My cat has had a major change in behavior and I’m just looking for some suggestions/thoughts/ideas. My parents (especially my mom, who is now scared of the cat) are ready to rehome her.
About my cat (Baby):
-We adopted her when she was about 6 months old.
-She is now 6 years old.
-She is spayed.
-She’s listed as a domestic longhair, though she looks remarkably similar to a Nebelung (long gray fur; green eyes; though she’s not quite so long as Nebelung’s tend to be described).
-She no longer likes to be groomed. She used to love to have her fur brushed. Now, she lays there and growls almost the whole time (she tolerates it for about the first minute) and will eventually bite. I feel so bad, because she’s full of dead fur that needs to be brushed out, but she won’t let anyone do it.
-She will walk around, meowing, growling, and hissing. Every now and then, she’ll turn abruptly and bite whoever is near her.
-She used to cuddle with our other cats. Now, she barely tolerates them being near her. If they just pass in her vicinity, she hisses at them and sometimes swipes at them. For some reason, the only time she doesn’t do anything is when the other cats come to eat. Their food is on a bench so the dog can’t get to it, and Baby likes to curl up on the bench next to the food bowl. She lets the other two cats (both male; both neutered) up there to eat while she’s up there with no problem.
-She has started peeing in odd places. Usually, she pees on rugs or piles of towels/clothing, though one time she did just squat and pee on the tile outside the room where their food is.
-I have taken her to the vet. They treated her for a UTI, but when that didn’t fix the problem, they said it sounds behavioral and gave us some medicine to try. It’s a “chill pill” that is supposed to help with stress/anxiety/etc. called Buspirone. She’s been on that a couple of days and it seems to have made things worse (though I don’t know how quickly the medicine is supposed to work or if it might be normal for it make things worse before making them better).
-She acts like she wants to be in your lap and rubbed, but whenever we do, she ends up biting us. Sometimes she’ll bite when we’re petting her, sometimes she’ll bite when we aren’t even touching her.
-She has started spraying various places around the house.
Anything helpful anyone has to offer would be greatly appreciated. We are going to order the Feliway plug-in and see if that helps anything. Let me know if there’s any other information about Baby that I can give that would helpful. Thanks in advance!
How much diagnostic testing did the vet do, when she was diagnosed with the UTI? I'd be worried that something else medically could be going on with her. Yes, it could be behavioral, but behavioral issues rarely appear out of nowhere. Have there been any household changes recently that might have upset her? New people, new animals (even neighbors')...? Change in household emotional climate?
To be bluntly honest, rehoming a cat with these behaviors will not be easy. If she is surrendered to an animal shelter, her risk of being deemed unadoptable really depends on the facility, but is high. Not a lot of people want to adopt a cat that won't use the litter box reliably and may bite. Additionally, a biting cat is a dangerous cat.
I strongly recommend trying the Feliway diffusers. They do help. Another thing to do would be watch a few episodes of Jackson Galaxy's TV show "My Cat From Hell". This will give you an idea of the kind of detective work you need to do to figure out what is bothering Baby, and some of the remedies you can institute. Playing and interacting more with a cat is rarely a bad idea; neither is making sure Baby has safe, high places to go where she is comfortable and can leave her (non-urine) scent markers (Jackson calls this sort of thing "catification").
I see that Baby is spayed, that's good. Has she been declawed? Some of the behaviors you describe are typical of a declawed cat who is experiencing pain in her paws.
Hopefully you already are following the "n+1" litter box rule but if not, implement it. "n" is the number of cats you have, and you need that many litter boxes, plus 1 extra. This, I have found, really helps with house soiling behaviors. It's one thing to peaceably share a house with other cats (or people, for that matter) but both humans and cats occasionally like their privacy! Imagine you have four people in a house and only one toilet....could be an issue!
Re: appearing to get worse on the Buspirone, I would contact your vet and ask them if that is normal. It's certainly not unusual for psychiatric medications to have a loading period during which they haven't reached an acceptable level in the bloodstream to be effective, but I don't know about getting worse before they get better. It's possible that she is feeling the stress of receiving a medication without yet receiving the benefits.
Also, re: psych meds for cats, the first one you try is not always the right one. I've had better luck with Prozac (fluoxetine) than Buspar (buspirone) but I'm sure your vet had a reason for choosing that medication.
I strongly echo everything @PetsConnectKat shared. Jackson Galaxy is a huge help for behavioral concerns. You can find his episodes on Netflix, Amazon and possibly YouTube. I experienced behavioral issues identical to what you’re experiencing that seemingly came from nowhere with a foster cat. Turns out he was in excruciating pain from teeth he needed surgically removed. Once addressed, he returned to the loving, calm, cuddly boy he always was. If you don’t feel your vet is providing you with the level of support or help, Id also suggest considering getting a second opinion from a different vet. I hope you get things figured out for everyone’s sake. Good luck!