14 November 2010

Bertie the Terrible

Bertie seems like a happy and well-adjusted kitty when he's with us, but he is still terrorizing the neighbors and their cats. I'm thinking I might have to take him to the SPA (la Société pour la Protection des Animaux) and see if a new home for him can be found.

Examples: Last Saturday afternoon we got a phone call from a neighbor across the street. She left a message on our machine. "Your black cat has attacked my daughter and scratched her horribly. I might have to call the doctor to come examine her." The daughter is a woman about my age. I called back later and left her a message. I apologized profusely and said Bertie has always been adorable and never aggressif with us.

Just a month or so ago, the daughter had told Walt that relations between her cats and Bertie were going much better. We thought everything had settled down.

It seems that this neighber had seen Bertie on the road out in front of their house last Saturday at lunchtime and had petted him, cautiously, for a minute. Then she turned to go in her front door and Bertie came up from behind her in a surprise attack and clawed her legs. She said she immediately went to the pharmacy and had the scratches looked at. The pharmacist treated her, as they do here if they don't think you really need to see a doctor.

I know all the details now because I talked to her yesterday evening. I had gone out with Callie just before dark and heard the neighbor calling my name — or Walt's actually. I told her it was Ken and asked her how she was. Was Bertie playing when he scratched her, I asked, or was he just being mean? Just mean, she said. She said she wondered if he had some memory of her spraying him with the garden hose last summer, when he was terrorizing her cats in her yard.

She asked me if I could get him down. What? She pointed up toward the roof of her house and I saw two cats crouched down next to the brick chimney way up top. Is that Bertie? Yes, she said. He has chased one of my cats up there and won't let him come down. I was mystified and asked her if she was sure it was Bertie.

Well, it was. I called him, he looked at me, surprised, and he started coming slowly down the steep tile roof. There's an overhang sheltering the house's front door, and he came all the way down there, where I could reach him. I took him by the front legs and he let me pick him up, all cuddly and happy to be "rescued." The other cat didn't budge from its perch.

By then, Walt had heard us talking and come out to see what was going on. I handed Bertie off to him and continued talking to the neighbors, telling her how bizarre Bertie's behavior seems. With us, he's obedient and affectionate. The older neighbor opened the front door and joined the conversation. Both she and her daughter were stunned, I think, at how docile Bertie had become in our presence.

One neighbor said she thought I ought to take Bertie to the SPA and let them find him a new home. Her daughter said that wouldn't be the best thing to do. She said we should take him to the vet's and see if they can suggest any way to curb his aggressive behavior toward other cats (and people, apparently). I guess that's what we'll do.

Meanwhile, I don't know whether to keep him closed in for a while, or just let him continue roaming the hamlet the way he's been doing for six months now. I fed him a few minutes ago but didn't open his window. Now it's raining again, so he probably won't go out anyway.


  1. What a little gangster. He is spayed, isn't he? Hope you don't have to adopt him out.

  2. Yes, Dedene, Bertie is castré. His behavior is strange. He's perfectly submissive with us, but he is trying to be dominant elsewhere, I think. Don't you want to adopt a beautiful, affectionate cat? I'll bring him to you if you'll have him.

  3. awww bertie......he is so beautiful.......i had a cat who was lovely at home but terrorized the neighbor cats too......at one point i made a deal with the neighbors that i would keep him in during the day & let him out say after 4 pm....that way the neighbors could choose to avoid letting their cats out at same time......

  4. What a shame, Ken. I googled
    "treatment for feline aggression"
    and the information is not very
    encouraging to say the least. I
    think finding the poor boy a new
    home will only compound the
    problem. Apparently there are
    medications to use, and a trip
    to the vet for advice is in order.
    I never knew such a problem
    existed with cats.

    You and Walt were such good
    samaratins (sp?) to adopt him,
    and now you're confronted with
    a problem which may not have an
    easy solution. Wonder if his
    former owner reads your blog.

