In-Depth Mojo: Lucy & Chubs – cats who attack

In-Depth Mojo 408 Lucy Chubs

Got an aggression problem with your cat?  Jackson’s seen it all, and on My Cat From Hell, two of the (former) “attack cats” he worked with were Lucy and Chubs.

As with most T.V. shows, there was more than meets the eye there in those two situations.  And we want to bring it all to you, so here below are comments direct from Jackson about these ‘cat aggression problems.’

And for more, check out this companion post about which holistic remedies Jackson used, too.

Lucy – the former attack cat who put John in the hospital

Lucy – attacking both cats and humans

There’s a  couple of components that made this whole thing work.  Number one: we were dealing with a real dire situation, which is that according to Sara, because of her state (ed. note: she was 6 months pregnant), antibiotics were not an option.  So if she were to get scratched or bit and infected – and Lucy was more than capable of doing that – we were in an immediate “re-home” dilemma.  That said, it also stepped up the commitment on John’s part.

These guys really wanted to keep Lucy in the home, but it was an uphill battle.  Not only in terms of keeping Sara safe, but we were also trying to keep their soon-to-be-born child safe as well.

A couple of things.  Let’s make note first of all, of Kylie.  Allowing her to come forward.  That scene where I first meet Kylie and she was a feral rock behind the TV…that moment where you look at that cat and see her in that position and you say, “OK, now I know who you are and I’m not thrilled.”  But I was able to turn to John and Sara with that cat in my hands and say, “You see, this is who you got.  This is who she is.  Not who she can be.  Who she is.”  And John took that and ran.

When I came back for the next visit and I saw that he had totally redesigned the living room and got rid of the entertainment unit altogether…that was a pretty massive step for any guardian to take that I work with.  And I was pretty impressed.  That was one thing.  Kylie from that moment on had escape routes and that was great.

The thing we also want to highlight is how fear of consequences paralyses you so much that you encourage the consequences.  What I mean by that is that it took me two whole visits to convince John & Sara to actually site swap, to get Lucy out from the back part of the house.  If she’s not allowed to come to the front part of the house and not to get the requisite exercise that she needs in the front part of the house, bad things will continue to happen.  Too much energy in that cat.  So, I had to really work on those two to get them to commit to that part of the program.  It does highlight how so many of my clients are paralyzed by the trauma that they’ve experienced with their animals, so paralyzed that they keep the animals in physical jail and it keeps them as guardians in a mental jail.  And that becomes a very key part of our work.

The nursery.  really important here.  It is so crucial to be able to give these animals access, ownership of a child’s space, but also safe viewing.  So the shelving that we put up there was really about, how do we keep Lucy up and looking at their child’s crib and yet not encourage her to use that shelf as a diving board into the crib and cause havoc.  It also takes the guardian to a place of trust.  They had to trust her in order for this to work.

If you wanna go way in-depth mojo on this whole thing, that is that Lucy also had feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which is something we’re gonna cover on another episode.  But it was critical in terms of approaching her mind and body.  The Sunny Seat was a key component in terms of giving Kylie escape.

Tools of the Trade

Sunny Seat

Sunny Seat

Jackson had Sarah and John install a window-mounted cat shelf for Kylie called the Sunny Seat.  Kylie sat and lounged and groomed there, using it as sort of a “cat getaway.”

Installing cat shelves or climbers helps create vertical space and give cats more room to claim territory over.

And one of the main things cats need is to feel they have enough territory.

Chubs (L) who attacked Cole (R) a newly adopted blind cat.

Chubs – attacking his fellow house cat

What seemed like a very clear cut aggression problem at first had almost nothing to do with the cat’s personality.

This is one of those cases that…a very small environment, a really cluttered environment…and by un-cluttering…by providing a true super highway in the home by giving activities, we solved the problem almost right away, to the point that when I left them on day 3, (they were) laying on the bed together, simply because they weren’t in such a crowded place anymore.

So here’s some in-depth stuff.  First of all, in learning the story of Cole, which I thought was really important…  Cole started off in the vet hospital that Keri was working at.  He came in with some infection that wound up taking his eyesight from him.  From the time he came in, he was in pain.  He went  blind.  He was living the entire time in a cage.  The vet office went out of business.  They then transferred Cole – Keri says, “OK I’ll take him.”  She then takes him to live pretty much in a bathroom for the next 6 months.  Then she tries to incorporate him into the rest of her house.  He was blind, he wasn’t born blind, he’s known nothing but trauma.  And now he’s doing what?  Goes to a shelf, makes another small place for himself to be.  Keri doesn’t get the part that he’s just continually living in that traumatic space.  He only knows small, invisible places.  He sticks with that.

