Non-recognition agression taking unexpected turn

LauraLockwood

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Hello! This is a bit of a long story so bear with me. I have two adult male cats (Nova and Mochi), who are usually very affectionate with each other. They play, groom, and sleep together and are never agressive unless play time gets too rough. For the first few years I would take them to the vet together for check ups, and everything would be normal between them when we got home. Last year Mochi got sick and I took him to the vet alone, which I realized afterwards was a mistake as it resulted in an extreme non-recognition issue. They couldn't be left in the same room with each other or major fighting would break out. I spent months trying to reintroduce them unsuccessfully. I flip flipped rooms every few days, I rubbed them with the same towel, I fed them by the door that separated them, I even put vanilla extract on their fur to mask their scents, but every time I opened the door they'd chase and fight each other until I separated them again. The only thing that eventually worked was installing a screen door INSIDE my apartment so they could see and smell each other without going into a murderous frenzy. Eventually things went back to normal, and have been harmonious for close to a year, but it was a long process, and I vowed to never take them anywhere separately again.

So fast forward to today, when I took them both to the vet together for a check up before getting dental cleanings. They were in side by side carriers and within earshot of each other the whole time, saw the same vet in the same room and spent maybe a maximum of an hour and a half outside of the house. We are now back to square one, and I can't figure out WHY. They are just as agressive as they were a year ago and have to be separated so they won't tear each other apart. It can't be a scent issue because they went through the exact same process together, and it shouldn't be a territorial thing because they were both gone and came back at the same time. Nova is older and seems to be the aggressor. He was also the problem last time, which made sense because Mochi was the one who left and came back (and was also sick so he probably smelled wrong). This time I can only deduce Nova feels territorial even when he's also been out of the house? They will have another vet visit in a couple weeks for bloodwork, and then the actual dental in about a month. I'm hoping for a quicker turn around than I had a year ago, but I may not even try to get them settled until everything's done or we'll just be starting over every few weeks. Has anyone else had this problem?? Everything I read about this form of agression suggests avoiding it by taking them places together but that clearly isn't the issue.

Luckily I never got around to taking the screen door out, so I can try reintroducing them through it again, but is this just going to happen after every vet visit now even if they go together?? Is it possible that once a non-recognition issue comes up it'll happen again with less provocation in the future?
 

di and bob

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Nova is just THAT terrified of vet visits.......I have had to let them out in separate shut rooms after vet visits until everyone calms down. The only thing I can think of is to slightly sedate Noev before the visit so he is not so out of his mind with terror. I get calming aides on Amazon that worked well on my older cat. The vet was very appreciative. You could call your vet and discuss this, he might give you something that he recommends. Benadryl works well too, I get tablets and cut trhem in two. It is usually 1 mg per lb of cat, so a normal 25mg tablet cut in two will treat a 12lb. cat. They can be cut smaller . Any pharmacy will usually have a splitter, most are free. I used that for moving. You can hide the pill wrapped in a tiny piece of bacon or stuck in cheese, tehy are very bitter and can cause foaming, so don't mix them with liquid. Please inform us if you come up with anything better!
 

ArtNJ

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Tranq'ing the cat might work, but given how hard of a time you are having fixing these episodes, I would switch to a home care vet. Or just stop going at all for wellness visits. Because, currently, the visits are negatively impacting wellness. Certainly, the pharma option might be needed at times -- you may not have a home care vet in your area, and they can't do everything in any event.
 

di and bob

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If it is SO stressfull, I agree with the above. When my Burt becxame older, about 14 or so, vet visits stressed him out so bad I just quit taking him, calling the vet if I had problems. He was strictly inside by that time and had an enlarged heart. He lived two more years. Both he and i were happier.......
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi. There have been a couple of other members' who have had similar experiences with long lasting non-recognition issues. One of them suggested some success with using worn, unwashed clothing of YOURS to rub on both of them, so that they smell more like YOU.

