Time to separate cats?
May 20, 2008 10:25 AM   Subscribe

CatFilter: After two years of uneasy but peaceful cohabitation, the larger of two cats showed up with scratch-marks on his nose one week, and then an unexplained, gaping hole in his back. Do we need to give one of them up?

My girlfriend has two cats. One is large, declawed at the front, and mostly passive. The second is small, fully-clawed, unpleasant and ornery. They've been together for two years without major incident, though the small one does seem to enjoy tormenting the larger one by arbitrarily chasing him from time to time. They alternate between cuddling together and moments of skirmishing, in a claws-retracted kind of way.

That is, until last week, when the big one emerged with bloody scratch-marks on his nose.

Then, the other day, he turned up with a mysterious gash in his back, between his shoulderblades. It was about the size of a Canadian dollar coin (like a very large quarter) and bloodless, but you could see bright pink flesh. (Doofus that he is, he seemed only mildly irritated by it.)

As I type, the cat is at the vet's, getting sewn up. There's no indication as to whether the wound was inflicted by the other cat, or by catching himself while crawling under a fence or somesuch. (He has access to an outdoor upstairs patio, so there are no other cats on the scene.)

So, does this mean it's time to find him a new home, despite the years of relative peace? Is this the kind of thing that only gets worse? Do cats forgive and forget? The prospect of losing a pet is very difficult, and it's hard to get our bearings. Any thoughts?
posted by bicyclefish to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our little one scratches the bigger one up on a semi regular basis. With our pair it appears to be an even math and they are both clawed. Our response has been to keep their claws reasonably trimmed and watch for abrupt changes in behavior. In general the two "fight" but then can be found cuddling and cleaning each other later in the day.

I'd go through a thorough claw trimming, and keep them low so as to avoid overly aggressive scratching.
posted by iamabot at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2008

That doesn't sound like a cat inflicted injury to me - could there be racoons or other wildlife in the area?
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008

Sounds like there's no reason to expect this was done by a cat, as opposed to a dog, raccoon or opossum (vicious in cat fights), or - as you suggest - a fence or something like that.

Unless the other - the cat with claws - had his fur and blood under the nails, this doesn't sound like cat-on-cat violence to me. bitten ears, scratched nose etc. are more likely from a cat-fight, but in this case I'd expect it all has the same culprit, and I'd be hesitant to ascribe that role to the other cat.

I have a very aggressive outdoor cat who frequently kills many things, but yet - even for his hate of our 2 indoor cats - won't give them more than a tiny nip in even their loudest and meanest fights.

I am not a vet, or an animal behavior expert. But it sounds to me like there may be another culprit.

If it is indeed the other cat, though, there's a liquid (herbal?) additive you can give their water which calms them down and relaxes them and makes them MUCH less aggressive. I think maybe it's a kind of digitalis or something similar. My vet recommended it, although I haven't tried it. I couldn't find the stuff online, but did find other similar products.
posted by luriete at 10:39 AM on May 20, 2008

They alternate between cuddling together and moments of skirmishing, in a claws-retracted kind of way.

That sounds like pretty normal behavior to me. If these cats were fighting to really fight, you would know - serious cat fights are generally marked by very, very loud hissing, meowing, and growling from the two participants. Loud enough, in my experience, to hear down the block. If you haven't heard any sounds like that, then it's likely your cat was scratched up by a fence or perhaps by a wild animal.
posted by muddgirl at 10:47 AM on May 20, 2008

Hmm. The back injury might be cat related if it started with an infected scratch – our cat got an abscess that way and lost a lot of hair around the area. Does it look like it might be angry at all?
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on May 20, 2008

The stuff that luriete is talking about is called Anxiety TFLN. We use it for our old, anxious cat and it works like a charm. She doesn't even get the whole dosage and it works great. You're supposed to give it three times a day but we always forget. She gets it usually once per day and seems great on it.

I agree with muddgirl about how loud a real cat fight is. You'd know it was happening.
posted by cooker girl at 10:51 AM on May 20, 2008

My cat was wounded that way from falling out of a tree.
posted by Pants! at 11:09 AM on May 20, 2008

Mine are siblings and they fight and squabble all day and all night... It shits me to tears.

But scratchES and then a CHUNK OUT OF IT'S BACK THAT REQUIRES STITCHES!! Nope that ain't the little fella. When kitties fight it's all head, legs and bellys. To get chomped on the back like that - the big fella was making a dash for it and didn't bother with any defensive positions. IF the little fella had done it you would have evidence to suggest it. (Such as only one cat!) I don't think it's a cat, it's the wrong M.O... Certainly not your cat at any rate!!

Mine carry on relentlessly, but the worst Loopy has ever looked (from scrappin' with her) was the faint scab of a scratch with a fresh fine line across it on his nose. (I don't know how they do it but they only ever use one claw on each other??)

Loopy got beat up pretty bad one time by... birds. (These were very tough birds apparently.) He looked like he'd been beaten with phonebooks while stuffed in a bag full of knives and rosebushes. His claws were a bit ragged and bloody. So he'd been fighting (but definitely not eating) something? It took a while to figure out what the hell had happened.

I really don't think it was birds in your case though. Something bigger?? Is it possible he can get out? Say if someone parked a van nearby ect. ect.

Out of curiosity though - which cat are you planning to ditch? And why does your kitty have no claws??
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:48 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, back to add that my then-boyfriend's (now husband) parent's cat was attacked by a dog long, long ago and she ended up with a gaping hole just above her shoulder, very similarly sized to the one you've noticed on your cat. I don't think she lost any fur from around the wound, so this one you're dealing with could be an old injury that's gone bad, so to speak.
posted by cooker girl at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2008

outdoor balcony? large cut on the back? maybe a hawk attack?
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:03 PM on May 20, 2008

So I guess it's my job to be the ZOMGWTF guy in the thread, so I'll get to it.

First, this is why you don't declaw cats. Second, I can't fathom that you allow a declawed (even if it's only the front paws) cat outside. Not that claws prevent this sort of thing, but it certainly gives your cat some option other than GAH RUN TEH AWAYZ.

It doesn't sound like kitty number 2 did this, it could have been any number of other cats. Really, if they can be each other since this without RAORWLHISSCATSPRAY, I'd say kitty 2 is in the clear.
posted by TomMelee at 1:04 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cat fights are not necessarily all head, legs and belly - especially if one is trying to dominate the other. I've seen our neighbor cat, who's a big ol' thug, "mount" other cats & hold them down by chomping down on the scruff of the neck. If ornerycat did the same & only got hold of some fur & pulled it out, he could have easily left a hairless pink wound the size of a quarter.
posted by jammy at 3:29 PM on May 20, 2008

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