Help us save Hormona the banshee cat.
September 29, 2009 12:58 PM   Subscribe

A cat in heat is keeping up the entire household at night with her werewolf yowling. They're about ready to give her up. What can they do? Much more inside.

My friends own Mona Lisa, one of the sweetest, calmest, funniest cats I've ever met. They adopted her from the animal shelter as kitten 3 years ago after she'd apparently been spayed. When the cat went into heat again and again over the next few months, the couple took her to the vet, who performed exploratory surgery to make sure they hadn't missed any ovarian tissue. Vets came up with nada, even suggesting the couple made up the claims. Yet Mona's symptoms are classic ones of a cat in heat--she yowls like a banshee, crouches with her butt in the air, has loose stools, throws up her food, and basically does anything she can to get some action. The symptoms are fairly prevalent during the day but absolutely terrible at night. The couple shut off their bedroom to keep Mona from tearing at the curtains, but the cat just threw her body against the door in a mad frenzy. It was, says the wife, like a different animal had possessed their sweet kitty.

The couple felt they could deal with Mona's hormones every so often until they had a baby who wakes up during these nightly episodes, ending with a screaming cat and a screaming baby. It's gotten to the point where no one in the house can sleep even when they lock Mona in the bathroom with her litter box and put in ear plugs. They live in a small loft apartment, so sounds reverberate quite easily. Moreover, the cat just seems miserable during these cycles.

The vet says he can do another exploratory surgery at a whopping 10K, but he promises little remedy and feels it will cause the cat more stress than good. The family loves this cat, but they're at their wit's end and need to get some sleep. Googling "calming cat in heat" produces some disturbing, NSFW results that no one is willing to do. As of right now, no family friends have stepped up to adopt Mona, so their next option is an animal shelter that will surely have to warn future owners that Mona turns into a horny, leg-biting werewolf every other month.

Is there any hope for this family to keep the cat, any remedies they can try, or will they have to give her back to the shelter? Any help is much appreciated.
posted by Viola to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have heard, and a basic google search seems to support it, that if you stimulate the cat this behavior will stop. Not sure if this is better than the problem though, since the descriptions I am finding do not make this seem like a pleasant experience at all. I'd link, but some are on questionable sites.

And yuck.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:10 PM on September 29, 2009

I can't believe I'm going to admit this on the Internet, but....

Back when I was young and stupid in college, we had a cat that we couldn't afford to get spayed. Her name was Ed. My biology major housemate insisted that we would have to help her out by gently placing a sterile Q-Tip into her vagina when she was in heat and removing it when she calmed down. It worked. (I can't remember if we had to do it more than once a cycle.)

I am not a vet and this is in no way medical advice.

I'm going to take a shower now.
posted by tristeza at 1:11 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

The poster indicates that she has already googled, and discovered, that you can masturbate a cat and that (quite reasonably, IMO) nobody wants to do that.
posted by Houstonian at 1:14 PM on September 29, 2009

Safe link.

Yeah, and pretty much all of them have you doing this with a Q-tip.

Now I am off to ponder the life I've led that allowed me to have this knowledge in my head.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:15 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I found this forum question & answer that seems to match the situation you describe. Summary:

- kitty birth control (oviban / ovarid) can prevent a cat from going into heat, but apparently it is overwhelmingly associated with cancer morbidity.

- Ultrasounds and blood tests can sometimes detect leftover ovarian tissue

I also found this dubious procedure. I have no idea if this is safe for the cat, or if it works at all, but it's on the internet, so there's that.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2009

Cat breeders deal with this all the time as queens come into heat a lot more often than they are bred. Stimulate her now (there's even an official device) and find a vet who will give her hormone treatments* to prevent her from coming into estrus again. Alternatively, find a vet who will do the stimulation.

