Help needed for an aggressive cat that will be euthanised soon.
January 23, 2011 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I need help to save a troubled cat from being put down.

The cat is my brother's, an 8 or 9-year-old white siamese mix, male. Rescued as a kitten from a bad situation, he's always been a little temperamental, but in the last two months has begun stalking and chasing his ~4-year-old autistic son through their very small apartment and being generally more pissy with everyone else. Vets say declawing would be too traumatic, and no shelters in the area will take him due to the unpredictableness of his aggression.

He has always been an indoor cat, and has shown little interest in going outside, except when it looks like something out there would be fun to chase. Attempts to bring other cats into the apartment to see how he socialises went very poorly, so he can't go to a home with other animals already. He might do well as a farm cat, but I have no idea how to go about doing that, and keeping him at home for months trying to find someone to adopt him is simply no longer an option.

We're in the Portland, OR metro area, and willing to drive or fly the cat long distances to get him a good home, if needed. I'm still waiting on a reply from the Oregon Humane Society to see if they have any ideas, but they and metafilter are the last shots, and if there's no chance of finding him a new home he's going to have to be euthanised here in probably a week or two.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (23 answers total)
In the last four weeks, Stephen Colbert profiled a feral cat colony in Florida -- I later googled it and it seemed pretty cool. I'll try to find the name.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:16 PM on January 23, 2011

If he is clawing, it might be an option to use some Soft Paws to at least buy some time. They're plastic caps that go on the cat's nails, and last a month or so. I've used them on my cat with great success when she was clawing up my roommate's furniture, and most vets can apply them for you.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:16 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not sure if you're looking for a new home for the kitty or for a way to deal with the behavior better...but....

Have the vets been consulted about the behavior problems?

Our female cat was on Elavil for awhile at the vet's recommendation. It made a world of difference in some problem behaviors, after we'd tried a multitude of other things.

I wouldn't suggest meds as the first option, but it sound like you brother's family are at the end of their rope. Many behavior-mod meds that are used in humans have been used with some success in animals -- it might be worth checking out.

Good luck.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:19 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

On the recommendation of my vet, I tried out the Good Behavior Collar from Sentry HC. It's purple and powdery and smells. It's been over a month and now the grumpy siamese has mellowed out. We've gone through two collars already and we need another new one soon because the grumps are coming back some, but it has helped. Is there any way to give this a shot before putting the cat down? If the behavior improves, couldn't he stay? I never thought my siamese's behavior was going to improve, especially when the vet ruled out any illness to explain it. Maybe try the collar and feliway diffuser and spray (neither worked on my grumpy siamese, but some people have success) before sending this poor cat away forever!
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:20 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have vets suggested anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants?

I had a dog get suddenly, unpredictably aggressive at that age. I *think* it was arthritis or a neck injury in combination with an uncertain past that made him think any pain was an attack of some kind. Maybe it'd be worth trying painkillers.
posted by galadriel at 6:24 PM on January 23, 2011

I had great results using Feliway - the plug-in kind. Two diffusers in our 1400 square foot house x 3 months turned our aggressive 8-year-old female into a sweetie. Please try it, and though it isn't cheap, for best results try to ensure you have enough for the square footage of his home.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:24 PM on January 23, 2011

Caboodle Ranch.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:26 PM on January 23, 2011

In the last four weeks, Stephen Colbert profiled a feral cat colony in Florida -- I later googled it and it seemed pretty cool. I'll try to find the name.

The purpose of Florida's feral cat colonies is to centralize and care for existing large populations of free roaming cats, not provide a home for extra ones.
The managed colony and [Trap, Neuter, Release] approach is highly controversial and strongly opposed by many conservationists, wildlife biologists, veterinarians, and animal welfare groups. Proponents of this method argue that it is a more humane and effective way of controlling the exploding homeless pet population than is the “trap and kill” method. Advocates claim that, by reducing the number of unwanted litters being born, the TNR strategy will help stabilize the population of free-roaming cats over time. Supporters also claim that well fed cats will not prey on wildlife, that the territorial behavior of cats living in established colonies will prevent new cats from joining, and thus the number of cats living in managed colonies will stabilize and decrease over time through natural attrition. However, studies have proven that the instinctive hunting and killing behavior in cats is “de-coupled” from their hunger mechanism, so that cats kill impulsively even when they are not hungry. Further, Castillo’s study of two Miami-Dade County cat colonies found that the colonies did not decline in size over time, partly because people continued to illegally dump their unwanted cats, and also because not all the cats were sterilized, thus litters were born.
posted by zamboni at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2011

Sorry, but I don't think your mostly-indoor, temperamental Siamese is going to fit in at a feral colony. First of all, feral colonies tend to establish themselves - that is, naturally sort themselves into a livable hierarchy. The cats already in the colony drive off pretty much all new applicants, unless they are exceptionally tough and/or amiable.

