I am writing because I have a cat that, even though she is fine with me, most of the time, I have found her to be incorrigible. Her name is Mustafa. I want to try to find a new home for her because I don’t want her to be put down.
I’ve had her since she was 6 weeks and I have never been abusive or neglectful of her, and she has always had oral fixations with licking and biting. She has bitten more than one of my friends (not playful bites), and becomes “pet cemetery” angry with certain triggers (other cats or animals larger than her) and attacks anyone, including myself. By grabbing her scruff and holding her down, I am able to control her when she gets out of hand. In addition, she is incredibly vocal and will, literally scream, for long stretches, wanting to go outside or have attention. I often use a spray bottle, but it does not always make a difference. She is also a polydactyl, which means that she has a extra toes on her paws. She is incredibly cute.
I’ve determined that I need to either let her go to someone else, or allow her to be put down, which would make me very sad. I don’t know what would be for the best considering my decision to let her go. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have another cat who can find love in their heart for mine?
First of all, I sympathize–just a little bit–with this owner. It sucks when someone who is unequipped to handle aggression winds up with an animal prone to that behavior.
However, all three authors of this blog are pet lovers who have either currently or in the past operated a business that involves addressing behavior problems, including aggression. You know what a good owner does when they realize that the status quo is unsustainable and they can’t fix their animal? They call someone who can–an Animal Behaviorist, veterinary behaviorist, or a highly recommended trainer specializing in the behavior that animal is exhibiting. Then they spend the money and time it takes to fix the problem.
Let’s play long-distance diagnostician. This cat…
- Was separated from its litter at six weeks of age–much too early for an ideal grounding in appropriate cat behavior toward either humans or other cats. Never adopt a cat or dog under eight weeks of age. Nine weeks is better. They need to tussle with their siblings and discover bite inhibition.
- Has an oral fixation, indicating early weaning, possibly even before six weeks.
- Has been repeatedly scruffed (painful and dangerous for an adult cat) and held down when already displaying severely reactive behaviors. Inflicting pain on a reactive animal makes it more reactive, not less.
- Gets water squirted at her when she vocalizes. Using aversives to address a pet’s vocalization is likely to make the problem worse and make the pet more prone to anxiety and, yes, aggression. Additionally, persistent yowling often indicates an underlying health problem in cats.
- Has not been evaluated by a qualified professional prior to her owners decision to either get rid of her or have her killed.
- Has probably not seen a veterinarian to rule out any of the dozens of health problems that can cause aggression.
I could go on, but you get the picture. This “incorrigible” cat is suffering from a blame-deflecting, defeatist owner who refuses to acknowledge his or her own role in the cat’s behavioral problems.
Here’s a tip: If you have an animal from weaning throughout its life and it develops a serious behavioral problem, nine times out of ten the underlying problem is either a medical condition or you. There’s no shame in having been an uneducated owner, if you take the correct steps to help your pet when a behavior problem appears. There is, on the other hand, a great deal of shame in assuming that a pet you’ve had since the age of six weeks is just “made wrong” and failing to even summon professional help before pawning it off on someone else or putting it to sleep.
“Cantankerous” and “incorrigible” are cute words, but they don’t describe this cat. “Suffering” and “from the owner’s incompetence” do.