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Sudden extreme behavior change in cat

September 23rd, 2005, 01:27 AM
Hi. I started another post but then it disappeared. Sorry if it appears - it was not complete.

We have a 4 year old cat who had a sudden, extreme behavior change last week. Last Friday I noticed she was spooked by something and found her hiding under my desk (unusual). I didn't think much of it, but she continued to be scared the rest of the evening. Thought she would be over it by morning.
The next morning she did not come wake me to eat (very unusual). I found her hiding underneath a guest bed. When I coaxed her out she was very scared and nervous. I took her to her normal feeding spot and she was visibly scared and shaking, looked up and all around, then went to hide behind the bathroom toilet.
This concerned me greatly as she demands her food and is upset if I am late feeding her in the slightest. Could not get in to my normal vet (Saturday) and so I took her to a walk-in clinic that was able to see me the same day. Luckily they had a lab onsite so was probably better anyway as my vet would have had to send bloodwork to the lab and wait for results.
Tests for feline leukemia and aids were negative. Liver, kidney, thyroid, etc. all in the normal range.
The only thing was her white blood count was low (4.2). She did have a sore on the side of her mouth that I just noticed that Friday morning. Near the corner of her mouth, kind of crusty, but didn't seem to bother her.
So they sent me home with antibiotics which I have been giving her twice a day. The vet said I should see an improvement in about 48-72 hours.
It has now been 5 days and I have seen little if any improvement.
I put all her "needs" in our large walk-in closet (water, food, litter box) and she seems very comfortable there. She has not come out since bringing her home from the vet last Saturday.

Some other background that might be useful:
She was a feral cat we found while living in the country. She had one litter that we know of. When we started taming her and took her to the vet we tested for aids and leukemia at that time and she was negative. Once we brought her inside she was now a 100% indoor cat.
About 8 months ago while still living in the country we came across a stray cat, very friendly. We put it in our shed and fed it until I could bring it to the vet. She tested negative for leukemia and aids, and had put on an incredible amount of weight in the few days we had fed her. The vet who examined her said she was pregnant. So we scheduled a spay for a few days later. When they started the operation, they gave me a call because she was not pregnant after all, but was filled with yellowish fluid. They saved some for testing. Long story short, they believe she had the wet form of FIP. I include this because the few days between the "all okay" from the vet and her surgery, she did have some exposure to our cat. They did not share food/water/boxes. They did sniff eachother underneath the door. Our cat did go to places the new cat had been after the new cat left.

We moved about 5 months ago and our cat was scared at first, but only took about 3-5 days to adjust to the new surroundings. We babysat a puppy for friends for about two weeks over a month ago, and there was little behavior change for that.

This behavior change is very out of character for our cat. She seems almost psychotic in her reactions and is terrified of anything on the ceiling - lights, ceiling fans, etc. She will look up, eyes get wide, then look away for someplace to hide.

Okay, finally my question :-)
Can an infection cause behavior changes like this?
I was told there are no definitive tests for FIP. Is it possible our cat is developing FIP? Can this cause behavior changes?
Can this sore on her mouth be the source of infection? Or could it possibly be only a symptom of something more severe?
Could she have had a seizure? Stroke? Aneurism? (sp?)

I want the vet to check her white blood cell count when I go back on Saturday. Is there anything else I should have him test for? Should we have a cat scan (no pun intended) done? Ultrasound?

Could this infection/illness have triggered her natural skittish instincts again and she will possibly need medication to overcome this new behavior?

Sorry this is so lengthy. Thank you so much for just taking the time to read and any suggestions you can offer. I'm sorry I cannot offer help to anyone else as I am just clueless myself.

Thank you,

Lucky Rescue
September 23rd, 2005, 10:04 AM
HI and welcome.

This is very puzzling. Do the vets have any idea what could be causing the white blood cell thing?

The sore on her mouth could be a clue. It sounds like something frightened or hurt her and yes, since she was a feral cat, she could have regressed after whatever happened to her.

Is there any chance she could have bitten something that hurt her, like a loose electrical wire or anything at all like that? Try going around your place on hands and knees to see if there is anything harmful she could have gotten into.

I suggest leaving her where she is for now, as you are doing. She'll need to get over this in her own time and should not forced to come out. When you have time, just sit in the room and talk softly to her. Try giving her Rescue Remedy to calm her down, and catnip if she enjoys it.

I have an ex feral cat who is easily spooked too, to the point of having a convulsion when I slammed a window!

I can think of no illness (FIP, FiV or whatever) that would cause your cat's behavior.

September 23rd, 2005, 01:45 PM
Thanks for your reply. I am just very concerned this is a symptom of a much larger problem that we are unaware of.

I can't think of anything she would have been injured by or gotten into. At first I was thinking of some kind of poison or toxic substance that she ate, but there is nothing. The only other thing is if she was bitten by a black widow spider. We have killed about 30 since we moved here.

