Cat Rescue Bleg – Alexandria, VA Area

jake y merlin
From commentor Jake Y:

We’ve come to the heartbreaking decision that we need to give away our 8-tear-old tabby, Merlin. My wife got him as a kitten, and he’s in good health, gets checked out regularly by the vet, and has had a good life indoors. Unfortunately, he’s gotten aggressive in the last couple of years, and he’ll periodically get nervous and bite/scratch people’s legs and feet. We tried consulting a pet therapist, getting him more toys to help direct his aggression, and even antidepressants. None of that has really solved the problem. When he gets in one of his agitated states, it’s usually been necessary to give him a little squirt from a water bottle, but there’s only so many squirters we can place strategically around the house. Anyway, we just brought home our first little baby, and we were hoping for the best, but at this point we just don’t feel comfortable that we can give Merlin enough TLC to keep him calm while we spend our sleepless nights raising our newborn girl (her crying has made him more jumpy than usual). And once she’s old enough to start crawling around, we’re pretty worried he might get in a scuffle with her. I know the BJ community is full of kind-hearted pet lovers, so I’m reaching out in the hope they’ll help us find Merlin a loving place to live despite his challenging personality.

If you are interested in Merlin, or have any leads, email me at annelaurie (at) — click on my name in the right-hand column — and I’ll put you in touch with Jake.

28 replies
  1. 1
    Gus says:

    I know the feeling. My wife and I had to part with a beloved but deeply troubled pet when we brought our newborn son home. You’re making the right decision. Good luck!

  2. 2
    Valdivia says:

    contact Homeward Trails. They can foster him and/or find a home for him. They are excellent.

    I adopted my young tabbie from them a month ago.

  3. 3
    Stella B says:

    Anxious pets do respond to Prozac. It’s cheap and generic. You could talk to your vet and give it a try for a few months since baby won’t be crawling for a while yet

  4. 4
    furklempt says:

    @Stella B:

    I can second the Prozac (or other appropriate anxiety/anti-depressant) recommendation on personal experience. I have the world’s most neurotic beagle, and his daily happy pill enables him to live life comfortably, allows him to accept behavioral modification, and prevents his many, many anxieties from destroying the lives of all humans and critters in the household. The Prozac isn’t a miracle pill–it won’t fix the problem, and we’ve all (the Mr. And our critters) had to make changes in our routine and lives that we wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. But that’s my responsibility as a pet steward.

    Sometimes they need extra help, and sometimes pet stewardship is really, really hard. I understand the frustration, but would urge you to consider your responsibility toward Merlin, and to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective adopter, who has no history with your cat who is being asked to bring in a cat that you yourself describe as difficult. Why should anyone else take care of your problem?

    Edited to add that I hope Merlin finds a happy situation. It’s just that, as someone who HAS inherited another person’s “problem critter” I am perhaps particularly sensitive to the hard sell that is “my critter is no longer convenient, who wants him?”

  5. 5
    Mike in DC says:

    I would like to second the Prozac.

    I had a great cat who had some issues with her cat box (she started to do this after her brain surgery, yes, you read that right, she had a Meningioma (a tumor in the lining between her brain and her skull), and the doctor removed it, and she lived for 4 more years).

    The generic prozac works like a charm. You can get a script from your vet and get it filled at a regular pharmacist. I had to split the pills into quarters (I found the easiest way was to use a pair of scissors for the second split), grind them up and put them in her gooshy food (I found that I had to put a drop or three of water on the pill to make it easier to mix into her gooshy food, otherwise it would remain in pieces and because it’s bitter, she would stop eating her food).

    ETA: ok, I’m thirding (?) the suggestion to try prozac.

  6. 6
    furklempt says:

    AND generic (fluoxitine) is super cheap at CostCo, or Walgreen’s family Rx plan covers pet meds and provides a pretty substantial discount.

  7. 7
    jenn says:

    To all the people bringing up Prozac, it appears that they’ve already tried antidepressants. Good luck on finding him a new home! He’s a gorgeous cat.

  8. 8
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    We’ve had good results with Feliway. We adopted a cat two years ago who was a nervous wreck after meeting the resident Ladies of the house. In addition to aggressive behavior, he developed a serious case of stress-triggered diarrhoea. We can always tell from his behavior (and his litter box habits) when the diffuser is almost empty.

