Transferred Aggression (feline)

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I used to have two cats: Skippy and Mason.  I still have Skip and my parents have Mason.  So, what happened?  Why is Mason living with my parents?  Well, it all started 11 years ago…

I had two cats: Missy and Socks.  Missy had to be put to sleep due to cancer and I was left with Socks who was fairly young.  Socks was always a very independent and mean cat, but hey she lived with a part Siamese cat which gives her an excuse.  I loved having two cats.  It gives them someone to play with while I work and usually one of them will want to spend time with me when I get home.

While at my parents’ house, I found an ad for free kittens, so dad drove me out to see them.  I fell in love with the only male kitten left.  He was so cute sitting on the ottoman with hiccups that shook his whole body.  The lady said that the kittens were 4 weeks old, but that they were all weaned and used the litter box.  When I saw a half-brother I saw why…he was huge!  This is how I found Skip.

I took both Socks and Skip home and did the introduce-the-new-kitten routine to Socks.  Everything was going great or so I thought.  One day Socks was headed upstairs and Skip started to follow her.  I was getting ready to head up and grab him; since it seemed a little early to allow them together without me.  The next thing I knew, Socks whipped around so fast and had Skip down.  Skip went immediately into a submissive position, but she started ripping his fur out anyway.  I was up the stairs in a flash to break it up.  Skip is still missing fur from that encounter.

After that happened, there was a no go on the introductions.  I tried splitting them apart for a few months alternating who was in a room and who wasn’t.  I gave Socks attention first, but she was having nothing of Skip.

I had a decision to make…do I find a new home for Skip or for Socks.  Socks was the cat that I had, but wasn’t really close to.  Plus she hated my parents and all of their animals.  Skip was the new kitten that was going to have a lot of vet bills due to the neutering and shots etc.  I chose Skip because I really wanted a multiple cat household.  I told Socks she had a home until the right people that I felt would take wonderful care of her came around.  I put an ad in the paper and a really nice lady whose cat just past away answered the ad.  She didn’t want a kitten due to all the vet costs.  I was honest and said Socks wants to be the only cat.  She said that she would take her.  I received a Christmas card each year from her for many years with a picture of Socks.

Now I was left to find another kitten.  While home visiting my parents, my mom and I went to Petsmart.  While there, I did what one who loves cats shouldn’t do…I looked at the kittens. There was one sitting at the front of the cage staring at us.  When we looked at him, he mewed.  It was a mew that said, “Please take me home, I’ll be forever grateful.”  He looked orange and that matched Skip, so I asked to hold him.  As soon as I held him, I knew he was the one.  He started cuddling, purring and held on to say he wasn’t going to be put back.  He was only one month younger than Skip which was perfect.   This was Mason who was actually a yellow kitten after a bath. Yes, he was that dirty.  I guess the kittens were found in a garbage bag on the side of the road in a puddle of oil.  At least, that’s what we were told.

I took both boys home and they were like true brothers.  They ate, slept and yes, they used the litter box together.  I have photo proof because I had never seen it before.  If one was on me, so was the other.  My mom got a kitten shortly afterwards named Oreo.  When I went back to visit, the three boys were inseparable.  Oreo loved Mason.  As soon as the cage was opened (both my boys shared a big cage), Oreo would wrap one arm around Mason and walk on three legs with Mason.  It was so cute.  All three boys had a blast knocking over mom’s fake tree and just playing like kittens do.

All was well for about 3 years.  Our house was very happy and the boys were inseparable.  Then it happened.  At first I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew things had changed.  New neighbors moved in and with them, two friendly orange tabby’s.  This made all the difference because for some reason these two cats loved my patio.

I came home from work one day and I only saw Mason.  There was no Skippy.  This was very, very unusual.  Skip always greeted me.  I went looking expecting to find out my worst fear.  Mason followed.  At the time, I did not know what was up, so I had no problem with his following me.  I found Skip in the laundry room (where the litter box is) on top of the dryer in a trance.  His eyes were highly dilated and he looked and smelled horrible.  He was extremely afraid of something.

As soon as he saw Mason, Skip freaked and Mason went to attack.  I took on Mason and got him locked in another room.  Then I had to calm Skip down in order to move him and clean up the mess.  Nothing was working, so I got out the big cage and grabbed a big towel to protect myself.  I threw the towel over Skip and swooped him up and into the cage.  After shutting the cage, I surveyed the damage.  Urine was everywhere.  Skip was so scared that he wet himself as he was fleeing, and then he was too scared to get off the dryer to go potty.  This is the only time he has not used the litter box.

I checked and there was a trail of urine from where the attack started to where it ended on the dryer.  I imagine Skip could probably protect himself up there.  Mason wasn’t a great jumper and Skip was bigger, so he could probably have kept Mason from getting up there.  I went into cleanup mode which was a huge task.  I must have done an awesome job because you’d never know that there was once urine on the carpet…in other words there is no residual smell.

Now I had to clean up Skip.  Mason was still locked up, so I checked Skip to see if he was amendable to being touched yet.  He was, so I promptly gave him a bath.  For the record, he does not mind water, so this isn’t as bad as you might think.  I think he was happy to be clean because when I say he was a mess…I mean he was a MESS!

Everything was cleaned up.  A second litter box and food bowls were set up in the bedroom.  Skip was placed in there to shorten his world and make him feel safe.  I let Mason out who investigated everything.  He seemed fine.  I still had no idea what happened to the perfect world my boys lived in.  I thought about it all night and the next day all while keeping the boys separated.