And also his marking behavior all fell in line with the insecurity borne from trauma.  All he knew was this one way of being, so we had to show him something else.  And of course in the meantime, we had to lessen Chubs’ aggression, which, as soon as we gave these guys space to breathe and played with them…things got a lot better.

Here’s an in-depth thing.  I really had to come down hard on Keri and Jonathan and they responded beautifully.   They needed to know that the amount of crowding that was going on in that apartment wasn’t ok.  They had stuff piled everywhere.   And when you’re dealing with an aggressive cat, and a victim who’s blind, everything had to be wide open.  I talked about dead ends, alleyways, corners, things where Cole had insecurity navigating and Chubs literally jumped on the opportunity.  So I think they were fantastic people because they really embraced the process.  As much as Keri embraced the desire to be a behaviorist…she had the Cat Mojo journey pasted all over the walls…everyday being reminded of the process of the what’s and where’s and divesting herself emotionally from the outcome.  She did all that stuff and in the meantime, Jonathan did all the clearing.

One thing you didn’t see in the episode was that he actually built a new headboard, a base for the bed that had drawers in it, so as not to let Cole and Chubs get under the bed and fight under there.  Shelving above the nightstand, creating that superhighway.  He did all that stuff by himself.  And then the two of them working on training Chubs and Cole to be on the shelving.  In doing that, in challenging both cats, challenging Chubs to go outside a little bit, use that tunnel out there…

Whether you want to be a behaviorist or not, we’re trying to get to the bottom of a problem.  We have used whiteboards, we have used post-it notes…having these big pieces of paper that came off that pad, and sticky notes, I thought was fantastic.  You always have the ability to grab a marker and write on a wall and your walls are all about the process.  You cannot bury it.  You cannot decide, “You know what, I don’t have a pencil, I don’t have the time right now…”  You can’t decide any of those things.  And because of that, the process is in your face and you’ll get somewhere doing it.  You can even write when you’re frustrated, “I don’t get it.”  Circle things, y’know?  It is the concept of putting an equation on the chalkboard and slowly over time solving the problem.  So that was something we all learned from that.

Tools of the Trade

Kitty Holster

Chubs Kitty Holster

Yup, cats can go on walks.  Jackson had Keri and Jonathan leash-train Chubs using the Kitty Holster cat harness.

Being able to go outside helped challenge Chubs, which enlarged his territory, increased his confidence, and got him a little more exercise.

Want more?  We got you covered.  

Click here to read more from Jackson about what holistic remedies he used for Lucy, Chubs and Cole, and why.

  1. MM   June 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm  

    OMG I love you and love this show! Where were you five years ago when I was dealing with my cat situation? lol! I introduced a new cat who was dominant even as a kitten to my older cat. Needless to say my older cat peed in my house for a year until I figured out I needed to create a separate safe territory for her. Sort of defeated the purpose of having two cats since they now live in separate quarters of the house, but at least no more cat fights and no more pee! Anyway, love your show and love any man (esp one with tatts) who is man enough to love the unpredictable creatures called cats, and even gets teary eyed over them on occasion! Good work!!!

    Reply
    1. MM   June 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm  

      btw my younger cat is exactly like Lucy!

      Reply
  2. ann bussart   June 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm  

    I have a 11 year old siemese /mix cat female,spaded,and lately she has started an unusual quirk,she will lick my knuckle then start nibbling on it ,like a love bite,she don,t bite hard or break the skin,but am wondering why she does this ,is she lacking something in her diet maybe,she is still the same sweet cat she has always been ,with the exception of a siemese temperment,that is,if she don,t like something she will lay the ears back and leave, and do you know …how well do cats that are cross-eyed see,do they acually see cross-eyed,she has the pretty blue eyes of a siemese cat,but color is diff.and mixed over her body,she came from a mixed litter ,they were all colors,mother was a grey tabby

    Reply
    1. Tammy   September 6, 2013 at 11:07 am  

      I have no idea but both my Cats lick to get you to rub them. I think they learned from the dog. It’s very disconcerting when you on the computer at the desk and out of the blue you feel a cat tongue on the back of you leg or around your ankle. My female never nibbles but my male will bite but not hard. He also touches when he wants pet (touch equals putting a paw up to my arm or hand and laying on me.)

