Categories: Cat Aggression

I have to declaw my cat because he attacks me 3-6 times a week. Please help.

Introduction from Admin: Kim wrote an extensive comment on one of the cat declawing pages on this website which I have converted to an article. You can read her comment below.

I would not want you to prejudge this lady who is clearly a very good and concerned cat caretaker-owner. She is at her wits’ end because her cat in my view was never properly socialized during that 2-7 week period in a cat’s early life. Therefore he switches to wild cat mode frequently. In short, he is not truly domesticated and his wild cat persona is much nearer the surface than is normal.

I believe that it can be trained out (possibly). I would like people to comment and help this woman. Please help her so that she does not have to declaw her cat. This is our challenge. To help this cat integrate.


Kim’s comment and plea for help..

Hi, I am about to get my second cat declawed. I am heartbroken about this and I wanted to know what you think about my decision.
My first cat I never considered declawing because I think it’s cruel. However, my second cat… I’m not sure what else to do. I adopted him from a shelter as a kitten. He has always been very aggressive.

I was hoping he would calm down with age but at this point he is five. And I’m exhausted and frightened and miserable. He’s generally loving and cuddly. But three to six times a week he viciously attacks me. The incidents usually last only about ten minutes but the scratches are deep and I’m covered in them.

I’ve talked to the vet multiple times about this behavior. I have a Feliway plugin diffuser in each room. The vet suggested composure pro which I was giving him. Then the vet suggested Prozac which I give him daily in food. He is played with daily with plenty of toys. He has a tall cat tower and multiple scratching posts, balls, mice, etc. But when he decides to attack… it’s like he freezes up and I see this look on his face and I know it’s coming.

I’ve tried spraying him with water as he approaches. Walking slowly to another room. Backing into another room and closing the door. But he’s so fast and determined. He’s gone for my face. He scratches deep. And then he calms down but it’s just… untenable. I don’t want to live like this. I asked the vet if she would recommend a behaviorist, and she said honestly she thought it would be a waste of money. That his wires in his brain are crossed.

I would pay anything to help him. I would. But nothing seems to help and the vet is out of suggestions. I’m tired of being on edge. I’m tired of my blood being everywhere. I’m tired of deep scratches on my arms, chest, back, thighs, calves, toes, hands. I’m prone to infection and also. It hurts!

I’ve asked a family friend with barn cats about taking him. They refused as they said they were afraid he would attack the other cats or the livestock. And seeing how he treated my roommates cat when I had one, I can’t disagree.

My mom and vet have suggested putting him down. I’m getting him declawed and hoping that with less weapons to deal with I can avoid serious injury better. I’ve read all you’ve wrote. But I still don’t know what to do. ?

Kim


Response from Michael:
I have responded in a comment as you know. I think that we should all try to see if we can change your cat’s behavior to avoid declawing him. I don’t think Prozac is a good idea myself. I think that the only chance you have of changing his behavior is to train new behavior into him by clicker training and rewards.

There might be some sort of trigger-a visual trigger-which sets him off into aggressive/hunting mode. It might be possible to turn that trigger into a friendly form of behaviour rather than aggression towards you.

I wonder if you could think whether there are particular circumstances which might be triggering this aggressive behaviour e.g. visual signals. Also, I don’t think spraying water is a good idea either because it probably simply enhances the chances of him becoming aggressive. I understand why you do it. It is a last resort and a desperate measure but I think it might make things worse.

He is aggressive because he is unsocialized and that aggression is a form attacking a creature i.e. you who he sees as hostile. You are not hostile. You are friendly but he’s unsocialised to you despite living with you for a long time. It is not your fault. He was not socialised before he ended up at the shelter.

As mentioned and to reiterate, if there are particular circumstances under which he becomes aggressive towards you it may be possible for him to react to those circumstances through training in a more positive and friendly way. That is my current thinking and it may be overly optimistic. I don’t think, as your veterinarian said, that is brain has crossed wires.

