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25 February 2009

OMG mad kitty So Fry was perfectly placid the night before[More:] but was acting a bit weird when I stopped in during the afternoon for a couple minutes. Poor guy, too much alone time.

Then late last night when I was back home he freaked both of us out.

I was going down to the basement to check on laundry, one of his favorite little jaunts because it's normally closed off to him. He has some special games he has down there, like "smell the Christmas tree in the box" and "jump up to the window and arch my back" and "climb from the stairs over the water pipes to the cold air return duct where I can play peek-a-boo with stilicho".

Tonight, though, as I opened the door it sort of cornered him -- and he attacked me, or at least my work boots. Then he was begging at the door again, but clearly a bit off. On the stairs he kept attacking my boots. I wondered if I had some dog poop on them or something, but they were fine.

Then he was jumping on the table and hissing at me, and stormed around a bit, then was up on the concrete batting at nothing in the joists. All the while he was making the scariest distress sounds I've heard him make. When I got near he gave me a nasty snarl and puffed up his hair, so I backed off, spooked. I was now beginning to wonder if he was finally getting rabies and the test on the bat he caught was wrong. Or if there were another bat in the basement right now.

I tried going back upstairs, but he beat me to the stairs and snarled at me, blocking my way up. Eventually I sort of circled around and faked him out so I could get upstairs first, and lock him in the basement.

By now his behavior was so out of character that my heart was in my throat.

I got my winter coat on and my heavy work gloves, let him out, and tried to pick him up so I could put him in his cage. This sparked a fierce all-out war with my hand involving every tooth and claw at his disposal, and my gloves weren't that good, so I sort of tossed him down.

Weirdly, every time I spoke his name (barking "Fry!") or cooed at him ("Wassa matta boo?") he would sort of snap out of it for a second and give this "What am I doing?" look. Then pace around carefully and attack my boot again as if possessed.

There's no question with the situation we have now I couldn't devote a minute to this, but it was worrying me that come morning I'd have to take him in for euthanasia (and go back for more shots). He had been fine, slept in my bed with me the night before, calmly cuddled on my chest, some very kittenish behavior in him still at 18 months. Now this, out of nowhere.

I went over to the other building and got a leftover cat carrier a tenant left behind, and when I set it down next to him he actually walked right in! He's knee-jerk curious that way and used to his cage at least. So I locked him in, left him in the darkened room, and played some DICEWARS and Nano War to calm down. He howled for a while but then quieted himself.

It took a while of working on some other stuff and trying to get to where I could go to sleep for me to suddenly realize something.

Now, Fry is not a determined destroyer. He scratches only one piece of furniture, and that's the box spring I sleep on, and all my attempts to alter this behavior fail because what he wants is me to wake up and anything I do to stop him accomplishes this. Bzzt. But try as I might he does not get very interested in other scratching things. There's the door hanger thing -- nope. Bats it if the door is shut too tight, but won't scratch it. There's the floor thing with a catnip ball. He tried it for a day or two but hardly touches it now. There's the stand-up scratching post. I have to get him to chase a shoelace to jump onto it, whereupon he'll do some nice scratches until he knocks it over. I have to be involved, though, or to him it's just part of the room.

But. Despite this history, I had optimistically just bought Sunday a new cardboard scratching thing, and it was ... full of catnip. [Cat owners nod.] I didn't give it a second thought because he pretty much ignores any catnip toy I've ever given him, so I assumed he was unaffected. I just thought he might like the texture of this thing.

So I'd put it out, and apparently he'd spent the day getting high. Maybe it's quantity. I dunno, I'm far from a 'nip expert. But this was completely unexpected. Googling "catnip aggression" gave me plenty of support for my theory. When I thought about his behavior it was almost like he was hallucinating that I was someone or something else that he had to attack, but talking to him took him out of that illusion.

So I put the cardboard scratchy thing way up on the shelves where he can't really get to (and there aren't many places like that), and checked on him. Seemed to be calm, didn't want to attack my judiciously approaching finger. Trilling softly at me (his favorite way to talk, so cute).

I put the carrier up on the shelf above the computer, so he could watch me, and for the next hour he just sat there making eye contact as much as possible. I decided my theory had legs, but just to be cautious I carefully released him from the carrier into his cage, where he has a litterbox and water. He just stepped out like I lock him up in a carrier every day.

