Celebrating 40 years on this earth
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It’s been 35 years since Moonie escaped from the Mini, never to be seen again. We had other cats—Magpie, Crow, Mork & Mindy—but Moonie is the one that never left my mind.
On Saturday, as a birthday present to myself, I adopted a new Moonie. Not that any cat could replace the original, but, you know.
Meet Moonie Apollo Han Solo.
He’s 1 yr 3 months old and a total jackhole. I’m not joking.
“He’s been returned twice,” said the behavioral specialist at the ASPCA. She began to explain why. Told me he ‘plays rough’ and is sometimes ‘extremely aggressive’ to boot.
I baulked a bit. What did that mean exactly? Will he attack my face while I’m sleeping? Will he rip my heart out? I really just want a quiet ‘sit in the corner while I write’ cat.
But something about him being returned twice struck a chord. So, even though the stuff this woman was saying was kinda scary I said I was still willing to give it a shot. A second (third) chance shot.
Things started out great on Saturday. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Where was this bad behavior I’d heard so much about? This is how those first four days go:
1. I work at my desk, he pops up, walks across the desk once, then back across to go sit on the high stool I have next to the desk. He watches me work.
2. We play for 15 minutes first thing in the morning with a fishing pole bird feather toy. He chases that thing ’round and around the coffee table and ottoman swatting his paws and being a total fast puma hunter jackhole . It’s the funniest thing. I love playing this game. We play it at night for a while too, and a bit in the middle of the day. The laser pointer was the most popular toy the first day. But now… this fishing pole thing with the feathers. Comedy gold!
3. He sleeps. A lot. On the second shelf of his cat tower. When not sleeping, he gazes out the window. He’s a regular cat.
4. Moonie Apollo Han Solo doesn’t care about getting on my bed at night. He’d rather sleep in his tree. Though he does patrol at around 4.30am, and this includes a stroll across the top of the bed to check on me. But then back to the tree, or onto the mat to play with his kickaroo, which he hugs the shit out of when not batting the crap out of it with his back legs.
5. Not super cuddly. Not interested in sitting on your lap while watching TV – which suits me fine – though will come and sit beside you. Enjoys being picked up for a bit. Snuggles. The says ‘meh’ and I put him down.
Sounds great, right? Well, it was. And then came today.
We played for 15 minutes with the bird pole thing. He was extra chasey and fun.
About an hour later, I walked across the apartment and noticed him stalking me, coming up from behind all low to the ground. I can see he’s up to something. I half turn and BAM! he was on my leg with his claws and bit my foot but got half the jean bottom so didn’t break the skin. But it was viscious. Man, was it aggressive.
I turned and with a firm voice said no. He had this startled look on his face but was cocked for a fight. I had read when this happens to distract him with a toy and just leave the room and give him a time out. I didn’t have a toy on hand, so just turned and walked. He attacked again, showing no mercy and rearing up and biting. Brutally. Eyes big as saucers. Every time I made him stop with a firm NO, he would half hesitate and was wild and crazy and would not let me go. I finally got away. He chased, but I made it to the bathroom and shut the door.
Ten minutes later, I came out and he was Moonie again. I was uninjured, but a bit shaken up I guess.
I can tell this is going to be a long and scratchy road. My heart just sinks when I think he might not ever get any better. That I might actually have to give up (and have been told that’s totally ok). When he was at the vet today, he tried to bite the assistant, but ten minutes later, he sat there sweetly while the vet cut his claws. Both the ASPCA vet and the behaviorist have said to me that they’re really happy I’m trying to do this – because he is a lovely cat when he’s not being nuts – but if it gets too bad and I actually get hurt, this behavior is totally unacceptable and I should bring him back.
The behavioralist and I talked about distraction techniques and how to handle situations like what happened this morning. The ‘time out’ approach is correct, but the getting away part is the problem. So I have small mist-ing bottles scattered around in places I can reach them and one in my pocket (and the laser pointer as backup). The second the attack happens, mist his face (but hide it in my hand so he doesn’t associate me with the mist. It’s just a magical mist that appears when he’s being a jackhole).
Turns out the kickaroo is a no-no-aroo for this fella, either. It’s got catnip in it. He should have no toys with catnip when I’m in the room. Keep playing with him though. Reconise tail signals – seriously, I learned a lot about tail signals today – and when his pupils are dilated, watch out and don’t stare at him.