Home vet seems like it might be the way you need to go. Once you get them past this most recent incident, and you aren't using a home vet, you might consider getting a larger carrier that both of them can fit into together. Maybe not being separated at all could be your answer?
 

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They will have another vet visit in a couple weeks for bloodwork, and then the actual dental in about a month
As mentioned, dentals can't be done as an at-home procedure. Some at-home vets aren't able to handle the blood draw if they don't have a trained assistant.

You are taking care of an extremely important part of feline health. Since you have an in-between visit before the dental, my suggestion would be to try a calming product as was suggested above, and take them both again if you are able to. There are even calming sprays that you could use on/in the carriers before putting the cats in.
 

Lisannez

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We have two female cats, one is 12, one is 13 and our Ragdoll does this every single time either of them goes to the vet. She is the aggressor. It does not matter if we take them both together or separate. Even if her sister goes solo and comes back she growls, hisses and swats at her. It usually only lasts for about a week, but when her sister had surgery it lasted for almost two months (due to the abnormal smell). It is not constant, and it sounds like yours may be a bit more extreme, but it's bad and more painful for us than it was for our cats. Some cats I have found are just very sensitive to smells and prone to non recognition aggression. The only thing that we found that helps a little bit is to bathe them, yep that's right we give them both baths when either of them go to the vet and we remove all of our own clothes from the vet and shower ourselves, we put them in the washer immediately. Coats, shoes, etc everything we can wash we do and if we cannot wash it we clean it as best as we can to get the smell off. I know it sounds odd but if you can get the clothing off as soon as you enter your house, don't track the vet scent in. Our cats do not like baths but they tolerate them. We have used the wipes, the sprays, the plug ins it actually made matters worse. If there is anything that has gone to the vets wash it, the carrier, blankets in the carrier, etc. If you cannot get the cat to bathe wipe them down as best as you can. It helps, it cuts down on the time that they have the aggression. Often times the cat is not actually smelling the vet on their sibling (we presume they are), they may be smelling it on you or in your house and just directing their aggression towards their cat sibling. That was happening in our house. The other thing is if the vet administers any medications to the non aggressive cat, that could cause problems as the cat smells different, even though we cannot smell it the other cat can and this happens until the meds are out of the cats system.
 

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L LauraLockwood what if you tried brushing your cats' teeth, or using a dental water additive? You might talk to your vet about this, with the explanation that the disruption to the household afterwards is overwhelming. Then you could possibly consider utilizing an at-home vet (in case any of the above suggestions don't do the trick to calm your upset felines). You'll still need something that hopefully works in case you have an emergency vet trip where you have no option but to go in.

I tried an at-home vet since my Poppycat finds going to the vet a terrible experience, and had high hopes. For background, the first carrier Poppy had, which came with him to our house, was a nylon soft-sided type with zippers. The at-home vet brought several nylon bags with zippers in to the house, and things went right downhill from there.
 
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LauraLockwood

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Thank you for all the suggestions! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's experienced this. I agree that home vet visits might eventually be the way to go, though I will probably try some sedatives first since I'd like to know that I could take them somewhere if it was necessary. We will be cleaning and laundering everything today, so hopefully that will help. Nova came from a hoarding situation and has always been more skittish so I'm not surprised he's more reactive to the vet, it's just so weird that it wasn't a problem between the two of them all the years before now.
 

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Over the years I've learned that if one cat has to go to the vet, then they all go to the vet, in the same carrier. Laura, your scenario sounds like a nightmare and I am so sorry that you and your cats are having to go through it again.
 

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Over the years I've learned that if one cat has to go to the vet, then they all go to the vet, in the same carrier. Laura, your scenario sounds like a nightmare and I am so sorry that you and your cats are having to go through it again.
I was considering doing that but how do you get 2 cats in a carrier?
 
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LauraLockwood

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Maggie - agreed, it's hard enough getting one in there, I doubt I could keep the door open long enough to get the other one in without losing them both.
 
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