Please Help With Advice For Luciano's Aggressive Behavior

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
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I'm hoping to get some helpful advice here as per usual. We can't afford a behaviorist visit to the vet right now, which is what it would take to have her answer the questions I emailed her. I'm going to reprint the email below & would appreciate any comments. Thanks in advance.

Luciano is still jumping up & scratching with his front paws & biting, usually on my right thigh, not every day but multiple times/week. The bites don't break the skin, but leave bruises a couple of days later. He does it to my boyfriend as well, last night making four scratch marks that all bled a bit on his leg (he was wearing shorts). He also has made quick bites at him when he's down on the floor doing exercises, which I think I mentioned to you before. It's always too fast to distract him with a treat, so my boyfriend has taken to closing Luciano in the bedroom while he's doing exercises on the floor. Luciano is fine when he's exercising standing up, will even walk between his legs & rub against him. Luciano is usually a little hyper when he comes out of the bedroom after that, but I don't think there's an increase of aggression due to being in there for 20-30 minutes. We usually play with him before he goes in and after he comes out. When he put him in the bedroom the first time, he heard him wailing/moaning but he didn't do that last night. My boyfriend thinks he may use the litter box then out of fear.

I got a clicker and would like to attempt clicker training with him, but first I have to find the reward that he will work for. From the book I read, he seems to fall into the category of attention seeker, yet there are times he does not want any attention. I bought a new kind of treat to see if he loves that enough to work for, but haven't given it to him yet.
A new behavior he started last night with my boyfriend & did this morning with me as well is when we're on the way to the front door, he comes from behind us & does what can only be described as a shove. No claws, no pain, but it feels like a person is shoving you. I think it was on his leg. I'm shorter, so it was on my butt. I know I shouldn't ascribe human emotions to cats, but to me it feels like he's saying 'fine, get out then if you're going!' being annoyed to be left behind. I kind of want to see what it looks like, because it was with some force & I think he'd have to get a running start and launch to produce that. My boyfriend actually thought I had shoved him last night & was stunned when I said it was Luciano.

Finally one last thing that only happened once but still has me puzzled. One morning a couple of weeks ago I noticed a mark on the wall behind the ladder in my bedroom. I got closer and realized it was poop, a small circle about the size of a dime. It seemed very new. I cleaned it up and checked around and there was no other poop anywhere but the litter box. I checked Luciano and his paws, tail, rear were all perfectly clean. I have no idea how the poop got there. The only thing I can think is that maybe it was on the very end of his tail and when he was climbing on the ladder it brushed up against the wall and stuck there. But there were zero streaks of it, very strange.

Luciano's previous owner/rescuer has said she thinks he needs to go back on medication (he was xanax when I first got him in Dec) to stop the biting/scratching aggression. Maybe I should keep a log of when and how it happens to give you a better idea of frequency.
 

margd

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I'm so sorry you haven't gotten a reply before now. embarrassed-smiley04.gif I'm not sure how much help I'm going to be in terms of giving you new ideas because it sounds like you're already doing many of them. Have you looked into calming products like Feliway? I didn't see that mentioned - this does sometimes work wonders with cats

I'm curious - why did you take him off the xanax? Are you trying to go the non-medication route or did it stop working for him? There are other medications that help with the kind of aggression Luciano is showing, such as Prozac or Gabapentin although medication is generally a last resort. I'm not sure Luciano is there yet but the fact that he had to be on medication before does indicate it's worth talking about it to the vet.

The shoving sounds very strange, especially since it appears that Luciano actually runs to get a head start. He's a very intelligent cat, isn't he? It's hard to know why he's doing that but I wonder if it's more of an attention getting behavior than aggression. He's not biting or scratching and he does it when you're leaving. He knows you're going to be gone soon and he's getting some attention before you go. How does Luciano normally try to get your attention? Does he meow? Tap at you with his paw? Rub against you? Knock something over? Stand up and wave his front paws at you (my Chula does this.) There are all sorts of ways cats try to get noticed by their person - I'm just curious to know if Luciano goes from zero to 100 without any smaller steps in-between like most cats.

