Before the June 14 episode of “My Cat From Hell” aired, Jackson Galaxy called its subject, Lux — the Portland “attack cat” whose guardians called 911 for help in controlling him — “the most complicated character I think I’ve ever dealt with.”
As Galaxy said in a phone interview with The Oregonian days before the broadcast, “It’s a very complicated case, and it continues to be.”
Indeed it does. While the “My Cat From Hell” episode ended with Lux being given a new, calmer home with foster guardians, Lux’s story has taken another turn. As the Associated Press reports, Lux’s attacks continued, even in his new home. The couple who took him in, identified in the show only as Mollie and Jim, contacted Galaxy to say Lux had more violent episodes, despite the cat being treated with medication. For their own safety, they couldn’t keep Lux.
“It was the worst letdown,” Galaxy told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger shock. This is the hardest case I have ever worked.”
As viewers of the Animal Planet show saw last weekend, a veterinarian with the Cat Hospital of Portland suggested Lux’s puzzling behavior — one minute, docile and affectionate, the next lashing out — could be a form of feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a complicated condition that can make a cat behave unpredictably.
The behavior connected to the syndrome can sometimes be controlled with medication, and when we left Lux at the end of the episode, a postscript said the cat had so far been responding to the medication.
The veterinarian shown treating Lux in “My Cat From Hell” was gone for a few days, according to a staffer at the Cat Hospital of Portland.
“(Lux) is currently being fostered,” says the staffer, who asked not to have her name used. “For his protection, we’re not able to disclose where he’s staying. He’s being well-taken care of, and he’s doing great. We are continuing to be involved in his long-term care.”
The difficulty of figuring out exactly what’s going on with a cat like Lux, and determining the best way to treat the animal, is a tricky, time-consuming, trial-and-error process, say veterinary experts.
Alexandra McLaughry, veterinarian and owner of Portland’s Barbur Boulevard Veterinary Hospital, hasn’t treated Lux. But she has dealt with cats who show signs of feline hyperesthesia syndrome.
In such cases, she says, “I would do the full workup and to control them, and so they don’t hurt anyone, I would put them on an anti-seizure medication.”
Cases of feline hyperesthesia syndrome are not common, McLaughry says, “but I have seen it. It’s an emotional thing for the family. It’s tough for everyone.”
In trying to determine the best course of treatment, or whether further medication is called for, McLaughry says, she often turns for consulting help to Christopher Pachel, a board certified veterinary behaviorist who operates the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland.
Pachel has been aware of the case of Lux, though he hasn’t treated the cat and is reluctant to draw any conclusions from the news coverage the 911 call inspired. “And I’ve only seen snippets of the actual airing of ‘My Cat From Hell,’ as I was out of town much of last week,” he says.
“Without knowing all of the details, and even if I watched every bit of media coverage that’s out there,” Pachel says, “that’s no substitute for observing the cat directly and getting an opportunity to interview people first hand.”
While comments about the Lux situation have raged from the first report — that Lux’s original owners, Lee Palmer and Teresa Barker, called 911 after their baby son pulled Lux’s tail, the cat scratched the baby, and Palmer kicked Lux to get him away from the child — Pachel says onlookers can’t really know specifics of a situation.
“When you only get one or two pieces of the overall clinical picture, things can look very different from what’s actually going on.”
Treating a cat that is acting out in the way Lux has demonstrated presents any number of avenues to explore, Pachel says.
“In my practice, I tend to look at feline hyperesthesia syndrome as a syndrome, not an end point,” Pachel says. The hyperesthesia may be secondary to other triggers, such as social stress, environmental stress, or physical conditions.
“It’s not a completely understood condition,” Pachel says. And exploring all the possible factors involved in a cat’s aggressive behavior takes time and patience. In the past, a difficult cat like Lux may have been euthanized. While that still happens, Pachel says pet owners’ relationship to their animals has evolved.
“I think we’re seeing a lot more attempts at intervention,” he says. “The role that animals are playing in peoples’ lives are changing much more quickly that animals themselves are changing.”
And the media attention devoted to Lux may be positive, Pachel says. “I think every time something like this comes up, it’s an opportunity for education.”