He is simply behaving, temporarily, as a feral cat because he is in effect semi-feral. If you can make a video that would help.

**KIM…PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS AS WELL**

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • In all my years with cats, I have experienced similar episodes with different cats.

    One cat had PTSD just like the soldiers returning from combat. He was severely abused by youngsters shooting him with BB guns. When my sister brought him home, she had to dig several BBs out of his skin.

    He normally was quite loving. He stayed in a spare bedroom, and we'd go in and spend time with him. Every so often without warning, he would get a look on his face and come across the room and attack one of us. We never did figure out the trigger. Because of this, he was never allowed to leave his bedroom. We were afraid for the other cats.

    Another cat who comes to mind didn't have the same background. She was super gentle and affectionate and well loved from birth. My daughter was in grade school and was still learning about cats. In her ignorance, she would play with the cat until the cat was overly irritated, and I would have to intervene. The cat never showed agression towards my daughter. Later in the evening, the cat would follow me to my bedroom. She would get "the look" on her face and attack me with her claws. As my daughter learned more, the cat became less agitated and the attacks eventually stopped.

    "The look" was as if the eyes were glazed over and no one was home. It was a bit frightening to see. As soon as I saw it, I knew what to expect.

    Remembering my days with horses, I knew that if you cover their eyes, they can't see the stimulus and are more likely to calm down. So I wondered if it would work on the cat. It did most of the time.

    I would keep a towel in my room and throw it over her head whenever I saw her expression change. Sometimes I would have to hold down the towel so she couldn't wiggle out from underneath. Most of the time, she would calm down completely. Occasionally she would only get less agitated.

    I hope this helps, Kim. 🙂 Declawing is such nasty business. Best wishes for a healthy kitty. ❤

    • Also, while the towel is on the cat, be sure to stay calm! Handle him firmly and gently while speaking with a calming, soothing voice. That should help. If you pick him up, be sure all four paws are covered with the towel.

  • I don't think that de-clawing will help with an agressive cat, considering that they can still bite. And jump!

    My cat was previously feral, and still has a wild streak. She has attacked my arm during the night, when I moved it. I just toss her off the bed.

    She's also jumped at me when I've walked nearby her on the bed.

    Mostly she's a sweet kitty, but at times she gets triggered. I have to watch for clues, except when it happens at night.

    She often wakes me at night, wanting to go out. She's an indoor cat, except for going out during the day with her halter and leash.

    I've been giving her a tiny bit of canna butter on the end of a Q-tip to calm her at these times. It works better than Rescue Remedy.

    I would suggest trying another vet, possibly a feline vet. I'd never just take the word of one vet. I've actually saw 5 vets when I had to get her teeth pulled, since they use different drugs, and she's had serious reactions.

    There's a Facebook group for "holistic cat care", but that might not be the correct name. I would ask for suggestions on this forum. Also, Dr. Lisa Pierson is one vet I trust completely. Here site is CatInfo, and she does phone consultations. She's a rescuer and has saved many cat's lives.

    I'd try some natural "relaxers" rather than regular drugs.

    • The Facebook group is called "Holistic Health Care for Cats". I posted, asking for suggestions, and so far people have said "Get a new vet". "Any vet who suggests de-clawing, shouldn't be caring for cats."

      I'll post any other suggestions that might be helpful. Many cat guardians use CBD oil for various things. Worth a try.

      • Thank you for your thorough response! So nice to get so many alternatives when I felt like this was my only option. I hope the suffering ends soon.

  • When he looks at you in that way i.e. when his face takes on that aggressive appearance, you might be able to defuse his feelings at that moment through play as Sarah in in her comment suggests. Rather than tackling that aggression with more aggression i.e. spraying water you might defuse it by a good experience which means playing with him and feeding him with a treat that you know he loves.

