In-Depth Mojo: Penny & Tony – aggression and spraying

In-Depth Mojo Slider Penny Tony

Here’s some behind-the-scenes commentary on Season 4, Episode 3 of My Cat From Hell.

The cases in this episode involved two different issues.

  • The first issue was a huge level of aggression.  Penny was literally trying to kill Puck, her fellow house cat.  The attacks were serious and vicious, involving blood.
  • The second issue was a little less tame, but a lot more smelly.  Tony the cat had racked up years of spraying all over his guardian’s office, and habitually trying to mate with a stuffed animal.

Jackson uses what he calls “Cat Mojo” — observing and interacting with cats in order to understand their world and their motives — to help him solve the most difficult cases.

See what he has to say about some really in-depth mojo here…

Penny, who was trying to kill  Puck the 17-yr old cat.

Penny, who was trying to kill Puck the 17-yr old cat.

Penny & Puck

I gotta tell you, there’s not many cases I’ve walked into where I had just missed the level of violence that occurred between these two cats.  All it took was the slip of a door and Penny was all over Puck.  It was horrible to come in there and see Puck bleeding in a fireplace, 17 years old.

Penny was just absolutely driven to kill this cat.  And the interesting thing is that she had experiences with [other] cats before.  She wasn’t psyched about them but she didn’t want them dead.

I think it had something to do with the fact that she was moved across the country and dropped off.  Rosie just left her there and then went to school.  And everyone assumed it would be okay.

It was an interesting case because it was always known that this wasn’t permanent.  We just had to make it so these cats could co-exist until Rosie graduated from school.

One thing that you might not know is that the day I got there, I was so appalled at the situation that I was thinking in my head that I might take Penny, fly her to Boston, and bring her to Rosie and try to make it work with her roommates as opposed to try to make it work in their home.  Fortunately for everybody it worked out.

Tony, who used to constantly spray Betty's office.

Tony, who used to constantly spray Betty’s office.

Tony

As for Tony, obviously a very unusual situation.  It really was a case of throwing a lot of solutions against the wall and seeing what stuck.

I would be lying if I told you I understood Tony from the get-go.  He was a really complex animal whose behavior had been set in stone for years and years.  And I was convinced that he had testosterone in his system, so when he didn’t, I had to throw up my hands and just throw everything I could as a [potential] solution.

It was because we put litter boxes in certain areas that I was able to take a fresh look at the situation.  I realized it wasn’t that he liked to pee in outlets; it was that the outlets were facing windows and there was plenty of activity going on outside the home.  I blacklit outside, we saw pee all over the outside of the house, so he was “under attack” the whole time.  He was in fact trying to protect the territory by peeing all over it, trying to protect Betty by peeing around her office and creating a barrier.

And I also think the sexual behavior was an extension of that…where he would demonstrate his dominance by doing that dance with Dempsey – the Dempsey dance – in the middle of her office.  In the middle of that space that, to him, was very highly defendable.  And that gave me insight into him and helped us solve the problem in the long run.

A lot of times I may look like I know what I’m doing, but what I’m doing — is throwing exercises, throwing homework, and throwing solutions out at the problem.  And when something sticks, then I can start forming a theory about the animal.  Before that, sometimes you just can’t assume you know everyone.

And as a matter of fact, approaching a situation (like with Penny, Puck, and Tony) thinking that I know who they are the first day I meet them, is insulting to them.  By getting to know their securities, their insecurities, their confidence, their lack of confidence – through exercises – then I get a much better grip on how to approach them.

Click here to read more from Jackson, about how he uses his own line of holistic remedies to help cats.

Tools of the Trade

Here are a couple of tools that relate to the cases presented here.  Items that help to make life better for cats and people, too.

Cat_Buddies

Cat Buddies

These cuddly toys are made by hand in the U.S.A., exclusively for the Jackson Galaxy store.

They’re designed to be “best buddies” with your cat.

Filled with organic catnip leaves and buds, we see cats play with, bunny kick, carry, snuggle, and sleep with them.

Every cat needs a Cat Buddy.

Gate

Pet Gate

Jackson employs gates a lot, in exercises from site-swapping to reintroductions between animals.