— Kristi Turnquist
Caution: Jerky Pet Treats Can Kill
In a recent news story it has been claimed that Jerky Pet Treats made mainly in China and elsewhere, have contributed to the deaths of at least 1000 dogs. It has also been reported that three people have become ill after consuming the treats.
The Jerky Pet treats have also made numerous pets ill and not just dogs either. Cats have also been affected. Although the complaints have been investigated over a seven year period the cause remains unknown. Unfortunately the manufacturers of the products remains a mystery too.
Please be very vigilant when buying these types of treats. Packaging labels may state where the item was made but may leave out the source of the main ingredients or put it in finer print.
If you buy these types of products for your mixed pet household then they all have the potential for health problems. Cats being the curious creatures that they are, may accidentally ingest treats meant for the dog.
Try and source locally produced organic treats or better still, make them yourself. That way you can be 100% secure in the knowledge that you are not exposing your pets to potentially contaminated products.
Do Cats Really Take on Their Owners’ Habits?
Cats Take on Owners’ Habits (Good and Bad)
JAN 16, 2013 12:03 PM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS
Cats take on human habits — good and bad. CORBIS
Cats really do become part of our families, to the point that they take on human habits — good and bad — and adapt their lifestyle with that of their owners, says new research.
The finding shows how profoundly captivity can affect certain animals. While genetics help to explain some aspects of personality and behavior, an individual’s environment clearly is a factor too.
“Our findings underline the high influence of human presence and care on the amount of activity and daily rhythm in cats,” concluded Giuseppe Piccione and colleagues of the University of Messina’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
Dogs and Cats Help Prevent Infections in Kids
For the Journal of Veterinary Behavior study, the researchers studied two groups of cats. Each group received excellent care, in terms of food, medical attention and grooming. The owners of all the cats worked during the day and returned home in the evenings.
The first group of cats, however, lived in smaller homes and stayed closer to their owners. The second group lived more of an indoor/outdoor lifestyle on larger property. These cats were also kept outside at night.
Over time, the cats in the first group mirrored the lives of their owners. Their eating, activity and sleeping patterns were very similar. The cats left out at night became more nocturnal, matching the behaviors of semi-dependent farm cats with more feral ways.
“Cats are intelligent animals with a long memory,” Jane Brunt, DVM, and the executive director of the CATalyst Council, told Discovery News. “They watch and learn from us, (noting) the patterns of our actions, as evidenced by knowing where their food is kept and what time to expect to be fed, how to open the cupboard door that’s been improperly closed and where their feeding and toileting areas are.”
Cats Do Roam, Tracking Shows
Piccione pointed out that cats’ food intake is associated with that of owners, perhaps explaining why human and cat obesity rates seem to so often match. Cats may even match their elimination patterns with those of their owners.
“It’s always interesting when I hear about people who have the litterbox in their bathroom and the cat uses it when the owner is on the toilet,” Brunt, a past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, said.
Another recent study, published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, looked at personality in cats. Many of the primary traits — arrogant, social, shy, trusting, aggressive, calm, timid, excitable, dominant and curious — apply to humans as well.
Authors Marieke Cassia Gartner and Alexander Weiss of The University of Edinburgh believe that the environment in which a feline lives “is one possible explanation for the variance in results in the domestic cat, as personality may not be completely comprised of genetic makeup.”
Humans even serve as role models for their cats.
“While it’s commonly thought that cats are solitary and aloof and can take care of themselves, studies have shown that cats are social animals and when people are their main social group, it’s important for owners to understand that they are the role model and we have to encourage their activities with proper play/prey techniques,” Brunt explained, adding that when owners take time to play with their cats, the felines are more motivated to stay active.
While it’s now known that owners greatly influence their cats, the reverse is true as well. Cats can influence that habits and lifestyle of their owners. Brunt said that we often adjust our schedules to fit theirs, such as getting up earlier and responding to their needs.
“I also think we can learn a lot from cats,” she added. “When they sit on our lap softly purring with rhythmic breathing and half-closed eyes, the sense of serenity and calm that comes over us is like a private lesson in inner peace and meditation.”