One of the great things about the cat behavior community is that other behaviorists are often happy to support each other through promotion, and sometimes, through the referral of clients. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Sally and her kitty, Louis, through The Contented Cat, an awesome behaviorist who specializes in animal reiki. Louis is a handsome 6-year-old and was raised by Sally’s daughters, who got him when he was a kitten. Up until a couple of years ago, Louis was friendly to everyone – he’d never met a stranger, and was affectionate and gentle with anyone who crossed his path.
All of that changed about two years ago, when Sally and her family were making a cross-country move and stopped over to help a friend renovate a home. There were several hunting dogs on the property, kept outside. Over a couple of weeks they slowly started seeing changes in Louis, who was becoming a bit more skittish and defensive. One day, after Sally had left the home, Sally’s husband came into the living room and saw one of the neighbors reaching through a sliding glass door trying to grab Louis! Sally is certain that Louis had been grabbed one or more times and been abused by the neighbors, and possibly been forced to interact with the dogs on the property. Needless to say, Sally and her family didn’t stay long at the house, and moved on to their current home.
Since then, Louis has been exhibiting fear aggression to everyone except for Sally and her husband, who are his primary caretakers. He even lashes out at the daughters who raised him! He hisses and growls, and will strike out at feet and ankles when people pass by. Fortunately, he hasn’t caused any real injuries, but Sally and her family are afraid that his behavior could get worse and he’ll end up endangering others, as well as himself.
I’m currently working with Sally to help Louis overcome the effects of his ordeal, which has caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (yes, it’s possible for cats to have PTSD!). Along with a few other suggestions, Sally is helping Louis to re-associate people who come into their home with good things – in this case, treats! Fortunately, Louis likes treats, and Sally reports that he enjoys receiving treats from people who walk in to visit. That’s a good start! Sally is also going to get Louis his own place to perch in the living room, where he can watch the goings-on from a safe vantage point, and where he won’t be scared by feet and legs moving quickly by.
It’s great working with people like Sally who 1) care deeply about their furry family members, and 2) are willing to try new things to improve a situation, even though it often takes time for change, and new habits and associations to form. And, it’s nice to know that Sally’s visitors are supporting her by being willing to (safely!) give Louis treats, even though he has an intimidating reputation! I’ll keep you updated on Louis’ progress, but so far, so good!
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