Here’s one he refers clients to.

The width is adjustable, there’s an easy 1-touch release handle to open/close the gate, and it installs quickly with four pressure mounts.  No drilling required.

SE since 1995 600x

  1. Trish   April 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm  

    Jackson: I have a long haired black cat who was removed from his mother and left to die because he was black at ONE week old. My daughter found him and brought him home after telling the woman who was dumping him what she thought of her. I learned to bottle feed. My vet says most bottle babies are neurotic. The reason I am mentioning this is I watched Tony’s episode tonight and wanted to say that my NEUTERED cat, Brat, the one I bottle fed, has a blanket that he mounts/nurses. he makes a certain sound when he is doing this and does this as a calming measure. I asked the vet if he was humping it or nursing it and he said YES to both. He said it brings back happy memories of nursing his mother and that he is confused because he wasn’t raised by a cat or with siblings, only a stuffed animal and me. I have asked the vet and both testicles were present and removed. he also suffers separation anxiety. if I go outside he stands at the door and yowls. when in hospital for 20 days, he put himself in a baby crib and nursed his blanket. we eventually put him on the phone nightly and he would rub his scent on the phone. it seemed to calm him. I have no idea if any of this information is new to you, but if it can help others then it is worth the time to share. I am an animal rescuer and some even communicate with me. currently 2 dogs and 6 cats. other than a few “slap fights” and hissing and the occasional growl or chase, we have no problems at all. Knock wood! Love your show and hope to meet you one day, but not for a cat problem, I hope!

    Reply
    1. Megan Schwemer   April 24, 2013 at 9:03 am  

      My parent’s late cat, Rascal, also used to nurse like that. He was found in a neighbor’s backyard when he was about 3-4 weeks old, after being left there by his feral mother. My mom gave him kitten formula until he was old enough to be weaned. He’d nurse and knead on a fluffy orange-yellow bathmat on occasion. He would also cry incessantly when my mother left in the morning, yowling at the bottom of the stairs for a long time.

      My parents had him put to sleep several years ago after he’d developed diabetes at the age of only 11. I still haven’t gotten over it. I dream about him every few weeks or so. I just can’t understand how someone could be so caring and attentive with a young kitten, then abandon him when he gets older.

      I’m glad to hear that Brat at least will have a nice full life with you!

      Reply
      1. Trish   April 24, 2013 at 8:30 pm  

        Thank you! Brat is king of the house and he knows it. I have 6 total (I do rescue) and sure learned bottle feeding fast! thank God that Brat had the will to live and was able to handle my many blunders! he turned into a beautiful cat and is about to turn 7 around July 25. I love that boy like I love my kids!

        Reply
      2. Lirishae   May 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm  

        I am SO sorry to hear that ;_; I’m actually crying right now because it hits so close to home. My calico Lan was diagnosed with diabetes just a month ago, and we’re treating the poor baby or trying to (she’s currently in an animal hospital with pancreatitis). Fortunately I’ve got 25 years of diabetes management under my belt, being a type 1 diabetic myself–she and I are using the same insulin even.

        Reply
  2. Cheryl Kotecki   April 21, 2013 at 7:28 am  

    Thanks for posting this update to the show. Understanding that TV editing is what it is, it’s great to have the additional details provided – in this case particularly about Tony’s problems coming from outside the house.

    Reply
  3. Diane Ryan   April 21, 2013 at 7:48 am  

    I have two cats. One female and one male. The male is over 16 lbs. neutered and has heart problems and allergies. He is on medication for the heart which seems to dealing with that issue just fine. The allergies make him chew on himself. He has a fairly bald spot on his hind right leg and has chewed the hair on his tummy down to a crew cut. He has medication for that but I don’t like to give it to him too long since it is a steroid type. He is also aftaid of everyone except me. When someone comes in my home, he runs under the quilt on my bed until they leave. He is 10 years old and has been doing this for a long time. He has never been outside. We recently moved and at first he came in and hid under the couch for 3 days. He is finally over that but I think sometimes it is not only the allergies that get him chewing on himself but his nerviousness instead. Can you give me ideas that would help with getting him out when people come over and also with the nerviousness?

