I used to be pretty active in the animal rescue community. I worked for a pet nutrition store, went to countless veterinary seminars and screened people for animal adoptions, and put in my time and money (when I had very little of either) into various fundraisers for abused and/or abandoned animals.
I'm not one to give up on my animals. I know that they're a lifetime responsibility. Every critter in our home gets treated rather well- human-grade quality food, freeze-dried treats, a plethora of toys... I once had a feeder mouse as a pet who had cancer. She went through surgery, survived another 6 months and lived to a healthy mouse-age of 2 years old.
And if you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you that I would never give up on any of my pets.. they're family to me.
But when there's a direct threat involved, and a cat turns into a whirlwind of fangs and teeth, and violently attacks other members of the household.. something has to be done.
The last six months things have been escalating between our two cats. Both neutered males- the older one is a large, lean, black manx that weighs a good 16 pounds with very little body fat. The other, a shorter, plumper, younger cat who has decided that he now wanted to be alpha male. Every night there was a fight. Screaming and hissing. There would be bloody ears and skin lacerations. We would jump in and split them up, of course, but the damage they can do in a few seconds was hard to avoid.
The other day it went from bad to worse. Both cats were gazing out of the screen door when someone walked by with a large dog. It spooked both cats, but the younger one became violent and started attacking the older cat. Apparently this is called "Redirected Aggression," when they can't attack the object they want, they go for the nearest possible thing. And that happened to be another animal.
We were able to separate them, and things were looking promising. We re-introduced them, fed them together and gave them scritches and treats- trying to create a positive environment. Everyone was getting along fine- I was thrilled- often with redirect aggression it lingers for quite some time.
In the middle of the night we were woken by screaming and yowling. Tufts of fur were everywhere, and the older cat was visibly terrified and the other cat had cornered him. It took us a while but we were able to get the older cat into the bedroom where he'd be safe. The aggressor was trying to get underneath the door to get at the other cat.
The next day I tried to sneak out of the bedroom but the docile cat escaped. As soon as he did he was attacked. The dog tried to run but got caught in the middle of it. At one point I had locked myself into the bathroom to avoid getting clawed- it was terrifying. As soon as they moved so I could safely get out, I was able to scoop up the other cat and get him into the bedroom. And that's when I made my decision.
It was time to let him go.
With redirect aggression they can latch onto anyone- often another cat, but what if it was on our tiny 4lb dog? What if he had latched onto my husband? And the constant dominance struggles were getting to be too much. I called the shelter that I adopted him from (Purrfect Pals- amazing organization, btw), told them what was happening and they agreed that the best thing to do would be to separate them permanently.
So we loaded up his favorite toys, his favorite foods, his favorite treats, wrote out a donation check for $300, and drove him to the Arlington shelter.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I cried like a baby- they kept reassuring me that this was my only real option. Dominance struggles between two alpha cats do not usually turn out well- and everyone would be happier (and safer) being in a single cat household.
Miso, the one we had to give up, is a lovebug to people. He is a purr machine, a true lap cat, an avid biscuit maker, and highly gregarious to people. And he's beautiful- part bengal with wild gold eyes. When it comes to other cats, he's all about war. Mochi, on the other hand, is very reserved and tempermental. Pure black cats are not easy to adopt out, especially ones that are shy and enjoy swatting at people. So it had to be Miso.
It's been a really hard day. I keep thinking that he's hiding behind the blinds or he's sneaking around underneath the bed. I keep expecting him to meow incessantly (which is his way), but there has only been silence.