Monday, July 17, 2006
Pet Files: Fiona
This is Fiona:

For a long time I simply called her "Evil Cat" and the name fit.

About 2 and a half years ago my brother's ex-girlfriend bought her into the house. She was a stray kitten from an animal shelter. We were just going to nurse her back to health and return her to the shelter for adoption. My youngest sister fell in love with her and she ended up staying in my family's home.

She had this habit of hiding under the bed while you were sleeping. I would wake up in the morning, drop my feet over the edge of the bed and a little black paw with gleaming claws would swipe me. The scratches on my ankles bled and swelled up. She stalked everyone in the house like a little panther. She hid only in the shadows and waited to pounce. It was unsettling.

Once I was on the computer and she lept at me from across the room. She dug her claws into my back and slid down. I started screaming in pain. Everyone in the house has battle scars on their body from Fionna.

As she grew out of her "Mischevious Kitten years", she began to calm down a bit. She stopped hunting us. She began to cautiously approach members of the household while purring and looked at us with wide accepting eyes. We would pet her and as long as we didn't touch her stomach, she wouldn't scratch. But the minute our finger grazed over an area that she didn't want (which changed on a daily basis), she would extract the claws or bite.

I can actually lift her up now and she doesn't attack me. However, she still has a number of issues.

1. She's skittish and fearful. If you approach her, she will bolt away. She moves so fast away that she often crashes into the wall trying to escape even though we're just trying to pet her nicely. How do you get a cat to trust you? Did anyone else have a pet like this? How did you overcome their fears and build a bond? How can you get a cat to relax? There must be a way.

2. She still scratches and bites. Is there anyway to train her not to do this without having to remove her claws? She doesn't attack guests or anything. She mostly hides in corners from them, but at night she has been known to chew on our feet. (and it's not the greatest way to wake up)

Fiona was discovered as a helpless newborn kitten on the side of the road crying. Apparently the litter had been abandoned by the mother or the previous owner I know her behavior has a lot to do with her background.

She gets along fine with Michael. In fact, One night we heard her screaming at the bathroom window. These extremely loud cat sobs. When we opened the front door, Michael came in. He was soaking wet from the rain. Apparently he had wandered out when the backdoor was left open and was accidentally locked out. She alerted the entire household of this. She is extremely attached to him.

She also has a "special" relationship with Percy, but I'll get into that another time.....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
*this is a rare close up candid shot of Fionna. It was difficult to get. It required moving extremely slowly and easing up the camera over the edge of the sofa soundlessly. It's a one shot deal with her. The minute she hears the click, she bolts.*

Her unique cat talent:. In the early morning hours, she sits by the kitchen windows watching the birds and makes bird sounds. She actually chirps. It's the weirdest thing.


Thank you for your advice on Michael (see previous entry). I wrote all the suggestions down and I'm going to try them all. I really appreciate that. I'll let you know how that goes.

The one suggestion we received the most was to take a waterbottle and spray him when he tries to knock over a cup.

We tried this years ago and discovered that it didn't help at all. In fact, he enjoyed it. He leaned towards the nuzzle and turned around so we could get his back as well. He loves water and he tends to step into the shower with us. We have to shoo him out. I told you that he's strange.

posted by Clarity25 at 2:31 PM |


At July 17, 2006, Blogger Nightmare 

I think Satan had a "missing cat" poster posted up on a phone pole this week, since it is hotter than hell here in the midwest. Maybe Fiona is really his cat.

At July 17, 2006, Anonymous Olaf 

Hi Clarity. That is absolutely hilarious about Michael liking the squirt bottle. Those are some good looking even if quirky cats.

At July 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

Your kitties are cute albeit a little on the crazy side. At least you can't complain that they don't have unique personalities:)

At July 18, 2006, Anonymous Tenshi 

I forgot to mention that Sphynx's mother was a whore.

No, really. She had feline chlamydia. Sphynx was very ill when I got him. He was also a triplet.

Ramses is close to what you say about Fionna. He used to hunt our exchange students. We had this one girl, Maria, from Spain - who barely spoke a speck of english, by the way, don't know how she made it through the exam process - and he would terrorize her until she refused to leave her room unless he was shut up in a room elsewhere.

Then Sphynx came, and Ramses stopped hunting us...

At July 18, 2006, Blogger kschic 

I know all about the cat chirping thing, my cat does the same thing. The strange thing is that here lately I've noticed the birds making a hissing noise. Almost as if they are mocking a cat hissing to scare off my cat. Now Michael liking water? That is VERY strange!

At July 18, 2006, Blogger Kathleen 

If Fiona were abandoned at the side of the road she was probably taken from her mother too soon. That will cause behavioral problems in cats.

On the other hand, after three plus years, Boris is finally sitting on my lap and letting me pet him. He occasionally will attempt to bite me, if he's over it, but it's usually a gentle admonishment, unless I persist and then he gets serious.

My friend's calico on the other hand is simply evil. I walked into her dining room simply to turn the light off and even though Confetti was on the other side of the room, she hissed at me. She is not a nice cat.

At July 18, 2006, Anonymous taneruk 

From my experience, declawed cats tend to bite more, since they don't have use of their other 'weapons'...