*caution: long-term health side effects. Getting kitty off is safer.
posted by jamaro at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

There seem to be a few options:

1) expensive and dangerous, but ultimately perhaps merciful, surgery (maybe explore options with various other vets, look for local schools of veterinary medicine, to get best expert opinion);

2) put up with crying, intensely unhappy cat and baby;

3) expensive and dangerous hormone therapy;

4) get over squeamishness at relieving cat's problem and making her feel a lot better.
posted by amtho at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2009

I read right past this line: Googling "calming cat in heat" produces some disturbing, NSFW results that no one is willing to do, until Houstonian pointed it out, but the problem with this is this seems to be the solution. I doubt if others are going to come up with something different, when all the pet forums seem to say the same thing, over and over again, fairly consistently.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:38 PM on September 29, 2009

I'd get a second vet's opinion. Perhaps a different, more willing vet would do a blood test or less invasive procedures to determine exactly what's wrong here. And then if the second vet does indeed find leftover tissue or whatever, I personally would demand a refund from the first vet.
posted by cooker girl at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I vote for the Q-tip. Icky, yes,
but it has to be better than this.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:56 PM on September 29, 2009

Um, if she is indeed properly spayed, is there a willing male cat they can introduce her to?
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, if she is indeed properly spayed, is there a willing male cat they can introduce her to?
cestmoi may have a point.
My Pointycat is a neutered male and he loves to hump things, including other animals when he sees them. Maybe Mona Lisa would be happier in a two-cat home with your friends or with someone else who has a lonely cat?
I sound like some twisted eHarmony for pets, sorry!
posted by pointystick at 2:20 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your friends aren't willing to do something slightly icky to make their cat feel better (and to make their household much more quiet), maybe they shouldn't own a cat.
posted by inturnaround at 2:37 PM on September 29, 2009

Hmm, this was pretty much as I feared. First, this family loves this cat and did all the right things: adopted her from a shelter, didn't get her declawed, paid a total of $7K for surgery, but I just relayed the "solution" over to the wife and her answer is pretty definitive: no one in that family is going to jack off the cat. Call it squeamishness, but I do think doing that really tests the boundaries of owner and cat. They've gotten second and third opinions from various vets who all advise against further invasive surgery, so her prospects for staying in the household don't look good. Thanks so far for weighing in.
posted by Viola at 2:39 PM on September 29, 2009

Can't they find someone with a tom cat that can help poor Mona out? It's not like she'll get prego....

That being said, I think it's kind of sad that they would rather give up the cat than give her relief.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, then they shouldn't have a cat. I mean, seriously, they paid 7 grand for surgery, but aren't willing to spend 15 minutes to alleviate the situation? Heck, pay me 7Gs and I'll do it for the rest of the cat's life. I won't like it, but some things need to be done.
posted by inturnaround at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Well, before we piously test the parameters of squeamishness, let me clarify that they'll place Mona in a home with lots of outdoor space so she can roam, yowl, and get as much action as she likes.
posted by Viola at 2:48 PM on September 29, 2009

The one thing you didn't mention in your follow-up was the idea of contraceptive hormones for the cat. Surely that would be far better for her than losing her home. The shelter represents almost certain death for most older cats, whereas the hormones probably don't do any harm to most of the cats who are given them.
posted by Ery at 2:49 PM on September 29, 2009

they'll place Mona in a home with lots of outdoor space so she can roam, yowl, and get as much action as she likes.

If such a wonderful home is readily available, then why did you say "their next option is an animal shelter"?
posted by Ery at 2:52 PM on September 29, 2009

They're working with an NYC shelter that has just called to say they will look for potential contacts in upstate New York.
posted by Viola at 2:55 PM on September 29, 2009

Seconding Ery. You also said, "...or will they have to give her back to the shelter?". If it's between "ickiness" and consigning the cat to near-certain death, I think you'll know where people's sympathies lie.

Another idea: maybe they could hire someone to come, ah, administer the treatment.
posted by amtho at 2:58 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

As gross and fucked-up as it is, I would choose to jill off the cat rather than put it in a shelter. Even if Mona gets adopted, that's one more space that won't go to another cat.

Maybe they can trade cats with someone. Good luck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:00 PM on September 29, 2009

Well, if you guys won't, ehm, take care of things for the cat -- find a vet or other trusted cat person that will! Seriously, if it comes down to rehoming the cat or 30 seconds with a Q-tip once a heat cycle, however odd it seems, my vote's for the Q-tip. Think of it as a medical procedure, which in this case, it is. Try it once. If it doesn't work, at least you tried.

