dog Trainer and Accredited Animal Behaviourist with the ABC of SA