MCFH: Attack Cat Learns to Stop, and Stops Over-Grooming

Show: My Cat From Hell season 9, episode 2
Episode Title: Mayday!  Mayday!

CAT: MAY

May the cat.  Notice the results of her stress over-grooming :(

May the cat.  Notice the results of her stress over-grooming :(

May (a.k.a. Malinda or May-May) is an all-black female cat who was adopted from a shelter at about 6-7 weeks old.  She’s now 3.

GUARDIAN: MADDY & ERIN

May is Maddy’s cat, and Maddy has been trying to protect Erin from May’s attacks.  Hence, Maddy is the one with the most battle scars: bites and scratch marks.

HOW BAD IS IT?

May's 'aggression problem' turned out to be a symptom of a deeper problem.

May's 'aggression problem' turned out to be a symptom of a deeper problem.

May the cat exhibits extreme aggression towards humans, including her guardians.  When any guests enter the home, they are given “the speech:” don’t touch the cat, don’t look at the cat, stay away from the cat.  And Maddy and Erin are stress cases about it.

ISSUES

  • scratching, biting, and attacking all humans
  • serious loss of fur from over-grooming: stress over-grooming, psychogenic alopecia

PHYSICAL APPROACH

Anxiety medication.  Yes, animals sometimes need medication to normalize their behavior.  Jackson got beat up pretty bad by May in order to figure this out.  He used his Challenge Line process with her, trying to determine what consistently ‘triggered’ May’s aggressive behavior.  (eg: what if he approached her in a friendly way, offering food, what if he approached her without her guardians in the room, etc.)  When it became evident that there was no real consistency to be found, that was an indicator that May could benefit from being on medication.

May, getting some play therapy with Jackson's Air Prey Wand.

May, getting some play therapy with Jackson's Air Prey Wand.

Play therapy.  Purposeful play was used to help May use her energy in a positive way, instead of nervously licking and pulling her own fur out.   Anytime they saw May start to gnaw at her fur, Maddy & Erin used toys to interrupt that pattern and direct her attention instead to a cat’s instinctual mantra: hunt, catch, kill, eat…

Treasure map: physically flagging spots in the home that have territorial significance. Jackson had Maddy and Erin literally mark with tape, the spots in their home where they noticed May exhibiting the most confident behavior, what Jackson calls the “Confident Where’s.”  For example, after noting that the bathroom rug was a Confident Where, Jackson had that rug moved to the living room.  This helped to expand Maddy’s area of territorial confidence.  The more truly confident a cat is, territorially — the more they feel they own a space — they more at-ease and stress-free they will be as well.

After following Jackson's homework...

After following Jackson's homework...

...Maddy, Erin, and May were all able to relax and enjoy life a bit more!

...Maddy, Erin, and May were all able to relax and enjoy life a bit more!

EMOTIONAL APPROACH

Maddy and Erin were “stress cases.”  They’d been living on edge and in fear of May for so longthat they related to May with nothing but stress, fear, and misgiving.  Although completely understandable, this only made the situation worse for both them and for May the cat.  As difficult as it was, Maddy and Erin really needed to work on clearing their emotional slate when it came to May.  No expectations, no fear, and as deep a sense of trust as they could muster.  And it helped.  They re-introduced themselves to May, who was now on medication and so was a sort of new cat of her own.  This attitude of a fresh start helped them all to build a bond again.

HOLISTIC APPROACH

IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE, JACKSON ALSO USED JACKSON GALAXY HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS FOR ANIMALS:

STRESS STOPPER

Jackson had Maddy and Erin apply Stress Stopper consistently to May calm down and feel more grounded and protected.  Stress Stopper is a holistic solution that Jackson recommends for every pet guardian’s First Aid Kit.  Jackson says, “When you’re dealing with psych meds in cats, Stress Stopper is really good because anytime you introduce a psych med to anybody, human or animal, you’re switching up the way they perceive reality.  So Stress Stopper allows them to go through that process with a little bit of internal grace.”  Stress Stopper was formulated to help ease short-duration and temporary stresses such as vet trips, fireworks, vacuum, visitors, etc.  

SAFE SPACE FOR CATS

This is one of Jackson’s most-used holistic solutions.  Why?  Because it helps to create a sense of territorial security for cats, and that helps to solve a host of classic cat behavior problems.  When a cat feels insecure, they will many times deal with it by spraying and marking to insist on claiming their territory, or lashing out in fear and aggression, for the same reason.  Cats need to feel a sense of territorial ownership and Safe Space for Cats is formulated to help with that.

INSIDE INFO FROM JACKSON:

“[This was] …one of the most important cases I think we’ve ever done on this show for many reasons.  One of them being that it showed my Challenge Line process in a way that I don’t think any other episode ever has.  And I don't think I’ve ever been beaten up that bad ever, before, so there was that.  But, in this one, y’know, obviously, May needed medication.  She got on medication and she did much better after that.  On top of that, Stress Stopper, applied consistently.”