Sudden Cat Aggression & Resulting Nervous Breakdown

WitsEnd123

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Hi everyone,

As my username probably indicates, I'm pretty much at my wit's end with my boyfriend's cat, Tucker. He's a neutered 6 year old. I rescued him when he was around 7 months old. He was always the most outgoing, friendly, adorable lil guy around...

Well, everything was honky dory until around 3 years ago when my spayed cat, Mollie (who's now 7), and I moved in with Tucker and the bf. Tucker did not take it well AT. ALL. The formerly congenial social butterfly was suddenly a growling, snarling beast. We messed up by not introducing them properly and that was our own fault and poor Tucker developed two bouts of urine crystals from it, pretty much relegating him to a lifetime of special prescription food.

Tucker and Mollie eventually learned to tolerate each other. Most of the time they ignore one another. Sometimes he'll chase her around aggressively and she'll hiss and swat at him, the odd time I've seen them engage in play...But usually it's a cold war of sorts.

Tucker and I have always gotten on well. He never hissed or acted aggressively towards me at all, except once years ago during his first crystals episode. But since that one time, years ago, he's always been calm and friendly.

Well, all that changed about a month or so ago. It started innocuously enough, we were all in the living room, the TV was on (Mod Fam) and there was a cat in the ep meowing. I didn't think anything of it but I saw Tucker and his face scared me. He was tense and serious and eyeballing me hard. He then lunged at me. We quickly put him in the bedroom to cool down and didn't think anything of it. After a couple hours we let him out and he was fine again and life went on as normal.

Fast forward a couple weeks and I'm in the living room. The bf's at work and sends me some viral cat video of some poor real estate agent being stalked by a cat. I have it on for only a few seconds before thinking to shut it off, remembering what happened last time. Well, lo and behold, when I put my phone down, who's right in front of me but Tucker. His gaze is set on me, looking to lunge and attack me once again. He ends up chasing me around the apartment. My arm gets all scratched up. I hide in the bathroom for a half hour or so, him eagerly sitting right outside waiting for me. With the help of a towel, I manage to get him into a bedroom. From behind the door I can hear him growling like he wants to tear me apart limb from limb. For the rest of the night until my bf gets home from work, he scratches at the door to get out. The bf gets home and lets him out. He's not as mad as before, but still seems restless, tense, especially around me. I try to be calm but my nerves are shot.

Anyway, after that I try to leave him alone. I never look him directly in the eye and I try not to run away and engage "hunt mode." I bought a Feliway diffuser and some "calming" drops. Around my boyfriend he's the same old sweet boy as before. He doesn't even seem to be all that bothered by Mollie. Only me. He'll corner me in rooms, staring me down, block me from exiting. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells and the slightest thing could set him off. But I prayed that the Feliway and drops and just time itself would help. Then yesterday happened.

We were in the living room. He seemed tense and restless again so I grabbed one of his fave toys to try and distract him. It has a long handle with a long narrow piece of fabric and a bright orange ball. He loves this toy and I've played with it with him dozens of times without any issue. This time he stopped looking at the toy and set his eyes right on me, the ominous look again. He stalked and attacked me again and once again we isolated him into the bedroom.

We had to stay separated for the remainder of the day/night because if he even got a quick glance at me he would start meowing this violent, low, guttural meow and stalk me. We took him to the vet first thing in the morning and they said nothing is physically wrong and recommended Prozac.

Today we bought an extra large dog crate and have him in there with some food, water, toys, litter etc. He was given his first dose (10mg) of Fluoxetine a few hours ago. He's not growling or exhibiting any typical aggressive behavior right now but I am scared out of my mind still. I haven't slept in over 24 hours and am a bundle of nerves. I don't trust him anymore and I don't even know if I trust any cat or animal anymore. My boyfriend tries to be comforting but I don't think he really grasps how frightening it is to have an 18 lb cat stalk you around, biting, scratching, drawing blood. I've been scratched by cats before, hissed at, even bitten, but never to this magnitude where I really fear for my life.

It's like a switch goes off and the look he gets in his eyes is like he wants to kill me. I work from home and so I'm pretty much in constant fear 24/7 these past few weeks.

The vet said that the cat knows he has the upper hand now and that he's the alpha. I know that my anxiety is not helping but I don't know how to assuage it.

I know this was super long and I probably seem way too emotional and maybe overreacting but I could really use some advice. Will Prozac really help? How can I learn to trust him again? How should I respond if/when he gets that crazed look again and is out for blood. Really, I appreciate any words of support or help, because, if it wasn't for Mollie, I probably would've fled the apartment yesterday and not return ever again.
 

foxxycat

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can you have short play sessions with him without the other cat around? Also feed him treats...food and play time are a good way to fix the broken relationship...also maybe keeping the cats seperated for a few days with no eye contact may be needed to help him calm down...I currently have 2 cats who are not allowed any eye contact right now-because the new kitty gets aggressive...I have started playing with new cat longer sessions to wear her out-it's helping...

Do you have a long stick with a piece of rawhide shoe string attached to it? Then he can chew it and snap at it without it breaking..I like wand toys but my girls kill them so fast so I usually make my own with ducttape lol.


