Thursday, July 12, 2012

Living With An Attack Cat

My brother in law is visiting from California, and so far my cat Puck has not tried to attack him. Puck is usually pretty good with immediate family, but he's been so unpredictable lately that I was nervous. Puck has always been the tough guy of my two cats, and as he's getting older, he's getting worsel.

Puck and his brother Elle were found in my friend Diane's garage when they were wee little babies. Puck had a gash on his back so something must have attacked them. As Diane and her posse were en route to our birthday party (Trench and I are five days apart and threw massive parties all throughout our 20's), she brought them with in case anyone wanted to adopt them. Of course the minute I picked up Puck, it was love. It was our other friend Michelle who took both newborns home and nursed them to robust health with a combination of kitten formula and an eye dropper. I took Puck home when the time was right.

As a kitten, Puck could be a little terror, but he was also pretty chill. He was friendly and liked to be around people. He'd jump in laps and want to play, and we were very proud of our sweet little guy. I'm not quite sure when that changed. It might have been when he had his first vet appointment to get shots. He had his first kitty melt down and had to be held down and wrapped in a blanket. Perhaps it reminded him of being held down by whatever it was that attacked him when he was a baby in a garage? After that he decided that anyone who wasn't me sucked and deserved nothing but wrath.

Most of our friends are aware of Puck and his evil tendencies. Our other cat Bowie doesn't care much for people either, but he hides under the dresser like a proper cat. Puck still has to be out in the mix, and does this incredibly sneaky thing where he rubs up against people (trying to get their scent), then viciously attacks when they try to pet him. A lot of our friends have suffered at the claws of Puck over the years, but we learned to warn people when they came in to just not pet him. "Look," we'd say, "when you come in, Puck is going to approach you and act like he likes you, but he doesn't really like you, so don't try to touch him." It was always the "cat people" who ended up injured, because they had such a hard time understanding that they aren't the Cat Whisperer that All Cats Adore.

Most people would probably wonder why we'd keep a cat like this around. A dog that attacked so many people would have gotten put down by now. But Puck is a mama's boy who is a marshmallow around me. He follows me from room to room, cries when I leave the house, pushes past the laptop and any book I'm reading to get in my lap, and swivels himself around to put his front paws around me when I pick him up. He's absolutely my baby.

The "don't pet the cat" trick worked for a number of years, until recently. Puck's more territorial than ever before. He's learned he can freak people out even more if he combines hissing with a growl that turns into a scary yowl as he advances. I've had to fend him off with a pillow while guests race to the spare bedroom and slam the door. It might be scent that gets to him. Immediate family seems to be safe...they must smell familiar enough. Dog owners also seem to get along better with Puck...he must smell a bigger animal and decide not to mess with this one. If he can smell cat on you? Forget it! Sometimes even guests who don't have cats can get their leg pounced on if they do something alarming like drop something or laugh too loudly. One recent guest spilled a pitcher of coffee in the middle of the night, and said it was like a cartoon attacked him. So I've had to resort to keeping him separated. If people are just coming over for an evening, that's not a big deal. It's less stressful for everyone involved, including Puck. When people are visiting for a weekend, it's harder because I feel so terrible to keep my cat locked in a room all the time.

I'm trying to do research for answers. Trench and I started watching My Cat From Hell, and I even bought the host's latest book. So far I haven't seen a cat quite like Puck. Once money is flowing a little more freely, perhaps I'll splurge and get a cat behaviorist to give us answers on why Puck does what he does. (Stop rolling your eyes, dog people! You're the ones shelling out big bucks on obedience school and day care!) But right now he's chill, so the world must be alright as far as he's concerned. For now.