  9. 9
    schrodinger's cat says:

    At least give Merlin a chance, see how he reacts to the baby before giving him away. He may surprise you. Feliway soothed tempers in my two kitteh home when a situation of redirected aggression had developed due to the presence of another kitteh in the yard.
    An 8 year old problem kitty will not have much of a chance of being adopted at a shelter. Poor sad inconvenient kitteh.

  10. 10
    Mike in DC says:

    @jenn: you’re right, I misread that.

  11. 11
    furklempt says:


    I obviously don’t know how many the bleggers have tried, but it can take many, many failed attempts before the appropriate medication or cocktail is discovered. Calvin the Curmudgeonly Beagle went through Xanax, Valium, Clomicalm, Clomicalm with Xanax, Clomicalm with Valium, and Clomicalm with Valium and Benadryl before we landed on Prozac, which works wonderfully. It can be a lot of trial and error, even if they have tried meds.

  12. 12
    Maude says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Merlin is jumpy at the baby’s crying. I wouldn’t risk anything happening to the baby.

  13. 13
    Politically Lost says:

    Our rescue dog, Roxy, has developed kidney failure and she’s spent the night at the vet getting pumped with fluids. The doc said on the phone just now that her prognosis is not good but maybe ok for a while on a low protein diet.

    My wife an I have enough funds to take care of her but, does anybody in Balloon-Juice land have an idea of what her quality of life will be like going forward?

    Will this just be a horrible long experience for her, or can she snap back a bit and do well on a different diet with medication?

    I hate these kind of decisions. I don’t want to keep her alive just to suffer and not be able to participate in the usual doggy things we do with her everyday. I also don’t want to be flippant and put her to sleep just because she might not be herself anymore.

    Any help from the crowd on this?

  14. 14
    Maude says:

    @Politically Lost:
    My cat died of kidney failure. He just went down in weight and started to hide.
    I didn’t have to put him down.
    Your dog can’t live a normal life with kidney failure. The quality of her life will get worse.
    All I can tell you is that if you are going to keep her at home with this, is it because you will miss her?
    This is about you and how you feel.
    I grew up with wildlife and when an animal had to be put down, I would sob for days.
    No one can tell you what to do.
    I wish I could make it all better. It is so painful.

  15. 15
    Bella says:

    @Politically Lost:

    I don’t know about dogs, but I’ve known people who kept cats with kidney failure alive for another year or so. I personally would not make that choice — but it is a very personal decision.

    I do cat rescue and a vet gave us some excellent advice in knowing when it’s time to put an animal down. It’s just four questions: 1) Is the animal in pain 2) Does it hurt you to look at him/her 3) Is the animal eating? 4) Is it enjoying its regular activities? I have a horse who gets a “yes” in all 4 categories right now. Should she stop enjoying her activities or stop eating, then I call the vet. For now, she’s happy.

  16. 16
    Politically Lost says:

    @Maude: @Bella:

    Thanks for the feed back, especially the 4 questions. On on my way to the vet with the wife in a couple mins and I’ll be asking these.

  17. 17
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Bella: I think this is good advice. We lost a cat in August to kidney problems. He was always pretty chunky, 15 pounds at his peak, and started to lose weight, and for a while we were actually encouraged. But he was getting aloof and not enjoying his food, and he was peeing A TON. He was diagnosed in late June, had a pretty good, happy month (fueled by subcutaneous fluids we learned to administer ourselves), and then had a very bad final week physically and mentally. Then we could tell he was ready to go. Looking back, it would have been better for him to have made that call a week earlier, but of course we couldn’t have known before his last week that it was about to get worse for him.

    On the other hand, a friend of ours had a small dog who lived with kidney problems for 5 whole years.

    I think kidney “failure” makes it sound more total and final than it often is. At least in the case of our cat, it was a slow-developing loss of kidney function, and various tweaks to the diet could offset that loss to a significant degree. But, alas, not indefinitely.

  18. 18
    Rr says:

    I have two kids, and I understand not wanting to wait until the cat does something to the baby before rehoming him. It sounds like he would do well in a quiet home with no kids, perhaps with an older owner who can devote more time to him. So I second the advice to contact Homeward Trails. I adopted a cat from them just a month ago and can put you in touch with someone.

  19. 19
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    My orange tabby, Jake, developed kidney failure at age 12. I administered subcutaneous fluids for a while, and he did okay, until one night he went outside in the rain (he had reached the point where he only visited the patio occasionally) jumped on the bed dripping water and meowed and looked at me. The way he looked at me and acted told me he was ready to go, so I took him to the vet to be put down. I was heartbroken. When he as first diagnosed, the vet acted like subcutaneous fluids were the normal, expected thing for me to do, so I did it, but I am not sure I would put a cat through that again. Jake did still enjoy life for a few more months on them, though, so it is hard to say. I think asking yourself those 4 questions is a good move.