    I appreciate any advise and response.

    Sincerely,
    Diane

    Reply
    1. Shirley   April 25, 2013 at 9:45 am  

      Diane,

      I’m sorry to read about your cat with allergies; please try to feed him a grain-free diet & see if it helps. I’ve found this to be helpful in several situations (dogs & cats). I’m
      currently using a dry catfood called “NOW” grain-free (mine is the Senior choice). It has helped tremendously with digestion issues and allergies.

      Shirley

      Reply
  4. Mary Ann   April 21, 2013 at 11:13 am  

    Diane — My vet says that veterinary chiropractic helps with the fur chewing/licking…it is a very calm procedure and does not upset my cats…it worked wonders with Red, who was a pathetic, cross-eyed little runt of the litter– and after adjustment, walked better, had better-looking eyes…and grew up to be 17 pounds!

    Reply
  5. Becky S.   April 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm  

    Thanks for the additional info on Penny/Puck and Tony! Glad to hear all is going well with them. My husband and I love your show!!!

    Reply
  6. Debi   April 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm  

    Hi Jackson- Just wanted to tell you about my beloved boy, my Exotic Shorthair Pumpkin. (I sadly lost him to gastric lymphoma @ 7 y/o in February 2012).

    I am a knitter and from the very first time Pumpkin saw his first skein of yarn, he started humping it :)

    Until he got very sick at the end, he would hump anything made of wool (skeins of yarn, crocheted afghans, sweaters in progress) for HOURS if I let him. He was, of course, neutered and this behavior was never accompanied by spraying or any other untoward behavior.

    He would get so excited his little weenie would come out yet he never ejaculated. I discussed this at length with my vet who tested him for high testosterone levels (negative!) and he had no other abnormalities. He was 7 months when I adopted him and I had him neutered so I know it was done.

    He had no other “quirks” and I live on the fifth floor in a condo so “outside attack” like Tony’s is highly unlikely.

    It was just something Pumpkin did, just like other cats who knead everything – it was just something that made Pumpkin feel good I suppose.

    Once I discussed it with my vet and saw that a) it’s pretty common and b) there was no discernible emotional or physical cause I didn’t worry about it much but would stop the behavior if it went on for more than 10 minutes.

    So I just wanted to add my input that it is a fairly common behavior and once you rule out emotional or physical distress, it’s more embarrassing to us humans than anything else :)

    Reply
    1. Trish   April 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm  

      Yes, Brat gets “excited” as well but is nursing, purring and humping at the same time. the vet said that is normal in a bottle fed baby, not to worry. he makes a certain sound as he starts and we all know he is on his blanket then. and Yes, it is a blanket that I crocheted, made of Lion Brand Homespun yarn. I have heard of wool sucking, but not wool sucking with humping and excitement.

      Reply
    2. Janie Harrison   April 22, 2013 at 9:10 am  

      I can sure understand helping two cats with their site swapping,etc.
      but most real cat people have more than two cats. I have six and I know all
      about the marking on the plugs and they don’t face any windows. I have used
      amiltripolin, feliway, holistic measures, and a behaviorist. I would like to see
      where you tackle a multi cat household. Many people have had to take in more cats because of the recession.
      I have to keep a spreadsheet on whether I got their teeth brushed that day;
      were they played with that day;and their eating. All of this adds up to attention.
      One is walked on a harness outside daily.

      Reply
  7. Laurie   April 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm  

    Whenever I heard the promo about Tony’s problem, I told my husband that I could almost guarantee that Tony was taken away from his mother too soon, for whatever reason. Sure enough, he was! The reason I knew that was because one of my many childhood pets, an orange tabby (like Tony) named Max, was taken from his mother too soon, and also, like Tony, he routinely “mated” with a stuffed animal, in spite of having been neutered. We just chalked it up to Max being a weird cat! ; ) Plus, over the years, I’ve met two other cat owners that shared this same experience with their cat, and we discovered this common denominator, the removal from their mother too soon. We think it was a coincidence that one was an orange tabby (like Tony and Max), and the other a gray tabby. Right?

    Reply
  8. Lynda   April 22, 2013 at 6:18 am  

    Hi Jackson!