She seems mostly okay in the closet. She plays, purrs, etc. Every once in awhile she'll look out the door or look up and start to get scared, but then I distract her and she's okay again.

I don't know what Rescue Remedy is. (I'm not officially involved in rescue or anything - just see someone that needs help and do my best).

I guess hubby has a different idea of how we should handle - he just came in and told me she's under the bed again. How did she get there? He took her out of the closet and put her on the cat tree - one of her favorite places to look outside. He petted her there for several minutes he said and she seemed okay, but as soon as he left she went under the bed. So I'm going to get her out...

Thanks for your help,

Lucky Rescue
September 23rd, 2005, 02:06 PM
Forcing her out of her "safe place" is going to reinforce her fear that she is not safe, so I wouldn't do that.

Rescue Remedy is available in most health stores and some grocery stores that have natural products for sale.

It really does work to calm animals (and people!) and takes the edge off.

Rescue Remedy (

September 23rd, 2005, 10:18 PM
Rescue Remedy is one of the Bach Flower Essences. You could also look into trying two others in the series, Mimulus and Aspen( they are more fear-specific). Use both of them but not at the same time. Alternate. 3-5 drops of each as needed. Maybe put the drops on a little bit of canned food. It's safe to use because it's non-toxic.

September 23rd, 2005, 11:58 PM
I'll go by the health food store tomorrow and get some of these products. I just spent about an hour with her in the closet, brushing/petting/calming. She is actually very playful in her safe place. I was touching some of her sensitive spots and she disciplined me more than usual (swat, then bite hard). The back of her legs have always been sensitive, but I was also looking at her back feet. I thought I saw a crack on one of her pads so I went to investigate. She was very upset with that. I think it was just dry skin, not a crack.

Also while we were in there a spider walked across the carpet - a very scary looking one. Maybe she wasn't bitten by a spider but what if she ate one? The other unusual thing is when I came in she was investigating something with her mouth - not sure if she was eating it or not. Looked closely and it was a piece of clumped litter with a little feces and probably urine. I switched her litter about a month ago from the crystals to a natural variety - made out of corn I think. It's clumping and it can be flushed which was my main reason for getting it since we kept her box next to the toilet. I'm wondering if this new litter could be having any effect. Hubby doesn't think so as she's been fine with it for several weeks but I'm not ruling out anything at this point. Maybe it had a cumulative effect.

She's doing very well in her safe environment tonight but was quite upset earlier being taken out. Unfortunately any progress we made tonight will be set back tomorrow as she gets a ride to the vet tomorrow. But maybe these other remedies will help relax her mind too.

Thanks for the advice,


September 26th, 2005, 11:02 AM
Hi. Just thought I'd give a quick update.
We made progress Friday night. She followed me out of the closet about two feet, but then went right back. Unfortunately, as I suspected we took giant leaps backward on Saturday when we went to the vet.

They did another test - her white blood count had went up but was still below the start of normal range. Her platlets had also went up quite a bit - didn't realize they were low last time. He didn't think she needed another round of antibiotics though. Told him of almost no improvement the entire week in terms of her behavior. He took a good look at her eyes - didn't see anything that would suggest an aneurism. Said we would see definite signs of a stroke. But that it could possibly be a tumor.

He suggested I try a pheramone (sp?) spray. The next step would be antihistamine, then psychotic drugs if nothing improved. I bought the spray and started using it Saturday.

I went to the health food store yesterday - long story short no one ever opened the store and I was one of many waiting outside for awhile. So I came home with no rescue remedy. I only have a short window today but hopefully I can make it, and they actually be open...

Saturday night she came out of the closet on her own but went straight to under the guest bed. I let her stay. I don't believe she came out all night as Sunday she was still under the bed. Had to coax her out, took her back to the closet to eat. She was terrified of the ceiling fans in every room on the walk back. Sunday night she again came out of the closet very late and again went under the guest bed. Again I let her stay. This morning she was on top of the bed laying with our dog. She followed me back to the closet on her own to eat. After eating she walked back to the guest room and is laying on top of the bed.

So very good signs. Not 100% yet but looks like she is well on her way to recovery. I do wish I had an idea of what happened to her. The vet said there could be so many reasons for the white blood cell count - may or may not be related to the sore on her mouth.

I'm still going to get the rescue remedy to help her progress more. I'm not sure if her improvement is just natural or if the pheramone spray is contributing to her improvement.

Thanks for all the advice and support. It is greatly appreciated!


Lucky Rescue
September 26th, 2005, 11:21 AM
Oh good - it sounds like there are definite improvements!

This might be something that only time can take care of, and there's no hurry. Let her take all the time she needs.

Just act casual and calm with her, don't hover, stare or try too hard to encourage or urge her to come out. Leave a radio playing close by. I assume the pheramone spray is "Feliway"? Many people report success using this.

Catnip, if she favours it, can also help to relax her.

I would wait and see how she comes along by herself before trying any drugs with her. With cats, the fewer drugs the better.