I poked around on etsy and found this=I had bought 2 wand toys that were handmade at the local catfancy cat show=the best 8 bucks I ever spent-those are the best built ones=forgot about these till I was lookign at etsy=gonna poke around and see if I can find one similiar to the one I have=it has beads then a feather thingy that is connected with this small connector like we use on the end of fishing pole=leader line--they haven't been able to break them yet-haven't found anything like this in the big box stores....

Telescoping cat wand toy cat wand teaser with Squid attachment

found this one=
The Luxuscats Crown Cat Toy Box | Cat toy pack | Choose Your favorite color | 4 Toys

has the wand toy made out of the steel wire so it can't break.
 
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WitsEnd123

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can you have short play sessions with him without the other cat around? Also feed him treats...food and play time are a good way to fix the broken relationship...also maybe keeping the cats seperated for a few days with no eye contact may be needed to help him calm down...I currently have 2 cats who are not allowed any eye contact right now-because the new kitty gets aggressive...I have started playing with new cat longer sessions to wear her out-it's helping...
I can try that. I attempted to give him a couple treats a few minutes ago but he hasn't touched them. His crate is in the living room and I've been here with him for about 5 hours, trying to gain my confidence with him back. I notice he is breathing rather fast when I go near him and hasn't touched much of his food or used the litter box.

I didn't think to separate the two cats but if you think that will make a difference I'll certainly try it.

Do you have a long stick with a piece of rawhide shoe string attached to it? Then he can chew it and snap at it without it breaking..I like wand toys but my girls kill them so fast so I usually make my own with ducttape lol.


I poked around on etsy and found this=I had bought 2 wand toys that were handmade at the local catfancy cat show=the best 8 bucks I ever spent-those are the best built ones=forgot about these till I was lookign at etsy=gonna poke around and see if I can find one similiar to the one I have=it has beads then a feather thingy that is connected with this small connector like we use on the end of fishing pole=leader line--they haven't been able to break them yet-haven't found anything like this in the big box stores....

Telescoping cat wand toy cat wand teaser with Squid attachment

found this one=
The Luxuscats Crown Cat Toy Box | Cat toy pack | Choose Your favorite color | 4 Toys

has the wand toy made out of the steel wire so it can't break.
He does love wand toys. The one he got from the vet he really loved, but it seemed to "trigger" him yesterday. I brought it over just now with the treats but he doesn't seem to be interested in either at the moment. He's just kind of nervously looking around, ears and eyes going a mile a minute.
 

Mamanyt1953

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And do remember that the Prozac may well do the trick! But it will take a few days to get to real theraputic levels in his body. I think that the problem is that he associates you with bringing Mollie into his home, so when he hears a strange cat noise, he's right back there again. A form of PTSD for him, and yes, cats do get PTSD. Unfortunately, you seem to be getting it yourself!
 

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You should try hissing at him when he gets aggressive, I had to start scruffing my Joey as he was aggressive and biting.
It has worked, You can't let him get away with it 1 time or it's like starting over, he needs to know he is not the boss of you.
doing all this in a gentle manner not in anger is key tho, you don't want him to be scared of you.
and fyi: I had Joey on prozac for awhile and it did not work as he was not anxious but aggressive, just in case the prozac doesn't work.
Joey is on CBD now and it seems to be working well, the hissing/scruffing and CBD combined and Joey is definitely a different cat.

In my case saying OW! in a voice like I was hurt seemed to work too, I can now tell Joey doesn't like it when I'm hurt, he didn't realize he was hurting me I think.

It takes awhile to get the hissing/scruffing (if you choose to do it) to be a smooth response.
it has to be as soon as he is aggressive, you can't wait or it's too late.
This will take some work but it's totally doable.

I didn't say how to scruff: you gently grab the back of the neck just for a few seconds, you can lift the front legs off the ground just a bit but that's it not all 4 legs and remember not in anger, you can hiss at the same time too.

This is what the mother would do to teach the kittens
 

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Both you and Tucker sound so scared. If you take over all of his care. Food, litter, treats, play. Get him used to the idea that all wonderful things come from you. Hopefully this will also build your confidence with him.

Keep telling yourself "he's still the sweet boy just very scared not angry" he needs you to let him know everything is safe.
 

1 bruce 1

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I wouldn't say a cat that's randomly stalking someone and attacking is "alpha" at all. He sounds more like a bundle of nerves and now, since you're afraid, you're running off one another's state of mind, and that's a bad place to be but it can be helped.

For now, I would insist this cat is crated when your boyfriend is not around for your own safety and his. If he's crated he can't harm you. If the crate is wire, this is good because you can play with him through the gates, drop treats and little bites of food into his bowl, and be the "good guy" without the fear of being hurt. If he does get growling and goes into that stalking mode, you know he can't get you, so you can relax and say to him "you're alright, buddy" and just calmly walk away. When your fear goes away, or you can at least relax a little around him, I think he'll relax too. Give him several heavy lidded blinks with your eyes, then look away. That's the top way to tell a cat you love them and are no harm. Most cats respond immediately, and with time, almost all cats respond eventually by returning that blink with a soft expression.
The previous problem with urinary problems after you moved in tells me he does have some nervous ways, too.
Our cats hate those videos of angry cats. It alarms them, and sometimes Baby Girl will go after the nearest cat she sees.
 
