Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Crazy Cat

Due to some responses to certain past posts, I have become aware that my humble blog occasionally attracts the attention of some members of the Veterinary-American population. I was wondering if any of those fine folks could help me gain some insight into the behavior of one of my cats.

Party Cat (nickname courtesy of the Jock & Friends) is 10 years old and has been with me since he was about 1 year old. I don't know much about his kittenhood, but I do know he was fostered for awhile in a farm-like environment (ie, outdoors) where he shadowed people quite closely but had no other reported behavioral anomalies.

From the time I've had him he has been strictly an indoor minion of Satan cat. Yet from time to time he manages to slip out behind me into the great outdoors -- upon which he goes feral! If I can catch him within about thirty seconds or ten feet (whichever comes first) he's ok, but if he goes any longer or farther than that, he becomes a different animal; he hisses and spits at me, ears pinned back. If I try to reach out to grab him -- or even touch him -- the claws are out to the point of drawing serious blood.

We've learned the hard way not to try going after him with bath towels or the like. If we just wait, he comes in on his own eventually. I know what you're saying to yourselves: no problem. But it is a problem because he's not out there happily exploring.

This happened yesterday, and the poor kitty was not happy. Even as he crouched out of reach in the bushes, ears menacingly low, the growls and noises he was emitting sounded more like wails of desperation. He came onto the front porch and wound himself around the furniture like he does around my legs when he wants love, but he still bolted whenever I tried to pet him. I tried tempting him with treats. He came and took them, but wouldn't come in and still hissed at me when I reached out to touch him. Eventually (ie, hours later) he finally made it all the way across the porch to the door and came in on his own.

Here's the weird part: the moment he's back inside, he's back to his normal, loving self; warp-drive purr and all.

I don't get it. Any ideas from someone who knows more about cats than I?

Edited to add responses to comments:

Vetnurse: Thanks, I think.
Marcia: We're up to four. I know for a fact Darling Spouse won't permit more.

3rd year vet student: Best line evah!! To whit:
Cats are crazy.
Learn it. Live it. Love it.


At Sun Nov 09, 11:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like he has the memories of being outdoors and liked them, however outdoors is a big unknown for him. The scents, sounds and sights are all different but there is still a faint memory trigger that he had been out side and liked it.

He is scared or nervous as it is a strange area but scents he knows are still about from the house, your voices and body odours and other signals.

Coming over to eat shows that he feels confident even though nervous, if he was terrified he would not eat, or possibly even come to you let alone rub your legs. If he saw the door open, and place he knows he would bolt back inside.

He needs the time to sort his feelings out about where he wants to be. Your sudden moves to grab him when he is already nervous bring about the claw and possibly run so best to do as you do let him make the first move.

Your move may not have been sudden to you, but he is concentrating on several things at once and your hand swinging down possibly hits the “danger” button rather than or “hi it is you” button.

You are right not to chase him or force him it can chase him towards traffic or further away from the safety of the house. There is no way if he is all fang and claw you will hold him. If a cat turns feral then even experienced folks only have a 50/50 chance of holding them and we know where to hold them. Owners worry about hurting their cat and news flash cats are not the ones who will get hurt.

If you have an area he can go outside and get used to being outside and in the sun he would benefit from it all animals do to get fresh air and sunshine. Some people put a cat run onto the side/ back of the house and the cats can get out and enjoy the outdoors and sun and still be secure. One way is something called purrfect fence. l have heard good things about them.

The being back to normal as soon as he is in the house is understandable. He is back in territory he understands and knows. Outside was exciting and scary for the new things and old memory triggers but routine is still the comfiest.

The important thing is that he knew where he wanted to go and came back home when he was ready, and has always done from your comments.

(hope that lot made sense)

At Sun Nov 09, 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

If it's any consolation, we have a female cat like that (about 5 years old), who was previously a feral cat that we forced to be an indoor cat. We finally decided just to let her be an indoor/outdoor cat and take our chances with her fate, so she comes and goes as she pleases now.

The first few times we let her outdoors, she stayed away for a few days. Once she discovered she had the freedom to come and go, she stuck closer to home. She's much happier with this freedom (no more hissing, biting, scratching, etc.), and we've concluded her happiness is a fair trade-off for a potentially shortened life.

Besides, we have 12 other cats who wouldn't stick a toe outdoors if the house was on fire. If you'd like to add some of them to your family, just let me know. :)

At Sun Nov 09, 02:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Cats are crazy.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Ask me a horse question and I'll have more for you.

At Sun Nov 09, 03:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just another thought, could he have any sight problems? Perhaps he doesn't see well and when he is outside thinks that anything large is dangerous or threatning

At Sun Nov 09, 04:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cats are crazy--I totally agree. As another human doc, I've spent hours trying to figure out my cats. Had four of them, now only three. The one I lost sounds very similar to yours.

He would run for the door whenever he could. Got out once, Husband chased him around the house (the outside) for two hours, finally caught him, and held a grudge against him until after episode #2.

Episode #2 involved him getting out when carpenters left the door open in September. Was lost until Jan. 1 in Wisconsin in the woods until someone a mile away saw a flyer, thought it was him, and trapped him in her garage. Husband and Nephew had to chase him around her garage an hour to catch him. Once back in our house, he was more friendly than ever before--much, much skinnier, but also attention-starved. Husband let go of his grudge.

Episode #3 involves a bad combination of a late night doggy potty trip, a high wind, and a faulty door latch. Cat got out and was run over by the neighbor.

Don't know why he would run for the door, even after starving and almost freezing to death. I figure he had some crazy thirst for adventure. My only advice is watch the crazy devil like a hawk--even then they have a way of getting what they want! Good luck!

At Sun Nov 09, 08:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our cat is indoor/outdoor, but she won't come near us outdoors. We figure she has multiple personalities because of early trauma.

At Mon Nov 10, 03:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few months ago I read about a neurology research where cats brains were removed except for the brain stem, which allowed them to breathe, eat, and walk around. The cats were later adopted out. The new owners weren't told about the "disability" and,yes you guessed it, could not tell the difference. They just commented on the new pets being sweet but stubborn. I've been looking at my two ever since wondering if they have even half a brain. :-)

At Tue Nov 11, 05:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw, shucks. *Blushes*

At least the $120,000 spent so far on my veterinary education has bought me something. You know, not everyone could make that profound a statement. No, sir.

At Fri Nov 14, 11:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing useful to add, but I love the term Veterinary-American! I've used it several times already.

BTW, the word verification is "commis" -- I hope that's not a comment on the perceived politics of Veterinary-Americans.


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