Feline Family Dysfunction


Third in a series

Violence is frowned upon in most civilizations. Tom and Anna love Sophie, their bully cat, as much as they do Elliott, the victim. Sophie’s daily harassment has triggered long suffering Elliott to spray urine on the furniture and walls. He needs feel safe in order to improve. Thankfully, he never fought back; feline fisticuffs wouldn’t have improved anybody’s behavior.

For her part, Sophie faced a chicken and egg conundrum. She often licked her itchy, twitchy skin. All the while, her stress about outdoor lurking creatures worsened her misery. Elliot took the brunt of her agitation, leading him to hose his home.

Cats are genetically wired to hunt, stalk, and defend their territory. Sophie lives indoors and struggled with her confinement. She was surely aware of the chunky racoon who skulked in her yard. She could see that nasty beast through the windows, frustrating the #$%* out of her! If she were free-living, on the other hand, she might have chased that alien into the next county.

Outdoor creatures are a common trigger for indoor cats to redirect their angst against the nearest warm body. Sophie’s target was Elliott. It could instead have been somebody else with a pulse, like Tom or Anna. Would they have tried coping the same way as Elliott? We would hope not.

I prescribed Reconcile (fluoxetine) to reduce Sophie’s anxiety and aggression but her miserable skin was also a priority. To address her allergic itching and licking I recommended giving her (1/4) of a 10 mg loratadine (Claritin) tablet once daily. If she didn’t feel better in a few weeks she would need a full dermatologic workup.

Anna felt that since each of her cats was struggling with anxiety, she could treat them both with Reconcile. I urged caution; there is not a medication known to humankind without possible side effects. I advised her and Tom to watch for constipation or a failure of either cat to completely void their bladders. Surfing the litter pans was now a daily practice.

Next week: Everybody needed help. Who got better?

For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (drjeffnichol.com). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Email pet behavior or physical questions to drjeffnichol@drjeffnichol.com or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.

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