He was a bit antsy to get out the next morning (Wednesday), but I decided he sure wasn't acting even remotely rabid anymore. And he's been fine all day long, sleeping on my chest again, and only nipped at me once or twice (overly stimulating petting). Right now he's washing himself on top of the monitor.

I guess I have a catnip cat. My kitty is a dope fiend.

Maybe I can let him use the cardboard scratchy thing in small doses? Have to be careful.
They tried to make me go to rehab but I said "meow, meow, meow"
Yes I've been black but when I come back you'll know know know
I ain't got the time and if my daddy thinks I'm fine
He's tried to make me go to rehab but I won't go go go

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said "meow, meow, meow"
posted by taz 25 February | 02:26
I once had a lovely 26-lb black cat who mostly acted like a dog. That was excellent considering his size; his head was about the size of a softball and the rest was in proportion. We're talking miniature panther here. Most of the time he was on his back to get his belly and armpits scritched. However, he was a total 'nip fiend. He'd try to climb up my leg to get to the fresh stuff my friend grew if I held it where he couldn't reach it. When I gave it to him, he'd eat it, and then run willy-nilly all over the small apartment I had at the time. Totally out of character and very amusing. Think the word "gallomphing" here. He was a big dude. I hear from a friend who cat-sit that he would also get in a person's face for shotguns of other things. Perhaps it was related.

His sister had no interest at all in any of it, but would fetch little balled up pieces of paper and chase over and over.

I love taz's rendition of Rehab. Suits my late, loved Stanley cat to a tee.

posted by lilywing13 25 February | 05:06
Boy, what a story. I'd have freaked out thinking something was terribly wrong w/ my kitty. Good thing the "Aha!" moment came to you.

Must be some really good nip there!
posted by mightshould 25 February | 11:05
Maybe I can let him use the cardboard scratchy thing in small doses? Have to be careful.

My big cat gets pretty rowdy and aggressive on catnip too. I think one of the problems is that with the scratching post, Fry was getting constant access to it. My cat gets the 'nip in leaf form. I just crumble some up and put it on the carpet; he eats it and rolls around for a while, then it's gone. I think if it was always there for him, he'd act like Fry did.

My suggestion is to buy some dried catnip. Give him a small amount and observe. He'll come down pretty quickly -- there won't be that much. And if it turns out the catnip is the culprit, it seems like the best course of action would be to give him small amounts of the dried stuff so he can build up a tolerance, then see if he can graduate to the scratching post without tripping out. If not, get rid of the thing.

LOLling at the Catty Winehouse song.
posted by mudpuppie 25 February | 12:51
I tell you, mightshould, I was terrified for a bit. I've had some high anxiety of late and I really didn't need this scare!

But he's OK now. Sleeping up on my monitor again (as soon as I leave the computer he'll take the chair). What a sweetie.

(Thanks for the lyric, taz...)

On preview -- yeah, I let him have that thing all day long because I'd never had an issue like this before. I might put it down for a few at a time, I'm sure he'll go right to it, but I'm definitely not going to leave him alone with it all day ever again.

Maybe the name Cosmic Catnip Scratching Post should have tipped me off ... (next time, maybe one of these DIY)
posted by stilicho 25 February | 12:59
Oh how funny - Cosmic Catnip Scratching Post - sort of like a feline bong ... :-)
Glad he's come down to earth now. This sounds scary and I know what you mean about the panic. I only have dogs, but I spend way too much time worrying about them.
posted by Susurration 25 February | 18:02
I've had the same scratcher, stilicho. Gave up on it and similar types because of the mess the cardboard makes.

We now have two flat boards with sisal rope wrapped around them that lay flat on the floor. They're more spendy but last forever and don't make a mess. Every now and then I rub some catnip into those and their kitty condo and let them go nuts. Mingo gets really mellow on cat nip, the other three get fiesty. And all of them get very territorial over their little patch of nip.
posted by deborah 25 February | 22:03
I let him have a hit of the Cosmic for a couple of hours today and he didn't act any different. Wasn't even that into scratching it although he did visit it several times for a short bout. Weird.
posted by stilicho 26 February | 00:43
Nascar of the desert. || Bunny! OMG!