    I agree completely with Sarah. When you play with a cat using a cat tease which keeps him or her at arms length the cat becomes used to your presence as a matter of course without even knowing about it. And of course he will associate the happy experience of play with you. I know that when I adopted my semi-feral cat I socialized him and domesticated him with play as Sarah suggested. It took me about a week to 10 days after which he was on my lap sleeping.

    And when he has done something which pleases you reward him with a treat. A clicker, which you can buy on Amazon on helps the cat connect the good behaviour with the treat as it makes a sharp sound. There is then this learning process of a certain behaviour connected to a reward. Every time he doesn't attack you when he would otherwise have done it should be rewarded with a treat, some warm words and gentleness.

    Please confirm that you have read this comment and please also tell me whether you wish to try this out.

  • I have had great success socialising such cats using a wand type toy or laser pointer toy. That way they learn they can interact with me in a non-threatening way. Just sitting calmly in the same room ignoring such cats can be a great help (combined with occasionally dropping bits of cooked chicken!) because movement and eye contact can be seen as threatening.

    • See that's what confuses me. Because it isn't that he gets overstimulated while playing and attacks. Or sees something outside and takes it out on me. I am a pretty quiet person. I spend a lot of time reading books. And I will be sitting quietly reading. Not tapping, making eye contact, doing anything. And he will come at me. I've also tried positive redirectment. Treats. Talking to him calmly. Leaving the room. Covering myself with blankets and pillows so he can't get me (he just burrows in to get at me.) I'm not moving before the attack starts. Not petting him or overstimulating him. I don't know what sparks the fit. I've tried crying when he bites me or mewling like another cat would. Doesn't stop it :( I will try redirecting with lasers that's a good one. Tossing him a toy when he's in a rage hasn't helped deter the attack, but I will get a laser today!

      • Kim, have you tried playing with him with a cat tease at the time he might attack you? Also Sandy makes a nice point. We know that declawed cats compensate for not having claws by biting more. For that reason alone I don't think declawing will solve the problem.

        • Hm by cat tease do you mean like the feather dangly sticks? I have not. I have tossed him balls and mice to no avail. And that's a huge concern of mine. That I will put him through this and then the attacks will continue with teeth. Ah! I really appreciate all this input. I'll try everything you have suggested.

          • Kim, yes, I mean a long stick with a feather at the end but there are many varieties of this (see Amazon or a good pet store). An alternative is a tease at the end of a long string which you can pull around the house or flat where you live. But the classic cat tease is about three or 4 feet long. If you have to you can get it made for you or make one yourself because I think in your case it should be quite long to protect you. If you play with him extensively by which I mean for at least 20 minutes with a variety of cat toys and teases you may break down this aggression and convert it into play and because you are playing with him he starts to socialize towards you. He will see you as as a friend and co-specific rather than as an aggressor and hostile.

            Also, I would like you to tell me whether he is a full-time indoor cat or an indoor outdoor cat. I believe that if cats are allowed to wander a lot outside unconfined as might be the case in your instance because you live in the mountains it encourages their wild nature. You know that domestic cats are very near the wild anyway (barely domesticated) and they flick a switch and become wild animals outside. Because full-time indoor cats are more in touch with their human owners they can tend to become more domesticated. It automatically helps to socialize the cat towards humans because they are forced more into contact with them.

            You might consider gradually reducing his outdoor activities to achieve this if indeed he does wander outside freely. But it should be very gradual.

          • OK great I have a couple of those tease toys then. Although I may need to invest in a longer one as you suggested ha.
            And no he is an indoor cat. Always has been. He's never been allowed loose outside. Just in his carrier to go to the vet or when I moved.

          • Thanks for telling me he is an indoor cat. As an indoor cat he might need more stimulation from you to allow him to express his hunting desires. Lots of play should satisfy this. It'll take some discipline from you because play be boring for the human after a while. I'd do it for ten minutes three times a day - something like that.

          • I've been doing twenty minutes twice a day. So that's even more than ten minutes three times a day. :/

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