Q: Our cat is a bit of scaredy cat but is also aggressive toward me and my husband. He was poorly socialized as a kitten. I love him to death but am so saddened by him. He can be so mean when all we want to do is love and care for him. His ears are always full of wax. He has scratched the fur off his face and the backs of his ears.
Dr. Nichol: Your cat’s reactive aggression is sad for him too. If I had such intense itchies that I damaged my ears and scratched the hair off my head I would cuss and bite and punch and kick and, well, you get the idea. A safe anti-itch medication called Atopica can make a huge difference for allergic cats. But in order to feel better this boy needs a diagnosis so he can get the targeted help he needs.
A thorough exam, a skin scraping, and a microscopic evaluation of that ear discharge will be essential but physical restraint would be highly stressful and potentially dangerous for this freaked-out fellow. A short acting general anesthetic will allow his doctor to do a thorough job without a struggle. If your kitty is still afraid after his skin and ears have improved he’ll need specialized behavior management. Right now he’s lost in a vicious cycle of misery.
Set your cat up for success by avoiding his fear triggers. Never lean over, reach for, approach, or stare at him. Instead you can reward him with a tasty snack for coming to you. Withhold his regular meal prior to these relaxed interactions so the little guy will be motivated to abandon his anxiety and earn tasty tid bits.
There is an excellent antianxiety supplement that can help your kitty relax so you can start mending your relationship with him. Zylkene is safe and tastes great when added to food once daily. There is also a practical reason for this boy to chill; you’ll need his cooperation when you administer the at-home skin and ear treatment that his doctor will prescribe. An improved level of mutual trust will be essential.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.