Second in a series
Aggression is never acceptable, especially toward the frail and vulnerable. The science of animal behavior would be central to “Cougar’s” treatment but the elderly lady on the receiving end of his assaults struggled with conflicting emotions that were every bit as important.
Cougar had always been a loving kitty toward Mary Beth – until they moved into an assisted living apartment. Now, rather than just a fish out of water, this pussy cat was a predator in desperate need of a rodent.
Cats are popular pets because they seem easier to manage than dogs, chimpanzees, or rattlesnakes. You can leave out food, water, and litter and enjoy that indoor cuddle bunny at your convenience. Actually, a stuffed kitty would work better. Real live cats become stressed and badly behaved in a barren environment. Cougar made it easy for Mary Beth back when his outdoor access allowed him to hunt and pounce on small active creatures. Now, incarcerated and frustrated, he pounced on a bigger, somewhat active creature. Mary Beth had become Cougar’s mouse.
As I sat down with her, and began sipping the hot tea she graciously offered, I could feel her tension. I glanced up while opening my laptop and noticed her eyes moist and red. I’d seen this before – fear of a bad prognosis. Would I tell her it was hopeless and to part company with her cherished companion? Punishment? Her family had already argued for harsh solutions.
My understanding of the when, where, and why of Cougar’s aggression would be essential but Mary Beth wasn’t ready. So I asked her to just tell me about her cat. What funny things did he do? What was their shared life like before they moved? Her children were grown and her had husband passed on; it was only the two of them now. She couldn’t bear living without her cat but his hostility was scaring her. Yelling and swatting had only agitated Cougar more.
Next week: How can you live with a dangerous animal? Tooth extractions? Water sprays? Bite him back?
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
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 drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.