A Safe Haven Before Visitors Arrive

Question:
My cat Haley is 10 years old. When I have visitors she will attack them even when they are sleeping. She has attacked 2 babysitters. After 2 years she finally is ok with the current sitter. Yesterday my 16 year old had a friend over. The death growl started and she looked like she was going to launch through the air. She went under my bed then enters the 3 year old who said “It’s ok Haley”. Haley immediately stopped growling and rubbed him.

Dr. Nichol:
Haley’s aggression is partly territorial. Strangers look different and, more important, they smell different.  Our cats have a sense of smell that’s about 1000 times as acute as ours. They can sniff out an alien in the next county.

The reactive nature of Haley’s hostility, along with her hiding and obvious relief when a family member appears, indicate that her behavior is also fear-related. Visitors represent change and that can be mighty scary to an old feline fuddy duddy. Just like the sweet pussy cats who become land sharks in the veterinary clinic, change of any kind causes some of them to panic. If that @!#&% stranger would just leave, Haley could relax and return to the hum drum reliable of the life she has grown accustomed to. Your girl needs a safe haven.

There could be other factors. A 10 year old cat may have chronic joint or dental pain that would have her feeling rather cranky in the best of circumstances. Elevated thyroid hormone levels (hyperthyroidism) or liver or kidney disorders are unhealthy influences on the behavior of many older kitties.  It’s also possible that cats or other creatures skulking in the yard may have Haley feeling a bit edgy.

Your cat wants a comprehensive immigration policy-with no amnesty, darn it! But hey-your home welcomes diversity. I advise giving the old biddy a break. Prior to the arrival of visitors put Haley in a secure room with a snug place to hide. A special feline food toy stuffed with something fishy would keep her happy and occupied. Most important, don’t allow self-proclaimed “cat people” to approach her so they can work their magic. Cat bite wounds can get dangerously infected. And just in case, keep Haley’s rabies vaccine current.