Thursday, August 29, 2013

Does Your Cat Ever Go Batsh*t Crazy?

Does Your Cat Ever Go Batsh*t Crazy?

Had the strangest experience yesterday, that seems important enough to share. My little Gilly, shown above standing benignly in the hallway, absolutely freaked out. A variety of factors likely contributed to it, so I'll tell you the story from the beginning.

The Daily Ritual

Every day when the mail comes in the afternoon, I go out to the front porch to get it out of the mailbox. The Golden Boys have taken to going out there with me to explore the porch and front walkway for a few minutes. Whenever I unlock the front door, they'll appear from nowhere and pile up at the front door, eager to get outside.

It's hotter'n four hells out there right now, this being August in Florida. So I don't have the desire to stay out long, and they seem satisfied with that. Gilly will usually roll around on the cement of the front porch or just sit or lie there and observe the street. Sometimes a loud car or a passer-by will make him get down really low, but he's usually brave enough to wait it out until the "danger" is past. Captain wants to stalk lizards, munch on the greenery, and walk along the brick edges of the front planter.

When it's time to go back inside, I'll usually pick up one cat and put him in first, then the other. They don't seem to mind it at all.

It's also important to note that my cats typically don't vocalize a lot. I may have heard something vaguely resembling a "meow" from one of them once or twice. But for the most part, they only make that happy little chirruping sound as they're playing chase with each other or running in to get me to play with them. Sometimes Gilly will give me a tiny little boy-soprano meep when he wants my attention while I'm working.

An Early Exit

Yesterday, something seemed to spook Gilly and he wanted to go back inside by himself a little early. It seemed odd, as nothing had gone by that would've done this. But cats are aware of some things that are unseen to us, so perhaps it was something like that. I opened the storm door for him and let him in. He walked right in, then sat inside it and watched us through the glass. 

Captain continued exploring a little more as I started looking at places I need to clean and paint, and noticed a big wasp's nest under the eaves with almost a dozen wasps on it that I need to take care of when the cats are not out there with me. I finally got too hot in the muggy humidity and wanted to go back in, picked up the Captain and headed back inside. And that was about when everything hit the fan.

Freakazoid Kitty!

As we came in the door, Captain leapt out of my arms across Gilly, who was backing up as we came in. But then Gilly flew up at me, all four paws forward and claws unsheathed, yelling like a crazed wild animal. His body posture was like one of those little suction-cup Garfield dolls that people used to stick in their car windows. He struck me in the upper thighs and torso area, bounced off, and assumed a defensive position. Captain started trying to attack Gilly in defense of me. There was a lot of swatting, hissing, spitting, and say nothing of what the cats were doing!

I was shocked, to say the least. While my cats had hissed at the cat show judges when they were afraid, I've never seen this kind of aggression from them. "Gilly!" I said to this insane wildcat crouching in my dining room. "What is the matter with you?"

Gilly hissed and backed away from me in response, not seeming to recognize me. Both he and the Captain were all fluffed up, every hair on their backs and tails standing at attention. Captain was on alert, watching every move Gilly was making. Gilly seemed terrified, backing into a corner of the dining room under a chair and hissing at both of us. 

Captain was talking more loudly than I'd ever heard, almost like he was saying words of some sort. "What the hell is wrong with you? Have you gone insane?" was what I imagined he was asking his brother. He sounded like that funny Asian video going around online, with the one cat fussing at the other one, and the subtitles that say things like the cat's a nagging, neglected wife.

"Gilly?" I tried again. "This is your bubba; you love him! And I'm your mama. Why would you be afraid of us?" My boys groom each other, sleep in each other's arms sometimes, and chase-play all day around the house together. To see them looking like they wanted to kill each other was completely foreign, and disturbing.

What's Behind This?

While Gilly was the most scared, both Captain and I were also scared -- both for him and of him! He seemed perfectly willing and able to inflict damage on either one of us if we got too close. But something was making him act this way, and I was scared of what it could be. Clearly, he was in pain somehow, which frightened him, so he was lashing out at us because we were the only ones around. But from what?

They've both had their rabies shots, so I knew it couldn't be that. Had a wasp stung him when we were outside? Was that what had sent him back in so early? No, it seemed that his reaction would have been much more immediate while he was still outside if that had been the case.

I wondered if he was in some type of pain elsewhere, and felt like I needed to get a hand on him to investigate further. Perhaps even get him to the vet, if I could even begin to get him in a carrier. But he made it clear that he would strike me again if I got that close. Even with a thick towel in hand, touching him didn't seem to be the best idea. 

Then I noticed something on the floor in the dining room, near where he had retreated when Captain was in pursuit to defend me. Was that...? Yep. Two firm little mini-turds there on the carpet. I got the paper towels and picked them up, figuring maybe it was some type of intestinal distress that had struck Gilly, even though the poop appeared to be of normal consistency. I'd been lax on cleaning their litter boxes the past couple of days, so maybe that was it. Just that morning, I'd found him peeing in an empty pot of dirt in the living room planter, and had been forced to remove it from the house. But after that, I'd scooped the potties and put in fresh litter, so both boxes were clean. And they've used the boxes without error before when they've been dirty. Had the poop come out of him from sheer fear?