    Just wanted to let you know how great your show is (the In-Depth Mojo follow-ups are just fabulous)!

    We have two cats at the moment, domestic shorthair, 9 mo old brothers. They have no problems like the ones exhibited on the shows, in fact they are best buddies, but just because they’re not cats from hell doesn’t mean we don’t need your show.

    You and the show help so much with day to day living! You make us aware of issues and their potential causes; you show us how to learn from our cats; you teach us how to appreciate our unique animals for their, well, their uniqueness!! Your actions and messages are great building blocks and it all makes for great relationships.

    Big ‘Thank You!’ from Buffalo NY!

    Reply
  9. Nuria   April 22, 2013 at 7:54 am  

    Jackson, I have to say, as a person who is extremely allergic to cats, and shares her home with 6, I don’t buy the allergy excuse when that’s the reason people come up with.

    I had cats in high school, then after the dog next door killed both of them, I swore never to have cats again until I became an adult. Upon going out on my own, I realized I had become allergic. So much so, I nearly had to be taken to the hospital on several occasions after being in the same room with a cat.

    But, as I grew older, I started having other allergies, so upon taking medication for those, I set out to conquer my cat allergy. Taking allergy medication, it still took me about 3-4 months to get used to each cat I brought into my home. As a result, I have asthma, but really I don’t blame it totally on the cat allergy, as I have seasonal allergies and am allergic to dust mites as well.

    So I can live comfortably with my cats, and take allergy medication infrequently, as I need it. It can be done.

    Reply
  10. Derrick   May 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm  

    I have stray cats under my house. There are kittens also. I have tried everything I could to get them from under there. About a year ago, one was under there, got caught up in the insulation and died. We didn’t know what it was until we had someone go under there and see. The smell was horrific. Im trying to get rid of these because I don’t want the same thing to happen again, I cant go through that again. Please help. I need some kind of plan or something. I don’t want to kill them or anything. Can someone give me a solution or idea or something.

    PLEASE, SOMEONE HELP!!!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Debi   May 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm  

      I don’t know what your financial situation is but there are animal control services you can call that will remove any cats and seal off any access to prevent future “visitors”.

      You can also call your city’s Animal Control office but I believe they will take the cats to the nearest shelter and won’t do anything to prevent further occurrences.

      Good Luck!

      Reply
  11. Amanda   July 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm  

    Jackson I’m in need of advice ASAP,
    I have two cats which I’ve never had any issues with but after one of my two dogs passed I got puppy about 5 -6 months ago. Both my cats reacted well to the new puppy but my puppy had to have emergency surgery so she’s getting a lot of attention and now one of my cats is acting out. ( all my animals are female so I’m not sue if that’s making it even worse or not) but my cat is peeing on all of my puppy’s pillows, blankets, and toys; as well as digging out dirt from the plants in the house and kicking out her litter from the boxes. I’m not sure what to do or the proper way to punish her so as of now I try to just tell her no and give her more attention, but she’s still peeing on everything. What do I do?!

    Reply
    1. Hami   December 23, 2013 at 2:48 am  

      Have you play with your cat? Get her tired so that she can release her energy appropriately.

      Reply
  12. Mary Ann Detering   August 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm  

    I hope you can help me save my cat….
    I adopted Sabrina, 5 years ago as a kitten from second chance rescue in Florida. She is a calico and is now four years old….

    When I took her home she instantly bonded with my ragamuffin rescue kitten, a male and they are best friends.

    Last year I rescued 3 big cats who had been left in a house for 6 months ….2 of the 3 died shortly after that…the 10 year old ragamuffin survived and has been with us. Sabrina has always hated this cat and chases him everywhere…even though he is bigger than she is. That was tolerable…BUT….

    . My daughter recently gave me 2 ragamuffin kittens for mother’s day. Sabina actually tried to KILL them! She stalks them like prey and wants them dead. She had drawn blood each time. I am keeping them separated…but 3 times she has forced her way into the room and attacked them.

    Please help me….I don’t want to have to give Sabrina away….I love her so very much….but this ‘killer instinct’ is frightening to all who have witnessed it.

    Reply
    1. Hami   December 23, 2013 at 2:49 am  

      Have you properly introduce them? If not, reintroduce them.