  5. Sorry to hear about this problem. I think you are in a hard place and perhaps Bertie needs a new home. He has a lot of good qualities, but he's also a "gangster" as Dedene said.

  6. my fear is that if u tell the spca that he has been attacking people, they will put him down

  7. I have never made a comment on your blog so far but I have been reading for some time now. I really enjoy it. I read Walt's too so I follow the tales and adventures of Bertie. I also have a male black cat.

    The only comment I can make is Bertie definitely does not like Ms. C. I mean if she sprayed him with the garden hose and all...yeah...of course he remembers.

    Call the vet about his diet and age and tell him what is going on. Cats definitely get more mellow as they as they age as I'm sure you already know.

    I would not give him away; just keep him away from C. for safety's sake.

    Cats will work it out on their own. That is what they do. Anyway, that's my two cents.

  8. Are you sure your neighbours are telling the truth? You really don't know what they do to Bertie when no one is looking.

  9. Poor Bertie! It would be such a shame to give him away but I understand that you can't get into bad relations with neighbors. I hope a solution can be found soon.

  10. Hmmmm. I agree that surely Bertie remembers the water spraying. He clearly remembers the kind treatment he gets from you and Walt. I have read that cats often react to the scent of other cats on humans. Most probably, when your neighbor petted little Bertie, he smelled the other cats on her. Are the cats of the neighbor other male cats? There's just always going to be friction there.

    Is it possible for you to turn him into an indoor cat? Callie is an indoor dog, right? Except on supervised visits outside. Many cats never live outside.

    I hate to see you get rid of Bertie.

    I hope this all works out. I think it's great that Bertie comes to you two when you call him, and is so docile with you.


  11. Oh dear, what a dilemma.
    Bertie may well be adorable but if he's wreaking havoc in the neighbourhood it's aggravation you could do without.

    Was he like this when your friend owned him? Maybe you could pass him on to the rescue and be vague about your reasons, to make sure they don't put him down.

    Not everyone is a cat-lover and I would worry that there may be a neighbour who decides enough is enough and tries to do something awful to Bertie.

  12. Please give Bertie a second chance before you hand him over to people you don't know. I'm with Judy! Although they say cats don't have a longtime memory, I'm sure he remembers the water spraying.

    It's important to be on good terms with your neighbours, but they don't have to rule your lives. You do just as you please, and if Bertie is part of your family, that's where he should stay. You wouldn't send your kid away just because he has been bothering the neighbours, or would you?

  13. Please take Bertie to the vet for advice. My cat has a good memory and carries a grudge. Maybe Bertie is the same way. Time magazine had a two page article this week about cats using Prozac etc. for anxiety.
    Good point someone made about SPA maybe putting Bertie down if the agression problem is mentioned.

  14. I'm afraid that there's no question but that Bertie would be put down if he were brought to the French SPCA. It's pretty rare for anyone to adopt an adult cat from one of those places, only kittens.

    Ken, not at ALL that this is what you are doing, but I have a colleague who is planning to put BOTH of his cats to death because their house has fleas that they have not been able to get rid of. They have a dog, too, and they only allow the dog in the house to sleep in its crate. Why do these kinds of people have animals?? Mind you, he has not even tried hiring a professional exterminator for the fleas... they tried "bombs" a couple of times, but those don't even work on the bottom of surfaces. I'm just appalled. He feels that this is a reasonable option... put two pets to sleep, because perhaps the house he moved into had fleas.

    Man. This is a hard one. But, again, I think that Bertie is simply acting in a normal cat way. I don't think it's that odd to jump up and scratch someone. It's not like he chomped into her and ripped a chunk of leg off :))

    I'll stop my rant :))

  15. Ken, many councils here have laws about cats that they are not allowed off the owner's property. Where we are it is between dusk and dawn, in some places it is 24 hours.
    Many people build cat runs which are connected by a cat door to the house. They are a wire enclosure which frequently runs the length of the house and may have trees and such incorporated into them, so they are not unattractive and are interesting for the cats. The husband of a friend built one for their cat and it was very successful. Bertie has been used to having the run of the neighbourhood,I know but at least a run would leave him to be outside when he wished.
    I also believe that the vet option is a good one. Good luck.