I just spent a week with one of my cats and a bacterial infection in her bowel. She had diarrhea, couldn't control her poop, and it just leaked out randomly even when she wasn't trying to go. Trust me, I'd rather spend 30 sec with a Q-tip than run around wiping my cat's butt (and the floors, and the furniture) all day. It could be worse. Trust me.
posted by cgg at 3:03 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's not like you stick it in and go all jerk-off porno about it - you place it gently in the vagina, and kind of let it SIT there til the cat seems calmed. You're not giving the frigging thing a lap dance, for god's sake.
posted by tristeza at 3:08 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Aye, forgive me for thinking that "next stop is the animal shelter" was code for higher risk of euthanization. You were not clear.

Still, owning an animal isn't guaranteed to be all sunshine and roses. Sometimes you have to deal with the scat and the blood and things like this. It's not something people should embrace, but it's something that should be accepted as the price of being a responsible pet owner. I don't see that as being pious, I see it as being realistic. You have to meet the animal's needs.
posted by inturnaround at 3:10 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like to just add some support to the cat owners. I love my cat dearly, but would not masturbate her, and frankly think that most people would agree with this stance. If the cat is in the NY area, some of you guys may get a chance to put your words into action -- volunteer for the job if it's really a moral imperative for you. But beyond that, when she stated in her question that jacking off the cat was not an option, then answers that try to make her feel like she's unreasonable or uncaring or unsuited for cat ownership are really not helpful.
posted by Houstonian at 3:21 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the folks who've suggested bringing in a tom to get the job done. Everybody wins!
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:24 PM on September 29, 2009

Thank you for submitting this question. I have a female kitty who I was told upon receiving that she was spayed (she's clearly not... in heat for the 2nd time)... so I'll keep my eyes out for this type of behavior AFTER I get her spayed. (And no.. I'm not jacking off my cat).
posted by jmnugent at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2009

You're not "jacking off" the cat, especially if she's already been spayed. Call a local vet school, or vet tech school, and ask for help finding someone to come over and perform a basic medical technique for 1-2 minutes, for $50 cash. After your friends see that it's really not a huge, sexual, money-shot situation, I bet they'd save the cash and do it themselves. If not, hey, everyone's happy!

Our last rabbit got abscesses all over his nose and face. He had surgery to try and remove the pustules, but they couldn't get them all. We had to hold open his robo-stitched-bleeding face, and press out the puss with qtips and fingers, and then apply some ointment. You'd press in one location, and it would come shooting out another. And it was sticky.

I guarantee you that was 8 bajillion times grosser than q-tip placed calmly in cat. Honest to god, try it and see. Unless, of course, they're just looking for an excuse to get rid of the cat.
posted by barnone at 3:31 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

WHOA. WHOA. WHOA. A shelter??

The cat owners ought to call the Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital - (212) 925-6100.

Best vets in NYC. There is a simple, cost effective, and humane solution, and I'm sure these guys can find it.

Yes! It is OK for the cat owners to ring or stop by the office on Lispenard St for a quick chat with the front desk or Vet on-duty before making an appointment! It sounds like your friends have been disappointed with other vets and the interpretation of the issue, and they should explain this to the vet on-duty before they consider making an appointment. I can not recommend this option enough.

**caveat - soho/tribeca animal hospital is pricey for the visit, but they're damn good at what they do. it always turns out cheaper in the long run. MUCH personal experience here.**

I do understand the new baby has made everybody in your friends household tired and frustrated, but I'm surprised your friends would opt for a shelter for their beloved pet. Something in this story doesn't "click" -- except the shitty previous NYC vet experiences and the stupid advice that can have pet owners going in circles for years -- this I know about all too well.

Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital.

Good Luck.
posted by jbenben at 3:37 PM on September 29, 2009

[comment removed - please stop with the graphic cat masturbation pullquotes, everyone who is into this aspect of the question can google themselves, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:43 PM on September 29, 2009

Aren't there kitty sleeping pills?
posted by anniecat at 3:52 PM on September 29, 2009

Hey guys, thanks for everyone's advice, but if the difference between a shitty cat owner and a great cat owner is that a great one will massage the cat's vagina with a lubricated Q-tip, then yes, my friends are probably bad cat owners.

