Mean Kitty?

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By Karen Harrison Binette

We are seeing more stories lately with therapists and behaviorists advising us on understanding our cats and what they need from us. Here is a case where a woman was able to deal with her kitty’s behavior after being advised to include playtime in the day’s schedule.

Newton, Massachusetts resident Helen Berger lost her sweet and beloved cat Zeke, with whom she’d had an easy and loving relationship and, wanting another cat in her life, got Teddy, a beautiful Burmese.

“I wanted another companion. There’s something very nice about having a pet around while you’re writing” That’s how the visiting Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center scholar envisioned life with Teddy.

What she actually encountered was annoyance and perceived aggression. “He was biting me and he was scratching me.’’ He was doing more that biting and scratching; he was making her feel attacked and like she wanted to get away from him. Ms. Berger found herself slipping out to work at her office rather than writing at home, just to get away from Teddy; so the relationship was not the best.

Feeling like she wanted to give Teddy away, and feeling guilty about that thought, she ended up hiring  the services of Alana Stevenson, a Boston area behaviorist, who has succeeded in helping cat and woman to coexist well and happily.

Ms. Stevenson pointed out that cats need play and we need to provide it for them if they are not creating positive opportunities for play by themselves. Ms. Stevenson also offered tips on how to let kitty know when playtime is over. Putting this bit advice into action has helped Ms. Berger. After a phone consultation and in-house visit with the behaviorist, Ms. Berger learned that she needed to let Teddy play with a toy as object of prey and then give him a treat to signal the end of the game. “He’s adorable’’ she says, now that his impulses have been redirected.

According to the Boston Globe, which covered Ms. Berger’s dilemma and provided the video below, “Dr. Amy Marder, a certified applied behaviorist at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, sees troubled animal-owner relationships frequently, and notes that “it takes two to tango. Most people expect cats to enjoy being petted, but many cats get a little defensive from being pet too much. When they turn around and bite, is that a mean cat, or is that a ‘cat cat’?’’ 

Ms. Berger now says , “I wanted and want a pet and I had already invested emotion, time, energy, and money in this one. It would have been a real loss if I wasn’t able to learn to deal with his kittenhood.’’

See Teddy and Ms. Berger now, after getting help. Yes, Teddy does attack Ms. Berger’s arm but now it’s no big deal and seems like an expression of Teddy’s spunk and attachment to his mom.

In this case calling in professional help for a common problem was well worth it.

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0 thoughts on “Mean Kitty?”

  1. She’s a really nice lady,but the cat seems pretty normal to me??? Kittens play fight like any other youngsters, including humans.. A lot of normal behaviour gets mistaken in animals. although I agree, Kittens and puppies are cute but a lot of work, my cat was two when I got him and he….. yeah, maybe kittens aren’t so bad now that I think about it… x

  2. Play is critically important to all mammals and especially the young. Should be obvious to us, but sadly it isn’t, she said reaching down to throw the tennis ball one more time for her 14 month old dog.

  3. Sort of sounds like the lady is not experience with kittens…. she seems nice, but the lady is a little out of touch. This cat looks like a Burmese and they have wonderful temperaments. I have a Tonkinese which came from crossing Burmese and Siamese and that cat is great too.

  4. I had a mean Kitty before, it’s no joke, she’d been rejected by her mother and hand reared.. very aggressive! Bullied the dog and chased away visitors.. I found out that because I was at work alot and the dog was a bit stupid the cat thought she was in charge of the house.. I was advised not to leave her food available all day and to stare at her until she looked away.. We had a major stare down in the living room, very dramatic!! She became more tolerant after that, still grumpy, less violent, although she was a very pretty cat. which helped her attract victims, Claws are not decorations, they’re there to be used x

  5. One of the things I have found when dealing with a cranky kitty is that if you pet them and tell them they’re so beautiful and that they need to be sweet, and shower them with affection and respect, they tend to lighten up a little. Like, “You’re taking my side, so maybe I can relax a little.”

  6. – True, kittens are like any other youngster. They are not “cats.” And certainly, cats are not dogs, and I think sadly too many people expect pets of any kind to behave the same within a human environment. I just watched “My Cat From Hell” for the first time last night, and it’s rather enlightening, even if you suppose you know all you need already 🙂

  7. Yes, that’s very true. As long as we GET it does it matter how we find out? I am a HUGE fan of the show Eve mentioned, “My Cat from Hell” and think it will help lots of us cat owners and lovers~! Not sure I like the name of the show really, but it’s a great show and I have learned ALOT from just one episode~! I love my 9 cats so much I only want to improve their life~! :*)

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