Aggressive Cat Behavior – My Inside Edition Interview
How I Would Have Handled Toulouse
Not too long ago, I received an urgent call from the producers of Inside Edition, wanting my opinion about a viral cat video. To be more specific, a video was taken of a “nasty cat” who had trapped his cat/house sitter inside of a bathroom.
If you listen to my advice given on the show, I would hope any reasonably intelligent person would know that what I said was taken out of context, and was part of a much larger conversation and analysis of the situation.
Did I mean to say that the person should just plop down on the floor and make himself vulnerable to an angry cat that may well lash out with teeth and claws? Of course not! That comment was just one part of a series of actions I suggested that would 1) defuse the situation, 2) allow the guy to escape the bathroom unharmed, and 3) make peace with Toulouse so this situation would not happen again.
Here is how I would suggest handling a situation such as this. Remember, as a cat behaviorist, and former owner of Just For Cats Pet Sitting, I have been in this situation more than a few times.
- 1. To get out of the immediate situation of being trapped by a snarling kitty, toss a toy, some treats, anything that will distract the cat’s attention elsewhere. If that does not work, sit or stand quietly until kitty gets the message that you are not a threat. He will eventually walk away.
- 2. Once the kitty walks away from the situation, you need to walk slowly away from the space where he had you trapped. Any sudden movements will get his “fight or flight” instinct going again.
- 3. To win kitty’s trust, don’t try to approach or touch him at all. Sit quietly, read a book or watch television. Let him observe you from a safe vantage point. If he has a cat tree, mostly likely he will be hanging out there to watch what you do.
- 4. Talk softly, read aloud, or sing to get the cat used to your voice and your presence.
- 5. Start to sit on the floor, a good distance from the cat but near enough, and offer him something he cannot resist. Some chicken, a treat, something special that he gets no other time than when you decide to give it. At first you may need to put it down and sit far back before he will come and eat it. But he will slowly get braver and less afraid of you each time, and you may even get a nudge for pets, eventually. You will be slowly gaining his trust.
So, does following these step assure that you and the “Cat from Hell” will become lifelong buddies? Maybe. If this is a cat you’ve recently adopted, that would be the ultimate goal, and there are other methods that would go hand-and-hand with these steps to accomplish establishing a bond. But if you are visiting a friend who has an aggressive cat, or cat sitting for someone who has such a cat, your goal is to be able to be in the same room with this cat, without fear of aggression.
Remember, aggression is usually born of fear. It is highly likely that cats of who act this way, and whom do not have neurological issues, have had trauma in their lives. Usually, these cats will become bonded to only one person, and will continue to feel threatened by others.
I believe that is the case here with Mr. Toulouse.
No situation is impossible; it just takes patience, a willingness to understanding the cat’s point of view, and a calm, thoughtful demeanor to turn an attack cat into an attract cat…