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Great Grief On Loss Of My Best Friend

Guest Guest_Beth_*

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Guest Guest_Beth_*

I adopted an adorable kitten from an animal shelter when she was 3 months old.She was my dearest companion and the last year with her brought me so much joy-i adored her and couldnt do enough for her -she was very mischevious and in recent months as she grew she became a bit agressive on the few occasions i traveled and had to take her to a cattery when i was away-i paid taxis to take me as far as an hour away in search of the best possible catterys and even sent the vet to visit the last time-but other than these brief trips we were always together and i would have done anything for her.

Several weeks ago she attacked my face late at night-it was a complete shock with no warning ( i carried her out of my office as i do every nite before i go to sleep)-one minute she is calm and in my arms and the next her teeth sunk into my face scarring me and drawing blood.I was shocked and frightened and the next day brought her to a cattery and then arranged to have her returned to the shelter i adopted her from-i am devastated at what happened and couldnt believe she could do that-i didnt feel i had a choice as i was terrified of her after that -the sadness and pain and grief are enormous.

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Dear Beth,

I’m so sorry to read of this awful incident with your cat, which was obviously quite frightening for you. I don’t know if this was your first experience with having a cat as a pet, or how much you already know about normal cat behavior, and I am certainly not here to pass judgment on what you did or did not do in this difficult situation. Rather, I’m here to offer information, comfort and support, and it is in that spirit that I’m writing this response.

Since you’ve already relinquished your kitty, some of what I’m about to say may come too late for you, but I’m offering it in hopes that it will help you (and others who may be reading this) to identify and sort through what happened here, discover what you might have done differently, and better understand why you’re feeling so upset about it now.

You know far better than I what resources you have and how much time you are willing and able to invest in seeking alternative solutions, and only you are in a position to decide these matters. I just want to be sure you are aware that you do, in fact, have some alternatives. Relinquishment is always a choice an animal lover can make, once you have tried other measures first. I am not an expert in animal behavior, and I don't know how attached you were to this cat, but if this were my pet I would want an outside, professional and objective opinion before I'd resort to giving up my cat permanently because of a behavior problem.

We are fortunate that nowadays there are dozens of magazine articles, books and Web sites to help us better understand what is normal behavior in a companion animal such as a cat or a dog, and what can be done to diagnose, address, alter or eliminate bothersome or aggressive behavior in them. Sometimes aggressive behavior in animals is caused by a physical problem, which ought to be ruled out after a thorough examination by a qualified veterinarian. If the cause is determined to be emotional or psychological, there are specialists in animal behavior and/or obedience training who can suggest some alternatives in dealing with our pet’s troublesome behavior.

Here, for example, is one veterinarian’s observations about aggressive behavior in cats:

Ankle biting and sudden attacks are most often associated with predatory aggression. Cats have a strong natural desire to hunt. Inside the house, there isn't much to satisfy this desire. Mice, grasshoppers and other attractive prey are scarce indoors, so they have to make do with what they have – ankles and other moving body parts of their human companions.

In some cases it is possible to provide a more appropriate toy to satisfy the predatory urge. Toys that work are furry balls on a string, wand, or attached to a small fishing rod for efficient "casting" and interesting motion as it is reeled in. A radio controlled car may work to exercise cats who are not afraid of them. Some people just tie a toy on a string to their belt to provide a better target then their ankles. This also provides a lot of exercise which is a good release of the pent up energy in many kittens.

Most cats will outgrow this behavior by the time they are a couple of years old and are much better if given alternatives objects to attack and sufficient exercise. . If your cat doesn't respond to this, it might be a good idea to consult with a certified animal behaviorist to make sure that predatory behavior is the problem . . .

If you live in area in which a veterinary behaviorist practices (usually big metropolitan areas or near veterinary colleges) it would be worthwhile to consult with a behaviorist. Extreme aggression directed towards people is best treated by someone who can evaluate the possible physical causes and who is familiar with the possible psychological problems as well. Physical causes include problems such as chronic pain, ischemic damage in the brain and some neurologic defects. Psychological problems include extreme anxiety, redirected aggression, fear and several other potential problems. If a cause can be identified, either physical or psychological it is easier to predict whether or not treatment will be beneficial and obviously easier to choose the treatment plan most likely to work.

