Cat Attack


First in a series
The soft female voice on the phone told a poignant story. She wasn’t calling about her own pet but for her 83 year old mother and her cat. “Cougar”, age 10, was inflicting wounds on the person who loved and cared for him. Emotional conflicts like this always affect me. Good relationships that take a bad turn can break hearts.

Cougar hadn’t always been a biter but now he was causing Mary Beth pain and putting her at risk of serious infection. When she adopted him as a kitten they had a yard where Cougar engaged his predatory nature by stalking and pouncing on bugs and lizards who’d shown the audacity to venture into his territory. With his mind stimulated by his environment and his energy invested in chasing helpless creatures Cougar ended each day, beer in hand, snuggling with Mary Beth as she quietly cussed at the evening news. Life was good.

Then change happened. And cats, most of them anyway, really hate change. Mary Beth and her adult children decided the time had come for her to sell her house and move to a really nice assisted living home. She and Cougar now shared a well-appointed studio apartment. Mary Beth had social activities, meals with her new friends, and a view of the mountains. Cougar was stuck in 850 square feet, sans prey. Well, there was one warm body moving about his lair.

In order to help Mary Beth with Cougar I needed to gather every detail of his feline life I could get my paws on, so I made a home visit. Mary Beth is a lovely woman; I just wish people wouldn’t name their pets after big dangerous beasts. It’s caused me to believe in self-fulfilling prophesies. It made my palms sweat.

When this sweet lady invited me into her apartment, there was Cougar, gazing out the window from a 4 foot tall cat tree. This might have been an acceptable life for an elderly iguana but this haunted hunter’s posture told a different story. Positioned like a sphinx he was a coiled spring in search of an unsuspecting mark.

Next week: Risk vs. punishment.

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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.