People search for information about cats being aggressive after they have been anesthetised at a veterinary clinic and return home. The question is: does the anaesthetic change the cat’s personality from calm to aggressive or is something else happening such as “Feline Non-Recognition Aggression”?
Something else is happening in my opinion, although anaesthetics can harm the brain of cats and even kill cats. However, there is nothing to suggest that they make a cat permanently aggressive.
What is far more likely to happen is that a cat who has been to a veterinary clinic for an operation and been under an anaesthetic may come home with a different scent to his own. He may have temporarily lost his natural scent for various reasons:
- He has been handled a lot by veterinary staff;
- He smells of antiseptic or iodine;
- He smells of the veterinary clinic;
- His scent may have been removed because he has been washed;
I don’t know of anaesthetics, per se, altering the natural scent of a cat but it might happen. Whatever the cause, if a cat returns from a veterinary clinic smelling different, and if there are other cats or one other cat in the home, he will be unrecognisable to the cat who has not been to the vets.
The incoming cat whose been anesthetized might be regarded as a stranger by the other cat. This may well set of an aggressive approach whereupon the returning cat will have to defend himself and give the appearance of being aggressive himself.
This is a distinct possibility and it highlights the importance of scent and smell in the day-to-day life of a domestic cat. Cats use their sense of smell to “see” as well their sight.
If a domestic cat can see a cat who he/she knows and recognises but the other cat’s scent is wrong (does not match up the visuals) then the cat will decide that he doesn’t recognise the cat, relying on smell more that sight. This seems to the case. Smell is more reliable than sight for cats under certain situations.
This is perhaps because a cat’s sight, although good is attuned to hunting in low light conditions, while a cat’s olfactory skills are very precise and advanced.
An alternative and additional reason why a cat might be aggressive after an anaesthetic is that he/she is confused which makes him anxious which in turn leads to aggression.
It is also possible that a cat coming around from an anaesthetic may fail to recognise other cats in the home or even his human caretaker and be temporarily aggressive towards them.
My general conclusion is that this problem of cat aggression after anaesthesia (which I had not heard of) is linked to feline recognition and the cat’s natural defensiveness through aggression in strange situations.
Photo is by Bernard Walker on Flickr.