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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 55488
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 48 years of experience.
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She doesn't like it if she is in the room first then I walk

Customer Question

She doesn't like it if she is in the room first then I walk in. But if I walk in first then she walks in after she is a bit better do you know why?
Submitted: 16 days ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 15 days ago.

Dr. Michael Salkin is typing. Please be patient.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 15 days ago.

This is akin to letting your hiking buddy go first on the trail so you won't encounter the dangerous animal waiting on the trail before your buddy does.

I'll take a look at your other post now.

I see that it's already been responded to. Please respond with additional questions and concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
If I go in the bathroom she sometimes waits outside but when I open the door she starts growling and hissing how do I exit the bathroom safely?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 15 days ago.

I believe that this behavior is part of a much greater problem you have with this cat.

I have advanced training in feline behavior and I need to preface my discussion by telling you that feline aggression toward the owner can be challenging to manage. Many cats display aggression toward their owners when displaying assertiveness. Cats that have this type of problem usually display a confident temperament. They exhibit assertive or status aggression by biting or threatening when the owner attempts to approach or handle them or to simply show their displeasure or anxiety with their place in the hierarchy in your home. Bite behavior may be an attempt to control these situations. Assertive displays, pushy attention-seeking behavior and attempts to control the environment by blocking access to doorways and refusing to be moved from perches or sleeping areas may also be displays of social status. One sign that might signify this type of aggression is aggression toward members of the household that a cat can control (you), avoiding aggression with family members that control the cat and do not routinely give in to its demands. The prognosis is guarded as these cats may be dangerous and the problem may have both innate (he may have been feral as a kitten) and learned components (he may not have been socialized prior to the important age of 7 weeks). Too many of my owners have ended up hospitalized due to cat bites. You must decide whether Harley's risk to you is warranted vis a vis attempting to manage his inappropriate behavior. If you're willing, management involves the following:

Make the situation safe - identify stimuli leading to aggression - avoid confrontation and any stimuli or interactions that elicit aggression - teach simple commands such as "come" or "sit" by using food lures whenever she is receptive to food or play.

Withhold rewards unless earned - Harley should be taught to defer to you for any treats, affection or play. For instance, play, affection and treats should never be given on demand but can be given if he responds to a command. After a few weeks of teaching deference, he can be taught to accept stimuli that have triggered aggression. You would need to begin by performing a behavior that has triggered aggression in the past but in such a muted way that no aggression is elicited. If no undesirable behavior is exhibited, she is given a very tasty food reward or play. Once she's conditioned to accept a mild level of the stimulus, the sessions can progress with stimuli that very gradually become stronger.

Punishment must be avoided but undesirable behavior can be interrupted with alarms or a can of compressed air. Care must be taken with this approach since some strong stimuli can make a cat more aroused and aggressive.

Uninhibited aggressive displays that appear impulsive, explosive or excessive may be reduced with psychotherapeutic drugs - SSRIs - such as paroxetine (Paxil) or fluoxetine (Prozac). I prefer not to prescribe these drugs for what, in essence, is normal behavior for many cats. Drugs, however, are an important resource for the determined owner.

As mentioned above, Harley is a significant danger to you and others to whom you might rehome her. If you're highly motivated to keep her in your home, I would suggest your seeking council with a board certified veterinary behaviorist who will come to your home and examine the dynamics therein. Her vet should be able to refer you to such a specialist. I like the idea of keeping her sequestered in a quiet and dimly lit room until her level of arousal abates or perhaps allowing her outside more - where she needn't socialize to an extent past that which she's amenable.

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
I don't know what triggered this aggression this time but I think because I am the first person she saw she is associating me with whatever happened. Last year we went through this it took months and months I have been told I can't have anymore time off work because of the cat.
Customer: replied 15 days ago.
I had to go to hospital twice last year and had my left hand and wrist in a sling. I have extensive scars on my right leg it was awful and so painful
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 15 days ago.

Once again, you must decide whether Harley's risk to you is warranted vis a vis attempting to manage his inappropriate behavior. I don't believe that you should be risking maiming and life-threatening sepsis - widespread infection.

Customer: replied 15 days ago.
She is on a waiting list for cats protection they are aware of her aggression issues. When they can take her she will be looked after and they will try to rehabilitate her. I am just trying to manage her untill they can take her. I don't want to have her put to sleep it would break my heart.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 15 days ago.

I understand. I can't set a follow up in this venue and so please return to our conversation with an update at your convenience.