Gilly had gone into the living room now, underneath the sofa and end table. He was still in that backing-away posture, hissing and high-growling at me whenever I'd get close. Something was definitely amiss. I tried singing to him, but these cats are not as musically inclined as my little Vixen used to be, and it doesn't seem to calm them. I tried Jackson Galaxy's slow-blink technique to calm Gilly, but nothing was working. His pupils were still dilated and he still seemed defensive, but his growling did slow a little.

Seeking Resolution

Keeping the two cats separated seemed to be the best idea, so I tried to keep the Captain away from wild-boy until he could calm down. Maybe just a wait-and-see approach was the solution. They seemed to have settled a little, so maybe time would heal everything. 

I went to my office and started doing a little work, trying to remove myself from the dynamic to see if that would let the cats work things out between them. Upon returning to the middle part of the house a few minutes later when I heard noises like they were getting close to each other again, I found that Gilly had moved over near the rocking chair that's nearer the exit from the living room. Captain ran toward the bedrooms, while Gilly continued acting like a cornered wild animal, even though he wasn't cornered.

When he moved, I saw something on the rug again...this time, it was softer poop. Out came the paper towels and the Fizzion again. It wasn't like he'd intentionally gone there, but more like it'd just come out of him in fear again, just a tiny amount. No blood in it, just messy poop. That was one good thing; they'd knocked a glass of water off a table in my bedroom a few days earlier, and I was afraid he may have ingested some glass from it that I hadn't picked or vacuumed up. The lack of blood relieved that worry, mostly.

I went out to the den, where Gilly had run, to try calming him down and see if things would get better. Hopefully, if this was some type of intestinal distress, he would go to the potty and get whatever was causing the pain out of him. And even without the blood in what I'd just cleaned up, the thought that he may have eaten a piece of glass was still there in the back of my mind.

Gilly was still hissing and doing a high growly sound sort of like the beginnings of the squeaky-door growl Vixen used to do when she was terrified. He was under the table, but then made a beeline for the litter box. Aha! Perhaps it was his tummy. I talked soothingly to him while he was in there and did the Galaxy blink again to calm him. Captain came out to investigate and I had to keep him away, as his presence seemed to agitate Gilly more. When Gilly emerged, he was still in his fearful state, hissing, yelling, and backing away from both myself and the Captain.

Sometimes when your tummy hurts, a trip to the bathroom doesn't immediately ease the pain, so I figured perhaps Gilly needed a little more time for his tummy to calm down and the fear to go away. He was still angry and hissy if I moved toward him, so I closed the door in between the kitchen and dining room to keep the two cats apart. Captain was calmer, but still on alert, and Gilly's hostile posture was certainly doing little to make things any better.

Back to work for me; maybe Gilly would eventually doze off and rid himself of this wild demon that seemed to have possessed him. Captain was calm now, if still a little alarmed looking in the eyes, but at least not fluffed up and hostile any more.

About another half hour went by, and I decided to go check on Gilly once more. He was still a little hissy, cowering in the kitchen this time, but not as bad as before. Sternly and calmly, I told him to stop it, then got down two little bowls and poured a little lactose-free milk into each of them for the boys, figuring that perhaps that would help calm them. Captain likes the fragrance of lavender, but Gilly doesn't seem to find it all that calming, so there was nothing I had in the house that would have had much of a calming effect on him. Neither of them have ever done anything like this before, so there's never been a need for any of the calming products I sell on my site! I was really at a loss.

Demon, Be Gone!

Eventually, Gilly did calm down, and the two boys were friends again. By mid-evening, he was acting as though nothing had ever happened. At one point, Captain went into the same litter box Gilly had used earlier, from which I'd already scooped the runny bit of poop he'd done in there and examined it for any offensive material, and Gilly seemed concerned about Captain going in there. I assured him that I'd removed the nastiness from before, and he backed off.

Today, they are just like they have always been, playing together and chirruping as they frolic around the house together. There has been no recurrence of the demon-kitty that was here yesterday afternoon. No further bouts of diarrhea, no blood anywhere, and no more cowering, hissing, or yelling. 

Not really wanting to involve the vet if it's not necessary, I also opted not to call him this morning. Whatever he'd eaten that had caused him the pain that so frightened him had apparently passed. My only explanation for his bizarre behavior is that these cats have never really been in pain or felt bad, other than one bout of a tummy virus they had picked up when I took them to the shelter for a check-up while they were still fosters. If that's the case, I'm not looking forward to the time one day when I really need to get him to the vet for something that's ailing him!

The mail hasn't come yet today, so I'm not sure how they'll do when we go outside to get it...or if either of them will even want to go outside with me today. Cats are funny like that; they'll associate places with an unpleasant experience and never again venture there.

The scratches (and even a couple of bruises!) on my thighs and arm will heal, but I'll never forget the sight of my little cat hurling himself at me full-force, with all four claws forward and armed for battle. If we ever have an intruder into the house, hopefully that same fierceness will emerge in Gilly and he'll scare off the bad guy. And hopefully Captain would be as defensive of me as he was when Gilly attacked me. Both of them made me feel a little more secure in that way - my little guard kitties!

How about you? Have any of your cats ever completely freaked out, in a way that actually frightened you? Share your story below, and help us all better understand our feline companions!

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