Help my cat retain his sanity!
November 3, 2007 1:55 PM   Subscribe

My FIV+ cat is bored. Help!

Last week we adopted a 3-5 y/o large (16 lb) grey cat, who had previously been living on the streets. He was captured in a spay/neuter operation, and it was discovered that he had a wound on his leg. While being treated for the wound, the vet discovered that the cat is FIV+.

Last week, I asked the hive mind about whether to adopt this cat, and about the health problems associated- we have adopted the cat, and now, he seems to be bored. Much of the time, he is content to snuggle with us or solo on his cat bed, or prowl around the apartment. In the afternoons, however, he gets grumpy. He bites us, so we give him space. And it gradually escalates to the cat bouncing off the walls, launching himself from ladder to fish tank to chair to furiously attack it (or other stationary objects).

I've had cats before and this seems much more than normal play-time. The cat seems frustrated and bored. In between bouts of hyper-activity he will sit staring fixedly at a stationary object. After some time, he will visibly sigh and look away.

I checked out all the cat-play-related posts previously- when he is interested in us, he is more than happy to play with the toys he has strewn about the apartment. He likes his thing-on-a-string-on-a-stick as well as his mice and his raffia-covered-shakey-easter-egg as well as all of our shoes, which he believes are either hats or bomb shelters, depending on his mood.

I'm just not getting what we can do beyond stay out of the destruction zone. Should we try taking him for walks? Would that be safe? Should I get him a cat-sized hamster wheel? Should we ignore the teeth and claws and play with him when he's in this frustrated, angry mood?

We cannot get a second cat. Our landlords (who live across the hall) have decreed it is not an option.
posted by arnicae to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
It's only been a week. Give him time to get used to his surroundings.

Does he have a perch where he can look out the window? My cats will spend HOURS hanging out, looking at birds and bugs.
posted by desjardins at 2:07 PM on November 3, 2007

Have you tried a laser light pointer? I've never met a cat who didn't go crazy for it. That little dot is PREY and much more interesting than anything you could shake or drag along the ground. Plus you can sit on the couch and direct that little dot all around the room so he can run around like crazy.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2007

+1 to the laser. Although I have seen one cat not terribly crazy about it.
posted by kellyblah at 2:11 PM on November 3, 2007

Oh yeah, I forgot about the laser pointer. Definitely +1.
posted by desjardins at 2:20 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: He likes the windows, but only spends a moderate amount of time starting out the window. He seems pretty settled- he's used to us and our habits (he's learned to only start meowing for breakfast at 10 or so after we all go to bed at 3) and seems pretty comfortable with us. . .
posted by arnicae at 2:23 PM on November 3, 2007

I say try walkies, what the hell, worth a shot. I don't see why it would be dangerous (to anyone other than the walker) if he was on a harness. You might want to save the receipt on the harness, though. All the adult cats I've tried to convince to walk on one would only move if dragged. You might could work him up to walking on one. I will need pictures.
posted by thebrokedown at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: staring, not starting d'oh!
posted by arnicae at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2007

Catnip, laser, cat dancer, window bird feeder or Bach Flower Remedies. But yeah, give him a little time.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:37 PM on November 3, 2007

Response by poster: ha! thebrokedown, I tried that with another cat who chewed her harness so effectively, she made it useless within 48 hours (and turned a really neat blue leash, collar, and harness into blue fuzz)
posted by arnicae at 2:38 PM on November 3, 2007

Well done for taking on a cat that not many people would be prepared to give a home to.

A week isn't very long for a cat to settle down to new indoor only surroundings, especially as he's just come off the streets. I think in months as opposed to weeks when taking on a new cat. If he's just been neutered, as a 3 - 5 year old, he'll still have some pretty strong tom cat hormones circulating to add to the mix. If he's been caged at a shelter whilst awaiting rehoming, he's likely to be a little unsure of life right now. Trap/neuter/shelter/rehome can be very traumatic for felines.

To help him relax a bit, get a Feliway diffuser or two set up around the home. Try to get some toys you can hide dry food in, so that he has to work for his food. This will help starve off the boredom.

You are right to ignore him if he bites and give him space. Try to recognise the tiny signals he gives before he becomes grumpy - ears tilting slightly back, whiskers forward. If he's grumpy in the afternoons, leave him alone in the afternoons, some cats have a regular long sleep time. Play with him at other times.

Try instigating some regular play times. +2 to the laser pointer, but make sure he has plenty of toys you can throw about for him too. Get some sisal cat scratching posts and lace them with catnip, put them in place of the items he attacks.

If' he's been a free ranging street tom, he's been pretty used to calling the shots on all his interactions. Wait a little while before training him to a harness, he needs to settle a bit more first. I don't see any problem in taking him out for walks, but make sure you introduce the harness to him slowly.

Grab yourself a book on clicker training felines, he sounds like an ideal candidate and it will provide you with an effective method of putting and end to the biting, because sometimes, just ignoring, doesn't work, but distraction does.

Remember, time is your friend with this one.

Good luck!
posted by Arqa at 2:49 PM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Cat Dancer drives my cat crazy, and she plays with it by herself or with me.
posted by hooray at 2:53 PM on November 3, 2007

Seconding the Comfort Zone suggestion, but note that the scent doesn't fill the whole room. Set one up near his favorite hangout spot.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 4:50 PM on November 3, 2007

Just as an aside: I know this is contentious, but I would recommend not getting a second cat anyway. Yes, there are cases of cats not getting FIV, but a friend is currently going through a pretty heartbreaking situation where all three of her other cats got FIV from one she took in. Very sad and very unpleasant. YMMV.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:50 PM on November 3, 2007

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