The poop incident reminds me of a similar mystery that occurred when my now ex-husband and I were sharing a house with another couple who had two Siamese cats. The cats didn't like my husband when we first moved in and showed him by peeing in his shoes. One day I came home and right in the middle of one of our pillows was a totally round smear of cat poop. As in your case, there were no smears, just this perfectly round smear of poop. It was larger than a dime though. In my memory, it was the size of a frisbee but it was probably much, much smaller.

Just a final note, it's not at all surprising that Luciano bites your boyfriend when he's on the floor exercising. Many cats are fascinated when their human gets down on the floor and starts flailing around. Some of it is simple curiosity but while many cats like to join in the fun, others will try to get you to stop. Either way, it's usually a good idea to exercise in a cat-free zone.
 
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ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
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Thanks for replying, margd margd There's been some updates since I wrote that post Tuesday. I did take him to the vet Friday afternoon & he was sedated for his nail trim. The doctor did give me two prescriptions for him; gabapentin capsules to be given 1/2 at each meal & prozac to be given one tablet once a day. Previously he was on prozac and xanax, but when I got him there wasn't much left of his prozac prescription and I did continue with the xanax for a while. The situation he was in with his previous owner was he was in a large cage most of the time and she wanted to keep him relaxed and have him not be a danger to her other cats. Once he was living with me, he seemed less stressed and happy to be given run of the apartment on his own. Maybe I was over hasty taking him off drugs. I did taper him off the xanax.

It was quite difficult getting him into the carrier to go to the vet. The catnip in there didn't help. His new mouse toy lured him in briefly but he got out again before I could finish zipping it up. Finally I tricked him into a pillow case and put that in the carrier. Don't know if he'll fall for that again, but it worked Friday. I made the mistake of opening the carrier before we left the vet and he jumped out in the waiting area. Fortunately the dogs who were there earlier were gone. The tech tried to get him back in but he was making ungodly noises and hissing so he went to get the gloves and put him in wearing super heavy gloves. Since he's been back Friday afternoon, he hasn't quite been himself. He still managed to bite my boyfriend this evening when he was coming in a second after rubbing against him as a greeting. Don't know what was up with that.

He is intelligent. He normally does meow and swot things off surfaces to get my attention. However he doesn't do either of those things before scratching or biting. It really does seem to come out of nowhere. Aside from the one bite this evening to my boyfriend he hasn't done any of that, but he hasn't been purring or expressed a lot of affection either. He's mostly been lying around and sleeping. He did have a nice play session with my boyfriend just now & it's his feeding time again.
 
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ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
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After a few days giving meds, he's definitely a more chilled out cat, although some of that could have to do with the heat/humidity we've had lately. He hasn't bitten or scratched me since re-starting the meds. He did try to scratch me once, but he's not as quick and I was able to block him by pulling the fabric of my dress away from my body. Unlike previous times when a thwarted attempt would result in him trying again and again until he hits flesh, he gave up after that. In some ways this makes me a bit sad in that he's not his boisterous self, but maybe all the scratches on my skin will heal & the bruises will fade.

I have heard him purring a bit and he's started to meow again. Usually that's when I wake up or when I come home from being out all day, aka when his medication is about to be administered again. He used to run to his bowl & eat most of the wet food right away when I put it down. Now he's in no hurry but it's always gone by the time he gets his next feeding. I wonder if he's made the connection & doesn't start eating until I leave so he can be more alert for our play time.

There is scaffolding outside my apartment windows & this morning the men were working out there. His ears moved back every time there was banging & construction sounds out there. I don't think he likes all that activity. If a bird makes it into the scaffolding through the mesh on the outside as has happened a couple of times in the past & he doesn't lunge for the window, I'll know the medicine should be adjusted down a bit.
 
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