ST. LOUIS, MO. -- Experts from around the world attended the Symposium of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior July 15. The event coincided with theAmerican Veterinary Medical Association Convention. A pawful of the attendees agreed to answer selected reader questions:
Q: My 14-year-old Maine Coon cat has recently become very aggressive when company arrives, especially people who own dogs. He even attacked me when I tried to remove him once, and I received 14 puncture wounds. He attacked me twice after I finished raking leaves. While this behavior is becoming more frequent, he's basically a wonderful cat who loves to be groomed. What's going on? -- R.L, Hurricane, UT
A: "Anytime you have a new behavior, particularly in an older pet, rule out a potential medical problem first," says Dr. Karen Sueda, Los Angeles, CA-based president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB). In this instance, the issue could potentially be gastrointestinal pain, hyperthyroidism, or a neurological problem.
In any case, Sueda says it's far easier and safer for all involved to keep your cat calm, compared to attempting to calm an already aroused cat. When you're expecting company, place your cat in another room.
"Once the company settles in, let your cat out and distract him with whatever he likes best -- being groomed, play or treats," Sueda suggets. "Plugging in a pheromone diffuser, such as Feliway, may help. (Feliway is an analog of a pheromone, which can help cats chill out.). If you make progress, ask your dog-owning friends to visit, but before they walk into the house, spray Feliway on their shoes. If these methods fail, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist or AVSAB member vet."