I am that most elusive of kitties: I am a total lap cat. Most of the time, I can be found calmly cuddling up to my “mum,” “dad” or my skinny, striped brother. In these instances I am showered with affection and belly rubs and ear scritches. It’s a good life. So you may be wondering what reason I could possibly have to complain. Put simply, I am only adored in the aforementioned situations. I occasionally “suffer” bouts of human-debilitating psychosis, during which I repeatedly and viciously attempt to gnaw off my human mum’s face and/ or arms. These attacks come over me unprovoked—sometimes right after a peaceful, uninterrupted nap, other times while just calmly roaming around the house. Instead of sympathetic tolerance, I am frequently greeted, on these occasions, by shouts, and I am unceremoniously shoved off the couch or bed. Sometimes, human mum tries hissing or growling at me, which is funny, but most often I am placed in solitary confinement to “cool down.” How do I get my human mum to sympathize with me during my episodes and just let them run their course? Is there any way I can explain to her the random and uncontrollable nature of the attacks?
Dear Affectionate Psycho,
In spite of your seeming nonchalance regarding your situation, your aggressive spells are anything but ordinary. To be honest, I can’t blame your humans for being upset when you attack them—remember, they have no fur to protect them from your teeth and claws, so you can really hurt them. (Yes, I know how much bigger they are than us kitties, but in reality, humans can be surprisingly fragile creatures.) Other than mentioning that you’re a lap cat, you haven’t told me any truly pertinent details about yourself, so it’s hard to narrow in on the reason for your sudden fits of psychosis. If you were under two years of age, it could even be natural—kittens and young cats are often a little too, shall we say, “high spirited” for their own good. In that case, you might outgrow your aggressive ways. If you are fully an adult cat, could it be that your humans are naively doing something to provoke you? Along with being a little delicate, humans can be rather dense, so when you send out signals that you don’t want to be touched—clues such as tensing up, twitching skin, your ears flattening, a warning growl or hiss—they may not notice until it’s too late. The really stupid thing is that when you do attack after giving them warning signals, they still think it’s your fault. It’s hard to educate them about this too, since it’s common for humans to want to put the blame for their misfortune on others.
Of course it’s also possible that your behavioral problems have a physical cause. Did this psychosis of yours start up suddenly? And in that case, have your humans had you checked out for any illnesses, neurological damage or pain possibly caused by some other serious medical condition? If your vet has found you to be perfectly healthy, is it possible that there is stress in your household? Have you moved lately? Have your humans been arguing excessively? Is there construction going on nearby that is disturbing the neighborhood? Is there a new cat next door? Any of these could cause you to be more touchy than normal. If you are an incorrigible, but occasional attacker and there seems to be no reason for this, then perhaps you should have your humans consult with an animal behaviorist. They’re great because they can suss out problems that your humans might not see, and if there are no other solutions, they can work with your vet on finding a medication that will help calm you down. Good luck!