      Reply
  3. kaitlyn   June 16, 2013 at 7:40 am  

    Jackson I have a problem my cat jojo he is peeing on everything blankets,shoes,carpets, the brand new wood floors and he’s never done any of this before and now he’s just constantly peeing on everything and he will miss his litter box and it ends up on the side of the litter box and I need to no what to do I don’t want to see him go or start to live in the garage so please if you see this please email me at kaitlynweiler_22@hotmail.com please I need your help/advice

    Reply
    1. Tammy   September 6, 2013 at 11:11 am  

      Try changing the litter brand and keep it super clean. My female was raised with a litter maid. It broke we got a substitute box and cheaper brand of litter. Needless to say she would deliberately pee outside the box on the edge. We brought back her favorite liter TidyCat Multi-Cat and keep box super clean. Poof the problems stopped. I would also recommend Anti-Icky Poo no more for getting the urine out. I swear by the stuff. Discovered it when we had senior do with kidney issues

      Reply
    2. Jessicat   December 3, 2013 at 11:51 am  

      Take him to the Vet. He might have a bladder infection.

      Reply
    3. Kitty   December 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm  

      I would also have the cat checked by the vet if you haven’t. There may be a bladder or kidney infection or something like that. Any dietary changes or changes in litter? has the cat gotten scared lately by something such as feral cats that are outside or spraying? These things could all be affecting it, but often its from illness so please make sure! :(

      Reply
      1. Tammy   January 15, 2014 at 10:39 pm  

        We recently moved where we could actually get a cat genie. Which for the humans its a god sent if you can get the cat to use it. My cats went on strike and found a corner and began using it. I bought sprayer like Jackson used to keep them out of there. I put back a temp cat box. The started using the temp box. But my female wouldn’t have any part of it. I went and got a reg. cat box and bought the brand of liter she has used most of her life. We have n’t had an issue accept she wants me to clean her box after every use. I am considering selling the cat genie and going back to the liter maid (small version only the large makes huge mess). I think its the smell of the cleaner offends them. Not sure but were working on it. So maybe you need to try different litter boxes or brands of liter. Good luck.

        Reply
    4. Amanda   December 30, 2013 at 9:47 am  

      take him to the vet. this could be a medical situation. if you find out he is healthy and doesn’t have a UTI or something else, make sure his litter box is CLEAN! cats are VERY cleanly creatures and even cats with the best potty habits will go elsewhere if the litter is disgusting. stick yur head in the box, take a wiff, look around. would you go in there? if your answer is no, then you are not cleaning the litter box enough.

      Reply
      1. Stacey Barton   December 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm  

        Actually cat’s don’t like their litter boxes to be too clean. Jackson discusses that in Litterboxes 101. They need to smell their scent in there. He recommends scooping once or twice a day and cleaning the actual box a few times a year. Cats aren’t people, so we can’t expect them to think like us. For example, they also don’t like “privacy” when they use the box. That’s just for a human’s convenience since we don’t want to see the box or the cat using it. The box needs to be located in a socially important area. If you see cats outside, they pee and poop out in the open where they can’t be ambushed by another cat or animal.

        Reply
  4. Karen   June 19, 2013 at 10:54 am  

    Hi Jackson, you are my hero! my problem is actually 2… 1. my 3 year old female has been spayed BUT she picks fights with my 6 year old female for no reason at all!!
    2. I recently adopted another cat that this lady couldn’t keep anymore as she was severly allegic to her. the cat is spayed however, has been by herself until now… i live in a bi-level and she stays downstairs while my others stay upstairs…iv’e tried to get them to mingle but the ‘newest’ female just charges after them for no reason… it’s been 3 weeks now and i thought they would get along a little better but nothing… any advice on what to do … PLEASE! :)