At July 18, 2006, Anonymous all-on-paper 

We had a cat several years ago that was like Fiona. Just very skittish and bitterly angry at the world for whatever reason. It takes a lot of time and patience to teach them that you're not the enemy. But behaviors are hard to break. You should make a habit of approaching her every day, even if you never touch her, just start from the point where you can be near her without her panicking and then move forward to petting her and so on. Just be very calm and gentle about the whole thing. Maybe even food or treats might work in winning her trust. You just have to get it into her head that you are not something to run from, that you're actually trying to be affectionate, etc. And try to do it when you're in a room she can't escape from and that there aren't any places to hide in... Oh, and might need some protective armor for yourself as well at first. :P But you can't let her being aggressive and scratchy chase you away because if she sees that that works she'll just keep doing it. It'll be frustrating how much she's not going to cooperate, but you just have to stick to it. There are plenty of books out there about cat behavior and training and such that should be helpful, too.

Our cat never became overly affectionate, but she cooled down a lot and didn't scratch unless someone really pushed her to it. We could pet her and pick her up without needing bandaids anyway.

Good luck!

At July 18, 2006, Blogger GoingLoopy 

I think you just have to let them come to you...and accept that some cats are just sort of skittish. If she's been steadily improving, she will continue to do so as she gets older. Also, she may attach to one person...we had a cat like this when I was a kid, and she luurrrvvved my brother, but not anyone else.

As for Michael...well, I thought my cat Emily was a spaz for playing in her water bowl (seriously, I have to have a giant dog bowl so she can't knock the shit over). My suggestion is to get some of that rubbery shelf liner stuff and put it underneath anything you don't want him to knock over. As long as it's on a hard surface (like a table or counter), he won't be able to move it. I had to do this with my little meows. It really pisses them off the first time they figure out they can't slide things off the shelf...

At July 18, 2006, Blogger Brandy 

Most likely Fiona is a feral cat, and even though you brought her in as a kitten she probably comes from a long line of ferals.
Those chirping noises are the noises cats make when they are hunting birds, I don't know why they make them perhaps to trick the birds! "No really Iam a bird chirp chirp" says the large black cat in the window!

What Fiona has is called Petting Agression. It's a common behaviour and can be "treated". We have many nick names for our cat including Mr.Chomps.
Cats respond well to rewards.
Since she seems to be a natural at hunting get a one of those fishing pole toys, spend 15 minutes a day, tire her out good ever see a house cat pant? Try to do this at the same time every day.
After she's good and tired give her a pet and a treat.
Every night our cat will start meowing and standing in the spot where we play. We do this and then he gets his night time feeding and then once were in bed he will come and sleep on the bed.
Before he would wait until we were in bed and leap onto the bed and chomp on us.
Also if your not already doing so clip her nails, you can just use a person nail clipper, no need for talons.

At July 18, 2006, Anonymous portia 

My kitty Tiger did those sounds too. They are so excited to see birds, I guess. I wonder how this evolved?

At July 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

We have a resident cat in our apt. complex named T.V. - which stands for "the Visitor". (We didn't name him, our crazy neighbor Mike, did.) Anyway, he would always swipe at me when I'd go to pet him...anywhere. I was afraid of him for the longest time because of that, plus he had this meow that sounded like a chainsaw starting up, very unsettling. Well, one day I decided I was going to face my fears of TV. I started talking softly to him and slowly brought my hand close to him, but didn't touch him. He immediately started purring, didn't swipe at me, and came to me on his own terms - he started rubbing his head all over my hand, and various parts of his body he wanted my hand to touch. I just stayed still. It's really strange, but that's how he likes his affection. And I have to move away from him v e r y s l o w l y, when I'm done petting him, or else he'll try to swipe at me again. Cats are weird. - Acorn

At July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous 

You should never ever declaw a cat, it's actually illegal in this country because it's so cruel, it's like somebody cutting off your fingers for hair twirling or something else you might do when anxious, horrible. Some cats will always be sensitive to parts of their body being touched, belly, back legs etc and you just have to accept that, to make her more friendly and lap-cat like it takes time and patience and consistence, sit in the same room as her absolutely still and play with string, tie and untie it into knots very slowly and don't look at her if she shows interest in it you can try touching her slowly and then give her a nice foody reward then leave it for the day, do this daily and she may learn trust.

Beautiful cat though :)


At July 20, 2006, Blogger Rik 

Ever see the dog whisperer? Know why there's not a show called the cat whisperer?
Exactly. Just go with it. They love you, you know it. You love them, they know it.
Carry fish in your pockets. ;)

At July 21, 2006, Blogger The Queen 

Django (our white cat) is very skittish around people he doesn't know. He will plow right into walls to try to get his chubby body to escape anyone that is not Paulo or me. One time when we had family over, he managed to squeeze on top of the refrigerator and hid there the entire time they were there. It's weird because he wasn't like that when we got him. Part of it is just personality...the other part is trust. With cats, you have to give them a lot of space. Unfortunately, they are not like dogs...they are very independent. Fiona is very beautiful, though. Just like my black kitty, Oscar. Oscar also chirps like a bird, especially when he is happy! I wonder if it is a Bombay (black) cat trait? xoxo - me

At July 22, 2006, Anonymous Janet 

I love teh pet files -- of course, I love cats, all personalitie welcome. And th fiona apple song you quoted the other day is totally oe of mu faves. If I lived near you, I'd just hi jack you and take you with me. I hope you are doing okay, won't say more than that here.