Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Raining Cats

I've mentioned before how important Brozhy has been for me.  He was there for me at night before my surgery when things were still terrible.  He was there for me to calm me down when things were crazy at school or with Sam.  And he was good for Sam too, who never liked cats until now, never wanted one, and never understood anything about them anyway.  In a way, Brozhy's kind of like a child, or a close companion, something.  When he goes, however that may be, it's going to be really hard for me.
Ach, just a wee thing then...
Maybe all of you don't know this, but before Sam & I got Brozhy, he was feral (with only a couple of weeks of socialization).  He was mellow and calm (as much as a kitten can be anyway), but a few months later he started getting a little aggressive.  It got to the point where it went past playing stalk/hunt for fun and got to the point where I couldn't walk anywhere without him leaping out at me and digging into my calves with his teeth, or lying quietly on the bed and without a warning he'd lash out at me again.  He does it sometimes with Sam, but more often than not, it's me he attacks.  Why?  No idea, but we came up with all these theories:

He's spoiled.

He's lonely.

He's not eating right.

He thinks I like it.

He thinks he's higher in status than me.

He does it to get attention.

Sam plays too rough.

And on and on.  Brozhy's behavior is actually a common topic of discussion in our house and out.  So we tried things:

Better discipline.

Don't let him sit above your head.

Find the right food.

More frequent & active play.

Don't act afraid.

Ignore him (ha! Better stock up on bandaids)

Try socializing him.

The socializing was hard.  The first thing we tried was to let in a lost cat that wound up on our porch one cold night.  Brozhy flipped.  The other cat walked in and Brozhy hissed and spat and booked it into our bedroom.  I decided the cat couldn't stay, even though it was cold, so I turned him back out, washed my hands, and went to go check on Brozhy.  He was sitting on the dresser growling.  I calmly approached him, but when I got close, he hissed and lashed out at me.

Obviously that wasn't a good way to go about introducing Brozhy to new cats, but I wanted to gauge where he was (which I've learned is negative bajillion) in his desire to meet new cats.  So we thought maybe if it was done slowly, or something, it would work.

The next try was when we went to Connecticut for the summer.  We left him with my sister, who has two cats.  He seemed okay at first.  By the time we were at the terminal, things had gone way, way south.  I wasn't there, obviously, but apparently he was hiding in the littler box, he hissed and attacked anyone who came near, and wouldn't eat.  They took him back to our apartment after one night and decided to check on him periodically for the two months we'd be gone.

As you might imagine, he went a little crazy having to be alone all the time.  We came home to chewed-off paint on a spot on the wall, a ripped up cloth lantern, and a general mess.  My sister told stories of how he was "Demon Cat," leaping from afar to attack her husband's face, biting viciously whenever anyone went near the door, and who knows what else.

We knew he was feral once.  We knew he had issues.  But when we got home, he calmed down a bit.  A day or two later, it started again, worse.  His "welcome home" gift was four nasty gashes on my right shin (from his teeth, mind you) that are still healing.  Every time I got on the phone or sat quietly too long he would attack.  My mom told me over the phone when she heard it happening that I needed to get rid of him.

Something had to change.  I was scared of him.  I was scared for any future babies we might have.  So we decided that maybe, just maybe, we could try introducing a young, small kitten, who would not be threatening, who Brozhy could adjust to at his own pace, in his own territory.  And then they could play together and Brozhy could redirect his attacks to something that wouldn't mind.

So we got little Addie.
Briefly calm...
She was an adorable grey and orange tortoise shell with a white dip on her tail tip and a voice like a megaphone.  We got her off of KSL from a nice family who hadn't spayed their cat in time and came back from vacation to a litter of kittens in their son's hockey bag.  She was 6 weeks old, eating solid food, but still relying some on her mother's milk.
From the second we brought Addie inside, Brozhy went postal.  I'm not going to recount everything, but over the next four days, there was very minimal interaction between the two, and yet they both hated each other.  Brozhy hissed, growled, hid under the couch, hid in his litter box, jumped and hissed when people came into the room unannounced or startled him, and bit and slapped.

Once I went into the bathroom to hang up towels and he heard me too late, leapt up from behind the toilet where he was hiding, hit the toilet paper roll and sent it flying everywhere, slipped around and landed in the shower behind the curtain-- all in a two-second period.  I looked at the floor and saw it was covered in urine.

Another time when Addie was out, he ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed.  When I went to check on him later, he hissed and latched onto my arm and wouldn't let go.

I must add that during all of this, Addie, the most vocal and dramatic kitten I've ever encountered, was having her own issues.  She would hardly eat (Brozhy was barely eating either).  And when she wasn't asleep, she was screaming.  If she was alone locked in the bedroom she would scream and scream like she was being killed (I am not joking) and ram into the door.  I've never known a cat to do that, especially not a 6-week old kitten.