    thanks,
    Karen

    Reply
  5. Taryn   August 24, 2013 at 11:33 pm  

    Hello Jackson,
    I REALLY NEED YOUR ADVICE! I have a 4 month old siemese named London, he is a male and got neutered 2 weeks ago. I got him at 4 wks old and had bottle feed him. I know really young, but their was reason behind it. So, I am out of town and this morning I get a call from my husband, informing me that London had fully attacked my 7 year old daughter. He had sent me the photo’s and I was furious!!! I use caps on his nail’s therefor the injuries to my daughters face was by London biting her. He just barely missed Her actual eye, almost sending them to the emergency room. She had not Provoked him in anyway. She was laying on the couch watching cartoons when the attack happened. He will be the sweetiest little cuddle bug and then a crazy cat in a instant. It is like he is Biopolar! I don’t know what to do as my husband doesn’t want to keep him and I don’t want to get rid of him, but I can’t have him around the kids if he is showing unpredictable behavior. He stalks us, and pounces on us when we walk by. I know he is just in the kitten stage, but this is going way beyond playing. What can I do to keep this from happening.

    Thank you!
    Taryn

    Reply
    1. Tammy   September 6, 2013 at 11:17 am  

      He is hunting. Siamese are hunters naturally. I had a 1/2 Siamese when I was child we could not have bird, fish or rodents with her. I think they are super hunter traits in the breed. I would recommend getting her some kind of toy that she can hunt and kill. Like toys with feathers. Also watch the ears my cats ears drop straight back when they are in hunter mode. I would say the boy needs a good workout ie. hard play session to stop him from hunting the humans he lives with.

      Reply
  6. Ginger   September 23, 2013 at 5:03 am  

    Hi, I adopted a new cat Alley, from the pound about 8 months ago. She is about 3. (I’ll admit I was sad about losing our first cat Sophie (14) earlier in the year.) I thought I was doing everything thing right. I separated her in her own room for the first couple of weeks. She and my other cats Cujo 10, Wadsworth 7, Bella 1.5, could smell each other under the door. Paws would stick out from either side. Then I would let Alley out into the rest of the house supervised for a short time, increasing each time a little more. Soon she was staying out all day. Of course, there was some squabbles here and there but for the most part it looked like it was going well. I even got a picture of the 4 of them chilling out together. Over the next 3 months, it seemed to be going better than I could of expected. Then my husband and I had to go out of town for a few days. His mom came over to feed and check on them everyday. All heck broke loose, and when we returned someone had peed all over the house. On every bed, rug you name it. Mind you I have 3 boxes upstairs and 3 down. It the 14 years we have had cats, this has never happened. I probably would not have figured out who it was as quickly as I did had I not caught Alley in the middle of the act on our bed. I thought something must be wrong and took her to our vet’s. She did have a bladder infection. No biggie, I thought. After a round with meds it seemed as life was good again. Then I started noticing Cujo flat out just stalking Alley. This really surprised me because of all the cats he has always been the most laid back. We had already had Sophie a couple of years when we got Cujo. She treated him like her baby and I could find then snuggled together.Then we got Wads. He just simply turned up his tail and walked away. Now I find them lounging together and get along as “brothers” do. I’ll chase you, you chase me. Normally no fur flies. With Bella he was the big brother and was always was gentle as she bit his ears and tail. Still today they play together and cuddle. Now with Alley he has turned into devil. Stalking her, jumping and fighting with her. She walks around all hunched up expecting him to get her. She has started peeing all over everything again. I have made Cujo free rooms for her. She seems so grateful and really comes out of her shell. Making that trill sound, fetching toys , being cuddly. But on the occasions when Cujo sneaks in, the peeing starts all over. I will not give up but I am very disheartened. I can not have her peeing on everything or have him be so mean. Any suggestions would be helpful as I am not willing to give up on either one. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  7. Brian   October 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm  

    My wife and I have a 4 year old female that has been spayed. Not really sure on species but probably a mix of domestic short/longhair? She sort of adopted us so don’t really know the history of her first few years of life.

    She would occasionally act aggressive (bite or scratch) towards my wife and it usually occurred around my wife’s menstrual cycle. I know, I know…….sounds strange but true. Fast forward a few months and the attacks have become more frequent and severe. This increased aggressiveness seems to have started after my wife began a new career as a nurse, a job that keeps her away from home numerous evenings.

    The attacks range from my wife walking past the cat and the cat lunges to bite or scratch to the cat sitting in her lap and then suddenly biting. Any aggressiveness towards me is fairly rare although it has happened with a bit more frequency as of late.