  20. 20
    JoyfulA says:

    @FlipYrWhig: I had a male cat who was approaching kidney failure at age 7; he was even an inpatient at UofP Veterinary Hospital. As a last resort, a vet said, “Try this; it’s new.” This was the first Science Diet catfood I ever saw. He wouldn’t eat it for days, and just when I was about to give in and pour his usual crunchies in the bowl, he gave in and started eating it. He got well.

    His kidney problems did return when he was elderly and stressed by some unavoidable lifestyle changes. I gave him subcutaneous fluids for a couple of months, and he didn’t seem in pain before he drifted off. Fourteen years is a pretty good remission!

    I’m a try-everything kind of person when it comes to sick friends of any species.

  21. 21
    WaterGirl says:

    @Maude: @Politically Lost: I’m gonna have to disagree with Maude on this one.

    My cocker spaniel, Mellon, ultimately died of kidney failure, but she lived a good life with it for a few years after she was diagnosed. I experimented with different foods and it was amazing how much difference the foods made.

    I also lost my beloved kitty to kidney failure, and that was a very different experience.

    I am not good with medical stuff, but the subcutaneous fluids were no big deal, even for me. I would sit down with her and pet her while the needle was in, and she just thought it was special time together. A cat can be a different story.

    Bottom line is that kidney failure plays out differently from one dog to another, or one cat from another. I live by the “IF they’re in it, I’m in it” rule. Take your cue from your dog and your vet, and if you want to talk about this via email, Anne Laurie can give you my email.

    One last thing. With every dog I have lost, I never really had to “decide” when to put them down. You pretty much know when it’s time. Much more difficult to know with my kitty.

  22. 22
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Politically Lost: I’ve been through this now with three cats, two of whom lived for quite a while thanks to subcutaneous fluids. (The third was a victim of the melamine contamination and went downhill fast.) You may have to bring your furbaby home for a day or two to see how she adjusts. How much kidney function she retains after this crisis will play a huge role in this. It’s possible that she will still have more than 50% function after her first crisis.

  23. 23
    Daffodil's Mom says:

    @Politically Lost: I generally lurk but we kept two greyhounds going with kidney failure for several years on Science Diet plus meds (one also had Dilated Cardiomyopathy/enlarged heart but even there we were able to find a good med for both). We never needed to administer subcutaneous fluids, and they both continued with their ordinary activities until succumbing from other causes. And I’ll agree with everyone else here: never had a dog yet who didn’t somehow tell me when it was time, and I’ve never yet been that sure with a cat. Those four questions sound like really good guides, though. Good luck; we’ll be thinking of you.

  24. 24
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Our big boy did not like getting the fluids at all, and he was getting them for more than a month. He never got used to it. He was big and strong even in his weakened state, and during the treatment he was very hard to manage, thrashing around and all worked up. It was a two-person job with me using what felt like a lot of muscle power to keep him in place. That, I wish we could have done differently. But he was pretty Zen afterwards, chilling out on the back deck in the sun, and his dour moods only overtook his cheerful ones near the very end.

  25. 25
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @CatHairEverywhere: That impulse to go outside, from cats who weren’t that keen on going outside… we lost our boy in August and our girl in January, and they both did that on their next to last day. Kind of eerie.

  26. 26
    KyCole says:

    I also used subcutaneous fluids on my 15 year old cat. She absolutely hated it, but it kept her going for almost a year. One day she looked bad, and wanted to go out. We sat on the back deck in the sun and she suddenly went under the deck, laid down and died. Not sure I’d go through that again.

  27. 27
    Elizabelle says:

    Best of luck to Jake and Pol Lost, their pets. And any pets and people in need.

  28. 28
    peej says:

    I have sympathy for you, Jake. I have a cat who has sent me to the emergency room twice after he’s attacked me. The ER people look at you as if you’re crazy to not put the cat down after something like that, but he’s a really loveable cat when he’s not engaging in the redirected aggression. He’s actually gotten better over the past couple of years. I suspect it’s the fact that I’ve now stayed in one place for 7 years (this problem didn’t start happening until I moved for the first time…he’s also very territorial…and, unfortunately for both of us, I’ve tended to move around a lot). I live alone so I’m willing to live with the risk because I know the danger signs. But, having a baby is another issue entirely.

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