Heino is a nine-year-old, yellow, male, neutered cat. He (and his twin brother) has been with me from their very beginning. They are living together with three other cats in my house and garden. I believe, they are all healthy, happy and well fed. All the cats get along together well, there is no fighting or other aggression but there is a clear social rank order. Heino, from the first months of his life on, always had a kind of “police attitude”, not aggressive, but was kind of imposing his order. He was always territorial.
Since last year, Heino has shown episodes of erratic behavior which I can only explain with a mental disorder. During these episodes, Heino shows signs of anxiety, he is afraid of nearly everything, and hides under the sofa or in other protected areas. He likes to stay in the house even though he could go into the garden at any time, where the other cats like to spend their day (if it is not raining).
Initially, we thought Heino has been scared or traumatized by something that happened in the garden. There are helicopters flying low over the house, stray cats in the neighborhood, fire crackers on New Year’s Evening and other public holidays, weasels (indon.: musang) which are commonly active during the night on the roof. Another consideration was contention over the litter boxes. But one-by-one, we could rule out any of these external factors causing the fear or being a trigger for the anxiety episodesThe episodes occur every few months, and now increasingly often and last for at least three days, typically a week or longer. At least twice I have observed Heino, at the beginning of such an episode. It happens within moments, one time in the middle of the afternoon (after feeding), when Heino showed the symptoms out of a sudden, raced into the house and was obviously scared of something. While the episodes last, his sleep (and his sleeping position) do not appear normal. Also, during this time, he is grooming himself very rarely. Interestingly, he finds it relaxing to go onto the roof of the house and make his round of the perimeter (but does not mark or spray) and spend a couple of hours before returning. (Actually, I would have expected that he is even more scared on the roof). Also, he reacts positively to attention from his caregivers; he is clearly relaxed when I hug him, talk to him or carry him around. During these strange episodes, he has bursts of aggression against one or the other cat in the house. In these moments he behaves as a grumpy, old cat. But only hours later, he socializes with the same cats, doing their nose-to-nose ritual and other social activities such as mutual grooming. Other symptoms that I can definitely exclude is soiling (making a mess, spraying, – he never did this. Heino was always a “clean” cat). At moments, I think he is walking around without clear direction (I can see this in his face), but I am actually not sure if he is really jaywalking or not. Maybe I am only over-interpreting things.
Based on the advice from our vet, Heino is treated with a small dose of diazepam (“Valium”). The initial dose of 1.5 mg seemed much too strong so that we have reduced it to 0.5mg (or a bit less) as a one-time dose for this 7-kilogram (but not obese) cat. Usually, after two or three days, he seems more relaxed (starts grooming himself again and seems to have a better sleep) and slowly comes back to normal.
Presently, we are investigating if he has pain from arthritis. He is on medication with a pain killer. We will see in a few days if this is or was the problem.
I wished, I could make the situation better for Heino and help him to enjoy his cat life more.