These strategies might work, they might not. One of the advantages of him having this problem is that with adoption of a behaviorally challenged cat, you get free access to behavior specialists for the life of the cat. It’s comforting. But at the same time, it makes me sad that he gets so angry. Poor fella.
I’m going to give it a go for a while. I usually have a rule of no shoes in the house, but you can bet your ass I’m wearing my 16 holer Doc Martens around now.
The HoneyMoonie is over.
(Having said that, I came home and sat and watched as he played with the new Motor Mouse that the specialist recommended I get. When he’d had enough, he came over and head butted and rubbed and was so affectionate and his tail told me he was relaxed and happy. Weird.)
UPDATE (2.5 weeks after adoption):
I can’t help but feel I failed. Today I returned Moonie Apollo Han Solo to the ASPCA. This was after consulting with the behavioralist and with many people whose opinion I value – some of whom have experience with aggressive cats. At one point, I had found someone willing to try him out – even someone to potentially keep him for a month while I moved out to California and found us a home – but last night he went a bit nuts and I did not feel comfortable exposing a friend to this unacceptable and, quite frankly, frightening behavior.
The attacks were unpredictable, though for a while I just thought he was a bad mannered cat who just needed to learn some. I corrected consistently – the playful bites initiated a ‘time out’ in the bathroom and ten minutes later, he was fine. But there were two phases of this Moonie. This cat is a hunter. He needs to hunt. Constantly. So as much as I played with him – and I increased his ‘Da Bird’ time to 20 minutes a couple of times a day – it wasn’t enough. Things went OK for a few days after the big attack, but then behavioral traits began to manifest themselves in quite sad ways. The biting – the playful ‘look at me’ stuff was fine. But the ‘who the fuck are you I will kill you’ attacks were so out of the blue and terrifying I just… couldn’t. I slept with a misting bottle in my hand. I stayed out longer so I wouldn’t have to face the cat. I would lie in bed waiting for the monster. And then… the moments of affection were lovely and pretty and I treasured them so much I would get comfortable and change my mind about him.
“He’s just misunderstood,” I would think. “We can do this!”
I couldn’t do this. He was way too much cat for me. I made a horrible, gut wrenching decision today and I took him back to the shelter. A decision made a little less painful by knowing it was a no-kill shelter. I spent 40 mintues with the behavorialist when I got there and we talked about everything that had happened. She counseled me to some degree, and made me feel somewhat better.
“You did so much to try make this work, more than most people would do,” she said.
Somewhat better. I still feel like shit. Like… ugh. I gave up on him. I’m sitting here looking at his toys. I hope someone who knows how to deal with his unique personality adopts him, and I hope all the intel I gave on his behavior – not just his violence but the obsessive compulsive things he does – helps find the right person for him.
I failed. He was so lovely. But also wild. I wasn’t experienced enough for Moonie Apollo Han Solo. He escaped the mini of my mind. It’s funny to look back and see I wrote “will he rip my heart out”. He did. But I’m sure he’s in that shelter thinking “wtf just happened?”
Sorry to hear the honeyMoonie is over. I think this sort of thing is actually more common than people think. Our cat went nuts and attacked us earlier this year and has been on meds on and off since. Moving into a new home was a stressful event for Moonie and the catnip probably didn’t help. If possible, create a timeout zone for Moonie. Basically a place or haven he can go hide if he is spooked. He will run there if he is spooked. He probably attacked because he had no place to hide. Also look into a product by the brand name of Feliway. It will help to calm a cat down.
Thanks Wai. I was looking into that product. It’s so weird, since the incident, he’s been a happy cat. Tail up to great me, rubbing on my legs as I’m in the kitchen etc. No signs of irritation and anger. Can’t wait for the next time he snaps! ha.
Despite making a “crazy cat lady” joke about it on Twitter, I hope that this works out for you and Moonie A H Solo. Animal behavioral issues like this are weird and troubling; I had to put down our dog after he attacked a house guest out of the blue. He was fine before, fine right after, but savagely bit her on the face while she sat watching tv then seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about. I hope you and the behavioralist are able to figure out some strategies that keep this fella’s impulses in check.
Janeen, You made a very hard, but right decision about Moonie 2.0. The sad truth is that not all animals adapt to home living. Keeping such an animal only takes one sad situation and makes two out of it – the cat and you! There are so many other wonderful deserving pets out there. You didn’t fail, you succeeded in giving this animal another chance. Now, find yourself the right pet. It’s just waiting for you! 🙂
You did the right thing. You deserve better.