I do promise these people have been to the best vets in the city, including something like a feline endocrinologist, and the surgery is simply too invasive and thousands of dollars out of the family's price range. We also don't know anyone with a tom, unfortunately, and they're not interested in owning two cats in their tiny apartment.

My friends are very very sad but also unable to reconcile these suggestions with the necessary measurements, so perhaps Mona would indeed be better served in another home. I appreciate your thoughts and certainly respect your compassion as animal lovers, but this isn't my cat and they've ultimately decided that they will not be taking the Q-tip advice. If it eases your worries, a friend of theirs manages a boutique animal shelter in Gramercy who just volunteered his contacts to find any families with a backyard are looking for a quasi-domesticated cat. We're all going to do our best to give Mona a better home.

Thanks for your advice!
posted by Viola at 4:11 PM on September 29, 2009

Is this cat an indoor/outdoor cat to begin with? Or is this whole put the cat out when she's howling a new plan? If the new owners let her out while she's in "heat", their neighbors will hate them, and rightfully so. Every male cat in the county will park themselves in front of the house for the entire duration of her cycle, every month, piss all over the place and fight each other. Please reconsider this part of the plan, if not for Mona's sake, but for the neighbors.
posted by crankylex at 4:36 PM on September 29, 2009

After, in morbid fascination, skimming the other pet thread today about expressing dogs' anal glands, I wonder if a vet would be willing to relieve the cat's symptoms of heat. (Note the nice neutral terms.)
posted by desuetude at 8:07 PM on September 29, 2009

the cat doesn't "want" or " need" stimulation. She can't help herself is all. the (probably) leftover ovarian tisuue that no one can find is very likely the cause of this behavior. Cats ovulate serially, as in their system starts over every time they ate not mated, and it ocurrs more and more often, till they are always in "heat". Poor kitty. I've had cats and kids in the same house, the kid will be fine and just pet the kitty alot!
posted by bebrave! at 9:35 PM on September 29, 2009

I'd say borrow a tomcat for a few hours.

That said, masturbating a cat is icky, but it's not the end of the world. My male cat when he was too young to be neutered, started humping my sleeve one day. After a minute or two, I noticed what he was up to, thought about it, grimaced, figured I'd be a hypocrite for stopping him given that he didn't have hands, and let him, uh, finish.

Yeah, I felt awkward and didn't enjoy it, and I had to wash cat jizz off my shirt, but the little fuzz-ball sure seemed happy afterward.
posted by orthogonality at 12:33 AM on September 30, 2009

Just as an update: if kitty birth control is okayed by the vet and affordable for the couple, Mona stays; if not, she'll go to the wife's mother's farm in California where she'll have 5 acres.

Just in case someone has a similar dilemma and stumbles on this question: The family took Mona to the Tribeca Animal hospital that night, as suggested, and the vet says that since 99.9% of Mona's ovarian tissue has been removed, the heat she's going into is off-kilter and cannot be relieved by one q-tip insertion. She doesn't have enough ovarian to trigger the relief hormones to end estrus, so she'd need a q-tip every 3-5 hours. The vet, uh, relieved Mona in the office; it was hardly a gentle 30-second insertion, rather a rigorous 20 minute job that required two people and would give someone carpal tunnel syndrome if done 6 times a day. She was fine for a few hours and then went right back to crying and tearing around the house at 3:30 AM.

The tomcat is, frankly, a ludicrous idea to anyone who's ever actually heard two cats screwing. No one wants two unfixed cats around a baby in that small apartment.

I know that Metafilter tends to default to "if you don't do everything within your power to keep the cat you never deserved it in the first place," and maybe that's true, maybe it's not. But I do know my friends aren't going to spend their nights waking up with a baby and servicing their cat every 3 hours. So it's birth control or California at this point.
posted by Viola at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the update, Viola. Sounds like Mona will be okay either way.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:21 AM on October 1, 2009

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