That's why Trap/Neuter/Return operations work - because the existing feral colonies are maintained and kept healthy, and prevent a vacuum (the removal/killing of those cats) from attracting new unvaxed, unneutered strays from crowding in.

Do you have a bulletin board at work, or have you contacted any other rescue societies?
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:48 PM on January 23, 2011

Seconding the Sentry collar, it uses the same pheromones as Feliway. We put one on our grumpy bitchy bossy cat and within minutes she visibly mellowed out and stopped terrorizing the other cats. I call it her Personal Zone of Zen.

You can also try contacting breed-specific rescue groups, many of them are more patient about rehabilitating and appropriately rehoming cats with behavioral issues than the local county-run humane societies tend to be.
posted by jamaro at 6:56 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What logic is being used that a declaw would be too traumatic, but euthanasia would be better for the cat? This seems wonky to me. If your vet is very proactive about pain management, a declaw can be an ethical option. Find a good surgical specialist.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd put up a craigslist ad describing everything you've said here. Stress that the cat should be an only cat in a home without children. Really, it seems to me that there's no reason why this cat shouldn't be fine in another home; a household with a 4-year-old autistic child just doesn't work for all animals.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:05 PM on January 23, 2011

Nickle Pickle is right, but declawing is usually used to prevent destruction of items, not aggressive animals.

Sometimes if you declaw a nasty cat they turn to biting, just a thought. And cats are weird, I have a friend with a cat that he acquired after a similar situation, and said cat is totally fine at his place. I would try a new home before declawing, that will not change the environment.

Try the Feliway, there are also behavior mod drugs your vet can prescribe.
posted by virginia_clemm at 7:23 PM on January 23, 2011
posted by jgirl at 7:53 PM on January 23, 2011

This is an easy one. The Pacific Siamese Rescue will take him. I'm 100% sure that a driver for the Meezer Express (or whatever they call their cat transit program) will be willing to meet you halfway between Portland and wherever their base or their northernmost foster is. One of my own Siamese cats was driven 12 hours over 2 days just so he could be homed with us.

It's possible that they might not be able to take possession of him directly - they might have to work with a shelter. I still wouldn't worry, though - these are the kind of people who know shelter workers by name. You should email them tonight, and call them tomorrow if you don't hear anything.
posted by god hates math at 7:55 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I am not a resident of Oregon and cannot vouch for it, but there is a no-kill cat shelter near you: The Oregon Cat in Lake Oswego. Good luck.
posted by virago at 7:57 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or, on preview, what god hates math and jgirl said!
posted by virago at 7:57 PM on January 23, 2011

Valium for the cat. The vet can prescribe it. I would try that first, before giving up on the cat. I really have no trouble drugging an animal if it makes his life better or saves it. That said, Siamese are an odd breed. I adopted one who was 13. She bit my nose all the time and scared the hell out my my husband. We had her for 8 years. She mellowed out at about 17. I never used a tranquilizer on her, but it was defiantly a viable option.
posted by fifilaru at 8:13 PM on January 23, 2011

Attempts to bring other cats into the apartment to see how he socialises went very poorly, so he can't go to a home with other animals already.

Just because he reacted poorly to another cat in his space doesn't mean he wouldn't get along with that cat elsewhere. Also, it could have been those particular cats that bugged him, not the fact that they were in his house. Please contact a breed-specific rescue!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:17 PM on January 23, 2011

Attempts to bring other cats into the apartment to see how he socialises went very poorly

As opposed to what? I've had cats all my life and I can't think of an instance where bringing another cat into a cat's established territory/house goes well in the short term. Bringing two adult cats togther in one of the cats' homes and expecting them to even tolerate each other right away is foolishness. It takes time. Were these cats over for a couple of weeks or a month? That's the kind of time frame that would be telling.
posted by barc0001 at 12:13 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Why not get him a cage to live in? We found a cat on the side of the road and wasnt sure how he would integrate into our home. So we got him a cage like this that he stays in most of the time then we take him out for a few hours a day so he can run around (supervised). Half of the time he goes back into the cage to lay around. If you feel badly just think of the alternative of him being in a shelter with no one to pet him or being put to sleep.
posted by Busmick at 5:46 AM on January 24, 2011

Definitely try pheromonal options. I thought it was hokey for a long time, but have tried it recently with a cat who got really stressed out from a cross-country move. I went with the collar so the cat would bring the pheromones with him and it's worked out great.

I also used it on a crotchety old siamese mix who used to hiss and bite if anyone but her people were there. Within two days, she got calm enough to be in the same room and even be petted. By the end of the week, she tolerated being put in a lap and petted by someone she formerly attacked.

They're good for about a month, generally.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:01 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would they be willing to give him a pill every day? We had to give one of our cats "kitty prozac" and it was actually not that expensive.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:15 AM on January 24, 2011

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