I decided I needed to reintroduce them to each other because something major happened.  So, I started the switching of who was locked up.  During the switch, nobody was allowed to see anybody else.  I put a ribbon under the door, so they could play with each other.  The one locked up always cried horribly.

After a couple of weeks, I let them under strict supervision to see each other.  All was fine, but I didn’t push it and slowly increased their time together.  Since I didn’t know the trigger, I didn’t want to just let them alone, but it was tough to keep an eye on them constantly.  For example, to go to the bathroom, one had to come with me.  Since Skip wouldn’t let me out of his sight, it was Skip.

Finally, one Saturday a couple of months later we were spending the day out.  They were lying down together and then it happened.  Everything fell back apart and I finally knew the cause, but I didn’t know why.  The neighbors’ illegal outside cats (against HOA rules) came to visit.  Mason threw a fit!  He attacked Skip who got scared and went running with Mason in chase and me following to break it up.  I knew I had to stop it fast.  I got Mason in a room and Skip was terrified again, but I got a hold of him safely and put him in his safe room.

Now what do I do?  I was perplexed, so I called my awesome vet to ask.  The vet and I were pretty good friends after Missy.  He knew I took good care of my cats and that what I was saying was not blown out of proportion, but what really happened.  He said the term “Transferred Aggression”.  I asked what it meant and what do I do for it.

Basically, Transferred Aggression is where one cat sees another cat that they cannot access, so they attack the next nearest cat.  In my house, Mason saw the outside cat, but couldn’t attack it, so he instead attacked Skip.  Skip has residual issues from the attack of Socks when he was sooooo young that it really affected him.

The vet said to reintroduce them to each other and block off sight to the outside cat.  I went out and bought some poster board and taped it up on the patio doors.  My hope was that this would discourage the outside cats from visiting.  I never acknowledged them out there, but I think they knew Skip and Mason had a good life.

I just lost two months of hard work to get these two back together.  Now I get to start over.  I started from the beginning again.  It is hard work each night to give each one the amount of attention that they want when you are doing this by yourself.  During the weekday I was at work, so I could split my evenings by spending time with the cat I wasn’t sleeping with and then the nighttime with the one I was. Weekends were really tough because the one locked up knew I was there and cried for Mommy to let them out.

Slowly, I tried to get them back together, but to no avail.  The vet then gave me some spray to put on each cat which was to calm them down.  I tried that for a month and Skip was having nothing to do with Mason.  Outside, I started spraying some stuff down to try and discourage the neighbors’ cats from visiting.  It just went away after a rain and they came back.  I tried saying something to the neighbors about cats outside and how they were bothering my inside cats.  I got the answer of “What do you want us to do?  Put them on a leash?”  Well, you know it is a busy neighborhood with a lot of cars around; maybe they would be better off inside.  These were country folk who believe cats belong outside which is fine in the country, but in the city chances are they will get hit by a car.  There was no reasoning with them.

That backfired and now my neighbors thought I was nuts.  I probably looked it considering I was at my wits end with how to get these two back together.  After eight months, I finally gave up.  I had to make a decision because for me, I could not live this way any longer.  I had tried and failed.  Skip was too hurt by Mason’s actions to try again and chances are it would have happened again because short of moving I couldn’t get the outside cats to stay away.  My two babies were in a pattern and Skip was too much of a lover to fight back.  What’s funny about it is, Skip has the size advantage and could have taken Mason, but at the time he wouldn’t protect himself.  It was probably because I protected him too much with Socks after she attacked him.

After spending some time crying and holding Mason, I made the tearful call to my mom to let her know my decision.  I knew mom and dad adored both boys, and would be upset.  I told her that I was choosing to find Mason a new home.  Don’t get me wrong, Mason is an awesome cat, but I thought he would deal better in a new environment than Skip would.  Skip was too messed up to have to move to a new house.  Mom didn’t hesitate a bit when she said “We’ll take him.”  She told me that Oreo loved having Mason around and with their other cat Mechant getting up in years, it would give Oreo someone to grow old with.  Plus I would get to see Mason when I visited.

I feeling of relief came over me.  I would still get to see Mason!  Mason didn’t have to adjust to a new environment because he was used to going there anyway.  Cranky Mechant (everyone gets cranky when they get older) even liked Mason because he was always warm to lie against.  Mason became dad’s cat.  He already had Mechant (she was first mom’s cat), but the three worked on positioning so that all were happy.

To this day, Mason loves his daddy.  The only negative thing that happened was my poor father could no longer eat cereal at a table.  Mason loves cereal and wants you to share.  I used to flick out Cheerios to him, but forgot to tell dad.  Dad started eating the cereal standing up, but Mason just wrapped around him and begged for some cereal.  Finally, dad just gave up cereal as it wasn’t worth it.

As for Skip, the first few visits to mom and dad’s were tenuous.  Skip wasn’t alpha there, so he took it and just played with Oreo, but stayed away from Mason.  When mom and dad visited me, we split them up when we weren’t there.  After eight years, both Skip and Mason can be trusted around each other without incident.  They still aren’t the best friends that they were and at this point will never be.  Skip tolerates Mason and Mason knows it’s Skip’s house now.

Unfortunately for me, I no longer have the two cats I wanted and with Skip, I will never have multiple cats.  So, I just replaced Mason with Boyfriend.  Boyfriend isn’t nearly as talkative as Mason, but I’m OK with that!  😉