    We’re kind of lost here. Anyone with some suggestions????

    Reply
  8. Tracie Hatcher   November 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm  

    We have a cat name Jade she is about 3 years old. She attacks my friend cats if we let her downstairs. She has attack me before while trying to get to the other cat. She is a sweet cat seems to only want attention when she wants it. I have taken her to the vet and she was put on meds for being aggressive, but that didn’t seem to work. We have to keep her upstairs in the bedroom all the time because of how she acts. Any suggestion.

    Reply
  9. Sherry   December 3, 2013 at 11:07 am  

    I wanna know why why does my cat always scratch the end of the bed,I understand he has to go outside,but why does he do it?

    Reply
  10. eric_in_NJ   December 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm  

    Good work Jackson- cannot wait for new episodes of MCFH!!!!

    Reply
  11. Debbie   January 5, 2014 at 9:04 am  

    I have to chuckle…as I was reading this a fight broke out in the kitchen…we have an almost two year old male (neutered) that we found and rescued at about 3 weeks of age. He has always been a biter, but gradually got better. About a month ago we brought home a 6 week old female kitten. The intro went much better than we expected, we only intervene when we have to…when we do he bites the person who intervenes! Two days ago the kitten had her leg caught and was screaming her head off; when I touched her he attacked me, and I don’t use the term lightly. I have about ten bites, had to go for antibiotics and a tetanus shot, and have missed two days of work. I think he was protecting her…?

    He (they) do have places of their own to go, with lots of stimulation (ie a bird feeder outside the window, places to lay in the sunshine, as well as places to hide). We do spend a lot of time playing with both, but concentrate on him to help keep his aggression down. In other words, we try to wear his butt out! The two of them play together a lot; he gets carried away sometimes but the bigger she gets the less that happens. Sometimes we just separate them so tempers can settle down.

    I’m about ready to get a consultation; I can’t trust his behavior with my grandkids, which means they can’t come over because I can’t take a chance on him doing to them what he did to me. My heart is broken, everyone wants to know if I had him put down(:
    We haven’t, but can’t go on this way.

    Reply
  12. Paisley   April 13, 2014 at 8:34 am  

    We are having an issue with a cat that was given to us about three weeks ago. Her previous owner said she couldn’t keep the cat because her new room mate is allergic. From what we were told is that the cat is barely a year old. We asked about any issues that the cat has and were told she didn’t have any other than just acting like a kitten. We have an appointment with the humane society next month to have her spayed, and micro chipped. They will also give her some shots as well. She has gone into heat and that’s the only time that we’ve really be able to pet her as she becomes extremely friendly at that point. If we go over to her to pet her she will either bat at us with her paws or bite our hand. She loves to sit in the middle of the hallway and whenever we walk by her she will grab our legs or try to bite us. She’s a beautiful cat. We love her and of course want to keep her but we have children that are afraid to walk around in their own house because they fear the cat. For the most part we are trying to ignore her and just let her be. She likes to sit in a window in the bedrooms so whenever I go in I will talk to her but I haven’t been trying to pet her. I figure we should probably let her come to us rather than us go to her. She will come out and sit in the same room with us. I wish we had more information from the previous owner. I have a feeling the cat may have been aggressive with them and that’s why they wanted to rehome her. I have never had a cat act like this before. We are hoping she will calm down after she’s been spayed. Thanks for any tips or suggestions that anyone may have.

    Reply
  13. Abby   November 7, 2014 at 9:47 pm  

    I live in an apartment and I can’t put holes in the walls of any kind. My cat is a year old and I found her in the wild when she was only 4 weeks. She used to love me! She would sleep on my chest and let me carry her around on my shoulders. But around 3 or 4 months she started getting mean. She got spayed ASAP and it didn’t change her attitude at all. I’ve been living with this for months. I was living with my parents when I found my cat, and they thought they knew what was best and kept letting her outside after I asked them not to. (I had plans to move where there would be high road traffic.)
    Now the time came, and I’ve moved and she is anything but happy. Especially due to my roommate’s hyper-active dog… I am at a complete loss as to what to do with her! :\ My hands and wrists look horrible! She formed an attachment with my dad. She stopped coming to me to get attention and affection because of him. And now that I’ve moved she’s starting to form an attachment with one of my roommates. She still won’t come to me. ):
    Any help you guys?

    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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