Monday afternoon I was at my wits' end, I had a huge list of chores and things that needed to be done that I couldn't do because I had to juggle that in addition to checking on Brozhy every few minutes, and, if she wasn't asleep, sitting and playing with Addie until she got tired and fell asleep so she would stop screaming and ramming the door and making Brozhy freak out more.  It felt a little like having an infant during that stage where all they do is cry while simultaneously trying to take care of a sick toddler throwing a tantrum and clean the house, on little to no sleep because the kitten kept us up at night.  But what do I know about that?

We'd put up a listing on KSL when we got Addie just in case things didn't work out and we had to give her away.  But after 4 days, we hadn't had any serious calls.  When Sam got home Monday evening and saw me in tears from the stress of the situation and heard Addie still screaming and found Brozhy again cowering in the litter box, he suggested we got to the Humane Society and give her up.

I'd considered this, and had for some reason posted a question regarding our situation on Yahoo Answers (a note about Yahoo Answers-- don't ever post a question unless you want to be publicly ridiculed with no way to retaliate).  All I got were people yelling at me about my ignorance to the ways of cats, how cruel I was to consider "ditching" Addie at a place where she'd be euthanized in 3 days, how stupid I was for not just putting them in the same room together and letting them figure it out (really?), yada yada yada.  Awful stuff.

Sam reassured me that she would find a home quickly because she was cute and young and impressionable.  So we put her in a basket and set out on our way.  A little way down the road, Sam decided to double check the shelter hours, and saw that we had missed the time by 45 minutes.  Addie started screaming louder, in that murderous-cry way.  And loud enough it was hurting my ears and making me crazy.

Poor Sam.  He has to deal with all these crazy people and animals all the time.  And no doubt he felt a little guilty because pushing the kitten idea was his thought the other day.  After sitting in the car for a minute, he decided to call the woman who had originally given us Addie and tell her that Addie wasn't eating and it was possible she needed to be with her mother a week or two longer, and besides that, our cat was getting sick with the stress of having her around.

Thank goodness people in Utah are so kind.  She agreed to take Addie back without question, so we made the drive back.  It was the longest 25 minutes of my life, with Addie still screaming and the stress still ebbing.

In retrospect, I know we should have considered the kitten idea a little longer, but it had to be done at some point.  Now we know that Brozhy can't be socialized.  He is still attacking me today, but I've found that as long as I talk quietly and calmly to him, myself, Sam, and inanimate objects, then the likelihood is lower that I'll end up with bleeding welts on my arms and legs.

We've talked though, and know that if things don't get better over the next few months, there's a good chance Brozhy will have to go, and that upsets me most.  But for now, I'll just (softly) stroke the sleeping dragon by my side and hope that things will get better, and that somehow he'll be my cuddly, purring Brozhy again.


Megan said...

Oh Shannon, this post brought tears to my eyes! Things always seem so much worse on little sleep. Poor Brozhy, I feel so bad for him and you and Sam having to deal with all of this right now. And I know you've already decided this, but seriously just ignore all the yahoo answers people. Seriously. They have no idea. I wish there was something to be done about Brozhy but maybe Mom's right. I don't know if there is a better home for him or not, but I know you guys did the best you could. Do you think you'll keep trying a while longer? Usually when animals get that violent though, something has to be done. I'm so sad for you guys, and I will pray for you and Brozhy to be comforted and to figure out what is best for you guys.

Aimee said...

My parents cat, or my cat now at my parents house, would sometimes attack me out of nowhere, but not continually. Have you considered trimming his claws, so if he does try to scratch they are at least shorter? Sorry I don't have a lot of advice for you. Good luck.

Shannon said...

Megan: thank you, you are very kind :) And yeah, we are going to try a little longer, though it depends on how things go obviously.
Aimee: he doesn't really scratch because he doesn't have a lot of movability in most of his claws (side effect of polydactylism I guess), but we do clip his claws anyway. He just bites, hard and fierce, and he hasa sharp little teeth

LP said...

I think animal shelters should know better than trying to "socialize" feral cats. Sure, they're cute and adorable when they're kittens, but so are lions, tigers, bears, etc. But they grow up. Short of tranquilizing your cat every so often, I don't see how he's going to change. I think you should both (you and Sam) be commended for what you've done for Brozhy, but my experience (limited to one feral cat) hints to me that further action is to no avail. It really is too bad, but after you've done all you can do, you can't do any more. And those yahoos on yahoo can take Cressida's advice (Troilus and Cressida, 4.2), the naughty mocking uncles.

LW said...

Your mom sounds right to me. Remember the cat Whisperer show we saw this summer? You need that guy..... he would have the right answer. Not much help, but remember, you are more important to Sam, me and your mom than the kitty.......