[source: Mike Richards, DVM, Ask Dr. Mike, www.vetinfo.com]

See also:

Dealing with Aggressive Behavior in Your Cat

Cat Aggression and Socialization

Understanding Cat Aggression toward People

Explaining Cat Aggression toward People

I don't know whether you'd be willing to try any or all of these things, Beth – I'm just offering them as intermediate steps you might have considered. My only point is that today we know a lot more about what we can do to make certain that the cat or kitten we've selected will grow into a loving, well adjusted companion. There are many modern, humane training methods to address almost any problem behavior found in pets. You might visit this Web site for further information:

ABS Directory of Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists

You say that "the sadness and pain and grief are enormous." I can also tell you that the impact this is having on you now depends on how attached you are to your cat and on how effectively you identify and work through what you are experiencing, including whatever guilt you may be feeling about all of this. When we are closely bonded with an animal, losing it through relinquishment doesn't feel much different from losing it through death, so I think you will find the articles on the Articles and Books page of my Grief Healing Web site helpful, as well as those you’ll find on my Pet Loss Articles page. I think you'll be especially interested in

Am I Crazy to Feel So Sad about This?

Animal Loss: Myths and Realities

Loss and the Burden of Guilt

I hope this information proves helpful to you, Beth. I know it must have been hard for you to share your story with us, and regardless of whatever you decide to do, we wish you all the best.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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Guest Guest_Beth_*

Thank you so much for your reply and support-My cat had begun to show agression ( although far less dangerous-hissing etc) on occasions when I told her I was going on a trip.I believe that the attack I experienced was a result of her anger that I told her she couldnt go out on the terrace for three days because she continued to jump on the wall.

I live in an apartment on a high floor and had recently started allowing her out on the terrace in the mornings when I could supervise her-she knew she wasnt supposed to go on the wall but if i turned my back for a minute she would jump up there knowing I would tell her to come inside if i saw-she didnt care as she would wait until she was finished out on the terrace anyway-the only solution i could think of was to take away terrace priveleges for a few days in hopes that she would stop going on the wall-it was that or never let her out.I had already been through that last summer but knew she needed the air so tried it again.I have tons of toys for her and always played with her( she was a very very active cat) and frankly was devoted to her.Her attack on me was so frightening that I would be scared that i could be seriously injured if i risked her doing it again if she didnt like something -she was highly intelligent and willful and the attack happened late at night with no warning-I would be scared to death of living with her now( and she would pick up on that fear) and am still in a state of shock that this happened.It does feel like a death and I was extremely attached to her.People would comment on how lucky she was to have a mom like me but i always thought i was the one that was lucky to have her in my life-My grief is like a death but in a way worse because we had a very very strong bond and i feel betrayed that she would so visciously attack my face.I also feel so terribly devastated that i did not feel i had a choice but to bring her back to the rescue mission( where she will be under observation and go through a series of medical exams).Before she went back there i took her to a cattery (the day after the attack) and the woman who ran the cattery understood her character and felt she could place her with people who could deal with her as she sits on an adoption board but it was in my contract that i had to return her to the rescue mission i got her from unless i could privately place her which was impossible as i couldnt ask any one to take a cat that attacks faces.This woman though is still in the picture and will co ordinate with the rescue mission if she finds the right situation for her.

I know very little about her background as she was an abandoned cat but when she passed the one year mark she became more domineering and a feral side started to come out.This was my first cat and i dont think i will ever be able to replace her as the bond was so special-i also now have a fear of cats.I poured time,energy,love and devotion into her and it will probably take me a long time to heal .Thank you for your site-i have read other posts and realize i am not alone in grieving my loss although my circumstances are different.Also like many of the other posters I have found that most other people dont understand my grief as i am being told "forget about it,it was only a cat, oh get another one etc".My heart is broken as i simply adored her .

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Guest Guest_Beth_*

I wanted to clarify that I had told my cat that morning that she wasnt going out on the terrace for 3 days-the attack on my face came late that evening

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