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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I adopted a neutered (since age 3) 5-year-old former breeding

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I adopted a neutered (since age 3) 5-year-old former breeding Egyptian Mau 2 months ago. She was being re-homed because she never recovered from the sudden death of her own mother and the owner was working long hours so the cat was very unhappy. She'd rejected kittens brought into the home in the hope of giving her something to do and others to play with. My taking her was in hopes she'd be okay with a retired person with plenty of time. She's still very unhappy and although I've heaped love and patience on her, she seems in constant terror. Today when I answered her usual plea to be picked up, she freaked out and really hurt both my hands with her hind claws. She's jumpy about anything and nothing. I'm 72 and fear I just cannot manage her. The former owner will not take her back so I'm at my wits end.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian in the US who exclusively treats cats and dogs. My father was also a vet, so I grew up working with animals. We have had, for years, a client who breeds Egyptian Mau cats as a faithful client and I've cared for countless Mau cats over the years. They are very frequently, by their nature, easily startled and have a short fuse for action. My arm is actually covered in scars from a frightened Mau cat who tore me up when I was in high school! I've known this breeder for pushing 25 years now and she has made a concerted effort to only include very outgoing and sociable cats in her breeding lines, but still many of her cats are simply "one person" animals. They are happy and fine at home as long as you're not doing anything that they don't like. Inside the vet hospital - look out! They can be firecrackers. Cats have a short window of time that we call their "socialization window" in early kittenhood. During this time, everything they see and experience is greeted with innocence and acceptance. If it happens to them during that time, they consider it normal and not scary. The trick is that once that socialization window closes, it's very difficult to get a cat to accept new things and changes in their lives. In cases where cats weren't handled much by people or if they had negative experiences with people during their primary socialization window, they can be always quite shy and skittish. Their base line genetic behavioral qualities will always influence their current behavior - that is to say that to some extent, they are born with a set of traits that isn't changeable. In your situation I would watch for the triggers for the "Freak outs" and avoid them if at all possible. If she usually does get agitated when you pick her up, then I'd not be picking her up anymore (no matter how she begs, haha!) Calming Pheromone products (sprays or diffusers) like Feliway or Comfort Zone can definitely help lower their stress leve. Another product I'd consider using is the Sentry Good Behavior collar: http://www.sentrypetcare.com/good-behavior/ which contains similar pheromones and is constantly right there wherever your kitty goes. To some extent, unfortunately, this may just be her personality and there may not be a whole lot that we can do about it other than give her the space that she needs to feel comfortable and secure. Sometimes over the years they do open up and begin to trust us as long as we don't damage that relationship, but other times they are just what they are. I did own a scaredy cat - she was a beautiful Siamese cat brought to our family clinic for euthanasia because the owner reported that they "had too many cats". I adopted her and found that she never did warm up to any of us. She always skittered out of the room when we'd arrive, and she very rarely ever came to us for attention. The closest we'd get was when it was dinner time, she'd stand around the food bowl as we filled it. She lived a lovely 11 years with me and I let her be herself - I rarely touched her. I figured that was 11 years more than she would have had if I hadn't brought her home. Now in some of these kitties, they can "open up" a bit when treated with an anti-anxiety medication. My medication of choice for kitties is usually fluoxetine. It can be difficult to do, though, if he is very skittish. I was never able to medicate my own cat consistently because she was difficult to catch to administer the medication - she was so traumatized by the whole affair that it did more harm than good to try to medicate her. Please let me know if I can answer any other questions for you!! ~Dr. Sara----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My goal is to provide you with the most complete and accurate “five star” answer. If my answer isn’t what you were expecting, it’s incomplete, or you have more questions PLEASE REPLY to let me know what information you are looking for BEFORE giving me a negative rating! If my answer has been helpful to you, please show me by giving me a favorable rating. Thank you so much :)
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. Actually Lexi was hand-reared because her mother had no milk, but there were 6 kittens so I suspect that apart from feeding, she had little human attention because her owner was working full-time throughout and needed friends to take shifts for the 90-minute round of feeding! He told me she is a 'shoulder' rather than 'lap' cat but she spends hours on my lap (I live alone so she's safe here). My sense is that she is craving outdoors although she's never been beyond a balcony. One odd thing: she eats plastic wrappers (yes, swallows!) so I have to hide them. I think it's Pica? I wondered if this could have a bearing on her skittishness? Since being with me, she's refused the food she ate all her previous life (Orijen and Bozita) so I have mountains of it and now mountains of the more expensive stuff. I would say she is in a state of constant high anxiety but had settled recently until she overate last night and was very sick. That seems to have freaked her out...
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the reply! It's really not uncommon at all for cats to chew on and eat plastic - they love it! It's unrelated to her skittish nature. If they eat a large amount of plastic or a big long string of it, it can cause a GI obstruction, though, so do your best to keep it out of her reach so she doesn't get into too much trouble :)~Dr. Sara----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------My goal is to provide you with the most complete and accurate “five star” answer. If my answer isn’t what you were expecting, it’s incomplete, or you have more questions PLEASE REPLY to let me know what information you are looking for BEFORE giving me a negative rating! If my answer has been helpful to you, please show me by giving me a favorable rating. Thank you so much :)
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience: I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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