I come from a family of cat whisperers. Both of my parents (both veterinarians) and my little sister are really really good at dealing with asshole cats. My mom owns one real dick of a cat. Her name is Bosco, and she does not like me. She’ll act all sweet like she wants to be pet, even get in my lap, but then decide at the last minute that NO, this situation is NOT ACCEPTABLE and suddenly the cat is gone and some part of my body is bleeding. Any complaints about Bosco are met with “Did you pet her wrong?”
I don’t even know what that means.
But even if Bosco doesn't like me, I still like her. Even mean cats deserve love (from my mother, I guess) and all I have to do to avoid getting scratched is not pet her.
My parents' witchcraft and wizardry probably stems from the veterinarian thing, but both of them (and my sister) have the most amazing ability to take a ball of hissing claws and pointy ends and render it immobile and somewhat docile. They don’t get mad at mean cats; the poor things are just misunderstood.
Even if you don’t have magical cat wrangling powers, it’s still hard hard not to chuckle a little bit at the family (dog included) that was held hostage by their large Himalayan cat.
For reference, this is a Himalayan cat:
Himalyans can be snobby and a little aloof, but I've never been afraid of one because LOOK AT IT.
But once I finished laughing and read more of the story, I got a little sad and angry, because the guy had kicked the cat.
Lee Palmer called 911, saying he'd struck the cat after it attacked the 7-month-old baby.
"I kicked the cat in the rear and it has went off over the edge and we aren't safe around the cat," he said.
I relayed the story to both of my parents, and they laughed and laughed. After my dad finished laughing, he got a little serious and added “They probably shouldn't own pets.”
Though hilarious, angry cats can actually be pretty scary sometimes, and my mom and dad were both happy to share some tips for dealing with angry or stressed cats, as well as some preventative measures.
Unsurprisingly, they did not recommend kicking.
1. Damage Control
Cats don't hug it out. They need room to breathe and simmer down.
My dad felt that if your cat is already freaking out, the best thing to do is give him/her space to calm down. Hiding in your room is an option, I guess. But my dad recommended a different approach, “If you’re worried about getting chewed up, you could always take a large couch cushion and gently nudge the cat into a separate room for them to calm down. If you try to nudge ‘em with your foot, you’re going to end up with cat wrapped around your foot.”
My sister (a vet tech) heard I was writing about this and texted me to add:
"Approach them from the back. Never try to grab an angry cat while face to face." She then added that when she was around 11 she bit Bosco's ear as a display of dominance because she had heard it worked on mean dogs.
It worked for a few days, apparently, but it's a little bold for my tastes.
2. Cat Trees
If you have kids, or other cats, your cat probably needs a space he/she can go to get away from it all. “The cat tree has reduced the in-fighting in my house drastically,” my mom said (she has four, I think, so she knows).
3. Prep Your Cat for a Baby
I don’t know the details of how or why the Palmer’s cat attacked their baby, but cats usually don’t attack unless they feel threatened or annoyed.
"Cats don't usually snap and go from zero to 60; there are usually warning signs," my mom said.
Creating a safe space for your cat to get used to the baby is key. Holding the cat at a safe distance at first is a good idea so you can gauge the cat’s reaction. Are the cat’s ears back? Is he/she tense? Hopefully you are the type of person who knows your cat’s non-verbal cues and can tell if he/she is stressed. Don’t try to force the baby on the cat and have places for the cat to perch away from the baby, such as the previously mentioned cat tree.
It is the owner’s responsibility to ready the cat for the arrival of a new family member. Plopping a cat down next to a baby, watching the cat freak out, and saying “Well, I tried!” is not sufficient. Babies are everything that cats generally hate: noisy, unpredictable, and grabby. You can’t expect them to immediately take to this new development with no preparation.
2. Soft Paws
If you are concerned about scratches I recommend you get some Soft Paws. They’re little caps that can be glued onto your cat's nails. These are a great, humane alternative to de-clawing and they come in a variety of colors! They’re $18.95 for a 4-6 month supply and fairly easy to apply. If you experience difficulty while trying to glue the things on your cat's feet (and who wouldn't?), you can always ask your vet to do it. Most are happy to oblige for small fee, if any. My mom says she usually charges the price of a nail trim.
My mom noted that if you have a multi-cat household, it’s important to get everyone Soft Pawed or nobody Soft Pawed “It would be cruel to leave only one cat clawless. That would be a really uneven playing field.”
3. A Gentle Mist Speaks Volumes
If you must discipline your cat (or any pet), physical violence is never the way to go (this should be obvious). Both parents recommended a light squirt from a cheap water gun or mist a from a spray bottle to quickly get your point across.
“Cats aren't stupid,” my dad said. “If you give them a little spray whenever they’re doing something bad, they quickly go ‘Oh, water appears on me when I do this.’ and they usually quit doing that thing.”
4. Try Pheromones
According to the website: “Feliway is a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone, used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure.”
My dad says he was skeptical at first, but apparently it really does work to calm cats down. It comes as a wall plug in and is completely safe and undetectable to humans.
“It has no effect on humans at all,” he said, “but I wish they would develop one that worked on people. I could use it for my waiting room.”
5. Reward Good Behavior
Give your cat treats when they're being good. Praise and rewards for good behavior, with children or with other cats, can go a long way.
So there are a few tips on feline anger management. But I think the most important thing is caring about your pet. Stressful situations (like bringing home a baby) can be made less stressful if owners take the time to research cat behavior (the ASPCA is a great resource).
Cats are usually all about living and letting live, but they don't like change. It's the owner's job as the caretaker to minimize stress in your pet's life. Suddenly changing the way things are after years of one way of living and expecting your pet to adapt overnight is silly. I can't even adapt that quickly. It took me months to get over my local salad bar replacing bacon bits with sunflower seeds.
Do you guys have any tips for mitigating tense situations with pets? Have you ever been cornered by a cat?
Claire is on Twitter @clairelizzie