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Advice for an aggressive new cat?

May 28th, 2008, 04:08 AM
Hi everyone,

I have a young neutered male cat, George, who's very gentle and not dominant. He's lived with other cats before and gets along with everyone. He's on his own now, though, and lonely.

I adopted a year-old spayed female cat a few days ago, as yet unnamed. She was raised in a family home, not feral. She hasn't lived with other cats before but seemed gentle and friendly. Until I got her home.

Right now she's segregated in a separate room with food, litter, etc. I have a Feliway diffuser in the room. Sometimes I can go in and she'll keep to herself, but more often than not she will run straight for me, hissing, growling, and batting at me with her claws. She seems to respond especially badly to hand movements. She'll take treats if I leave them, but if they're too close to me she goes to attack while retrieving them. It's hard to read, because she doesn't flatten her ears or arch her back much, she just runs at me.

I completely expected her to be scared or defensive, go into hiding, not allow contact, hiss, and so on, and I realize the importance of patience and time. But this aggression is scaring me, I'm sleeping on the couch (how embarrassing--but the bedroom is the only room I can close off, I live in an apartment). I've read a lot about cat behavior and aggression, but nothing seems to specifically address a case so extreme as this. I don't know how to use positive vs. negative reinforcement since I can't interact with her in any way. I'm not sure what is best to do. Should I leave her alone? Should I let her attack me, when she tries, or back off (my instinct is to protect myself, of course...)? etc. Never mind eventually introducing the two cats... sigh.

She is so unhappy and I'm just not sure how to best help her. I'd appreciate any advice anyone can offer.

May 28th, 2008, 07:12 AM
She is probably showing fear. Did you visit her in her last home? Why did they put this cat up for adoption?

I have not had experience with a cat with this temperment but I am sure others have and will have some great advice for you.

Good luck!

May 28th, 2008, 12:03 PM
I would think it might be better to ignore her until she feels she can trust you. But, like L4H, I haven't had any experience with an extremely aggressive cat. :fingerscr that she'll come around in the next little while

May 28th, 2008, 12:09 PM
No doubt she's very stressed right now and is directing her fear at you. Her entire world has been turned upside down and she's just trying to sort it all out. My guess is that with time, she should calm down, but there are some things you can do that might speed the process up.

If you can find some some super-yummy treats that she can't resist, like plain meat baby food (no onions) or low-sodium canned salmon, give a tablespoon or so to her while you sit on the other side of the door. Then start opening the door a crack while she eats it. Then actually sit in the room, but on the other side. Talk to her in soothing tones the whole time. Also, leaving something that smells strongly of you (socks, t-shirt) next to her food and bed should help her get accustomed to your smell. If you're worried about her attacking when you enter the room, take a pillow with you to fend off her sharp parts. Don't wave it around or anything, just hold it in front if she comes at you.

Eventually you can try some play therapy to help her relax. There are some good articles on this site that explain cat aggression and some ways to deal with it:

Good luck! Let us know how she does.

Jim Hall
May 28th, 2008, 12:16 PM
you can n try this when you go in the room immediatly sit down and see what happens after a few minutes calmly attend to her food and litterbox if she comes at you hissing stop and turn away

after a few times of this she may get the idea the trick is to stay low on her level and not stare also trr not to have on any kind of scent

i have a cat now that freaks when she smells herbal essence shampoo

She may be associating something that scared her with you, usually a scent
what we do at the cattery is have lavender plants and rub our hands woth that before we go in side

and remeber patince and seafood are the best tools you have

May 28th, 2008, 07:40 PM
Thanks for the advice. I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I've lived with cats for a long time but I guess I've been lucky and never had one lash out quite so much, even scared strays.

Today has been a bit better. I was using a pillow like you suggested, sugarcatmom, and that made me less nervous (which I'm sure wasn't helping her). She is eating and using the litterbox. I sat down with a book for about twenty minutes, on the other side of the room, and she was walking around and eventually walked right over my lap. She scared herself a bit, big bushy racoon tail, and then calmed down again. I stayed perfectly still and pretended to ignore her (even though my heart was racing since her sharp ends were so close). It wasn't at all affectionate--more like I was a piece of the furniture. But definitely a good step. She's retreated again, and I'm preparing myself for setbacks and discouragements as we go, but I'm hopeful.

Thanks very much for the link about play therapy, also.

May 28th, 2008, 08:06 PM
At least she's okay-ish with your scent.:o Good luck with her.

Jim Hall
May 28th, 2008, 09:37 PM
lol what ya reading ? I read to new cats all the time

and yeah cats are like that ignore them and they cant resist wondering why

May 29th, 2008, 08:26 AM
I don't have much to add since you have some great advice here. I agree though, it sounds like she's just very scared and nervous. This is a new world to her and if you look at things from her perspective you'd be scared too. I wish you lots of luck and please keep us updated.