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WitsEnd123

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Oh, wow, ok, reading and taking in everything...

And do remember that the Prozac may well do the trick! But it will take a few days to get to real theraputic levels in his body. I think that the problem is that he associates you with bringing Mollie into his home, so when he hears a strange cat noise, he's right back there again. A form of PTSD for him, and yes, cats do get PTSD. Unfortunately, you seem to be getting it yourself!
This is gonna sound really stupid, but I never had it put to me that way before or thought about it like that. It seems so obvious now and I feel so stupid and awful. This little guy has been through a lot, largely because of me. It makes a lot of sense. I just never thought he'd be so stressed out or affected by it. He seemed like one of, if not THE most well adjusted cats I've ever known. Meanwhile Mollie is so naturally skittish. If you had told me one of them would be on Prozac, I'd have bet money it'd be her.

Well, as for an update. He's eating more now and did use the litter box. I went out to get some dinner to bring home and we coordinated it so that around 10 min after I left, the bf took him out of the crate. He was out for about an hour or so. I was told he ran about for a lil bit, getting exercise but then just kind of chilled. Shortly before I returned, he went back in the crate. He's not hissing or growling at me but there are times he does look at me rather wide eyed with alarm. I think we're both very apprehensive still. I fed him some treats and was able to open and close the crate to move water and food bowls. I'm slowly calming down but am definitely not ready to have him completely out of the crate right now. I'm scared to sleep cause, darn it, he's a smart bugger and if any cat could escape he could.

I reached out to a behaviorist in my city cause I feel really at a loss.

W walli I'd be open to trying hissing/scruffing. I'm just a lil terrified it would enrage him even more when he's in one of his spells. I wanna be firm but I also don't wanna inflict any more trauma on him. But mostly I'm just a total jelly legged coward right now...

For now, I would insist this cat is crated when your boyfriend is not around for your own safety and his. If he's crated he can't harm you. If the crate is wire, this is good because you can play with him through the gates, drop treats and little bites of food into his bowl, and be the "good guy" without the fear of being hurt. If he does get growling and goes into that stalking mode, you know he can't get you, so you can relax and say to him "you're alright, buddy" and just calmly walk away. When your fear goes away, or you can at least relax a little around him, I think he'll relax too. Give him several heavy lidded blinks with your eyes, then look away. That's the top way to tell a cat you love them and are no harm. Most cats respond immediately, and with time, almost all cats respond eventually by returning that blink with a soft expression.
The previous problem with urinary problems after you moved in tells me he does have some nervous ways, too.
Our cats hate those videos of angry cats. It alarms them, and sometimes Baby Girl will go after the nearest cat she sees.
THIS, all this. You're reading my mind. I do feel so terribly guilty. I hate seeing him in a cage but it's the only thing I can think of right now that won't leave me a complete basketcase. I keep talking to him very lightheartedly. Telling him what I'm doing, what's going on, random stuff in a calm, relaxed manner.

Well, it's just the three of us (Mollie, Tucker and I) 'til morning. Wish me luck!
 

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WitsEnd123 it's so good you reached out about this. Tucker probably will calm down eventually but I would never let him out of that cage without your bf around for backup. An angry cat can do a lot of damage and considering what happened between you two it would be difficult to ever trust him completely again. However, I too, think you could also HISS right back in his face and loudly say NO. And continue until he backs off. You, I believe, will get back on good terms with Tucker but it will take extra effort to regain the trust you once shared. You do have the advantage of being much larger than Tucker. Just keep on the extra play & treats (but do not do this without your bf backup around until things get back to a normalcy. I'm so sorry this happened to you, life is not always fair but it is always challenging. With consistency will come a better understanding. You personally could try taking a truly anti-anxiety supplement called Ginkgo Biloba (found at vitamin stores). It is taken twice a day with meal and scientific studies have proven that it does alleviate anxiety. It won't be like a valium, it is very much more subtle than that and it won't affect driving or other tasks. Good luck to you dear, please keep us updated.
 

walli

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Wits End, I totally get it, what Bruce posted sounds really good, maybe the discipline can come later, also it's not a violent discipline
it's to be done with love, I think you are going to do well as you are reaching out to help him and not getting mad at him.
your awesome!

Keep an eye on kitty on the prozac, it's very common for them to get urinary retention on it, if you see very large pee balls you will have to wean him off of it, and try something else, it happened to Joey and I had to take him off of it, shadow rescue is very knowledgeable in this area if you need info on it,
 

1 bruce 1

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Don't think of it as a cage, think of it as a "safe space" for BOTH of you. A place where you can get to know each other without fear.
And, a cat that is stalking you, attacking you, isn't "happy" in his environment, yet. But he will be. Cats like high places and boxes for a reason, they can hide away and observe. You can make the cage cozier by covering the rear portion so he has his own "hiding spot". It's Kitties Choice whether or not he wants to interact or not, and you know cats. Curiosity usually does get the best of them.
 
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