      Reply
  13. Pamela Palumbo   September 4, 2013 at 9:16 am  

    My boyfriend has two male cats both pretty young (not even five years old yet). Gizmo is the older and Minion is the younger. Gizmo behaves well and only fights with Minion when he doesn’t want to be bothered or when he knows Minion is doing something wrong. Gizmo is not neutered.

    Minion on the other hand is the main big problem. He is neutered but keeps on spraying all over. We moved in the new place a few months ago and thought maybe he was marking his territory but it’s been four months since we moved and this is getting old. We have two litter boxes and we make sure they are cleaned. The two boys have been living together for years now so we know it shouldn’t be marking his territory from Gizmo for he would have been doing so at the old house. We even used this spray solution that is supposed to make them not spray there. Yet he still is.

    We think it’s a major behavior problem and he’s not learning when we scold him and show him what he did wrong. He seems to do a lot of things like this on purpose just to be a little brat and want attention, yet I give him plenty of affectionate attention and play with him.

    In need of desperate help and advice on why Minion is behaving this way and what to do to make him stop spraying all over. We don’t want to have to get rid of him because of this issue.

    Reply
    1. Hami   December 23, 2013 at 2:54 am  

      Have you tried checking outside to see if there are other animals coming at night? Since you moved to a new place, your cat is feeling very insecure that’s why he feels the need to mark his territory from something. Cats don’t spray with intention to annoy their owners. If it’s not health issue, it’s due to stress/insecurity.

      Reply
  14. Ansley   January 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm  

    I know I won’t get a response here, but I just don’t know what else to do.

    I have two cats, ages 6 and 3, who in the beginning were great friends. When I took Peach, the 3 year old, to the vet in October, things went horribly wrong. The vet appointment was just for routine shots, but Peach was not at all happy about it.

    When we brought her home, things were immediately different between her and Mouse, the 6 year old. They fought and carried on to the point that Mouse was drawing serious blood from Peach. I understand WHY things have happened this way, but I do not understand how to fix it.

    We have separated them, and have kept them apart for almost three months, with no change. We have tried pheromone sprays, starvation, treats for positive reinforcement, gates, Feliway diffusers, the blanket rub-down method, and even bought Jackson’s holistic remedies (Bully Remedy and Safe Place). Nothing is working.

    I’m in a desperate situation. I don’t want to get rid of either of them, as I’ve had them both since they were kittens. But it’s a major stress to come home to cats that have to be segregated. We have spent so much money on ‘guaranteed’ remedies, that at this point I may not have any other choice but to find a new home for one of them.

    It is like choosing which one of your children you want to keep. It feels wrong and hurts to even think about.

    Reply
  15. Kayla   May 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm  

    My cat, Tucker, recently started peeing/spraying in boxes. He did just get over a UTI and i am thinking that is the problem but I’m not sure. I clean his litter box everyday hoping that he will stop but it hasn’t worked. I heard moving the litter box to where he is peeing/spraying most might do the trick but I’m not sure. if anyone has any ideas i would greatly appreciate any feed back. My boyfriend is so frustrated with the situation the he wants to let Tucker loose outside but i cant see doing that. I’ve had him since he was a baby as an indoor cat so i don’t think he would do well outside:/

    Reply
  16. Janett   May 12, 2014 at 5:34 pm  

    Jackson u do great work! I have a 7 year old female who’s been spraying for 2 years or more now. We’ve tried everything including Feliway, drugs, lavendar collars. We have a male also. They get along about 50% of the time. She is a major bully for real. We put new carpet in a year ago-sprayed on that plus numerous pieces of furniture. She’s ruthless! We’re at our wits end. Is there any advice you can give me? She’s done it on both floors of the house so its not just one area. Any help and well be grateful forever. Thank you

    Reply

We regret that Jackson does not answer questions posted in the comments. This is due to his demanding schedule and the high volume of requests he receives. But most importantly, since he has not met your cat, it would be contrary to his approach for him to give specific personalized advice for your specific situation. That being said, general questions and issues are addressed throughout this blog, in his book Cat Daddy and of course, the show My Cat From Hell.

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