Mary Beth was committed to bringing out the best in “Cougar,” not to mention her own safety. Getting perforated on her way out the door had never been on her bucket list. On my advice, she purchased some challenging food-dispensing toys that she loaded with tasty canned food. Allowing her cat to get good and hungry ahead of her departures made it easy. He attacked those simulated rodent carcasses with a vengeance, leaving his caring, calculating caretaker free to get herself gussied up for a rousing game of pinochle in the recreation room. So far, so good. But she still had to get out alive.
Like all self-respecting predators, Cougar found erratic movement impossible to resist. Browsing local pet supply stores and the internet (petlinkssystem.com/play) Mary Beth found a battery operated toy that drove her inveterate feline hunter mad with desire. Using it only for her departures, she retrieved it from its hiding place, switched it on behind the couch and sashayed out the door. Meanwhile, Cougar was too busy pouncing on his mechanical victim to notice. The fear and bloodshed had ended.
Cougar had only been who he was, a cat with unmet needs. Relinquishing him would have been a tragedy for him and for Mary Beth. She loved him, so she engaged her natural empathy to derail his suffering, and hers. By realizing that his needs were different, she could treat him like a cat. She also had a good story to tell while the cards were being dealt.
Just like anybody with a vexing problem Mary Beth had hoped for a simple, quick fix for putting her cat’s aggression to an end. I made it clear that a food toy distraction, followed by the appearance of simulated prey, would have to precede her exit every day for the rest of Cougar’s life with her. Only a brain transplant would cure him of being a cat. (Veterinary behaviorist humor.)
Indoor cats need every bit of environmental enrichment we can muster. There is much more on my website, drjeffnichol.com/pet-behavior/.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.