  16. That's so strange.. Glad that C wasn't badly hurt- I know you can get infections for cat's claws sometimes! I think you should think about keeping Bertie in into you figure out what's up with him! Strange
    Hope it's all sorted out and you don't have to adopt him out..

  17. I just read everyone's comments and I'm starting to think that Bertie DOES remember being sprayed by C... and you never know about what people say--
    I am very sorry to hear about all of this but don't give him to the SPA or I think they WILL put him to sleep- that would be AWFUL!!!!

  18. How to stop male cat from biting the neighbor
    Handling cat agression
    I'm saying this with a smile, but here it is: I honestly think that it's going kind of overboard to think that a cat needs to be seen by a vet to deal with this kind of behavior :)) I think it's perfectly normal cat behavior to scratch someone who approaches it outside, touches it, and smells of a cat it is in territory conflict with -- even though the scratch happened after C turned her back. It's just not that unexpected or that unusual. I think the older neighbor is way out of line to suggest that your cat is causing trouble or that you should rid the neighborhood of him. Would anyone be suggesting that Callie should be gotten rid of if she were barking at neighbors' dogs or at neighbors who frighten her?

    I think it's weird that people get so worked up and "weirded out" about cats -- it's like all the cat-haters feel that every cat they see outside had better watch its step... or ELSE. Cats are always in conflict with other adult cats around their territory.

    Whew. Clearly, this is an issue that hit a nerve with me :)) I'd better go have a nap or something;)


  19. Sometimes my cat lightly swats at my legs because he wants to play. It seems aggressive but it's just cat language. Did you actually see the scratches on her legs? If they weren't really visible I think there is a good chance your neighbor is overreacting.

  20. I'm so sorry to hear about the Bertie problem, Ken! We have a cat we used to liken to Frank Sinatra... a bit gangster, a bit sweet, full of song, with a skinny swagger. In his youth he wasn't very nice to his fellow creatures, including our dog. We mentioned the behavior to my practical father, who mused in his calm way "Well, they'll all just have to learn to get along, won't they?" And indeed they did, and still do. I hope the same for you all, and for Bertie.

  21. Ken:

    As a cat lover, I've been reading your blog about Bertie with interest. I have to admit, that the past few days have left me feeling baffled. After thinking about things this morning, I think that you've been coming at the Bertie situation from the wrong direction. I don't think that you have a feline problem, but I think that you have a human problem.

    As an outside observer, I can only look at the facts about Bertie's behavior as you have presented them and to be honest, they don't make sense. So then you have to look at the source. 1. You didn't see the supposed attack, 2. You didn't see the scratches. 3. You've never seen this kind of behavior from Bertie. 4. This neighbor is known to have a problem with Bertie. 5. This neighbor is known to have problems with all the other neighbors.

    I think that you need to have more perspective on this neighbor. If I were you, since you have a good relationship with your mayor, I'd invite her over and explain the situation to her and see what she says. You're likely to get a better view of things then.

  22. Hello Eric, I do believe the cat really did scratch one of our neighbors, even though I didn't see the evidence. That neighbor loves cats and has three in her household. And the fact is that Bertie has been terrorizing her cats; I've seen and heard the spats. The first one was when one of the neighbor cats came into our yard 5 or 6 months ago, just after Bertie moved in.

    I really don't want to use the mayor's time unless the situation deteriorates. She has enough on her plate.

  23. Sorry, guess I misinterpreted something. I really wish you good luck with finding a solution to this problem. It sounds like you will probably need to find Bertie a new home, since correcting that kind of behavior is next to impossible.

  24. Eric, I think the neighbor woman will keep her distance from Bertie now. That may be the best solution. I'm not dismissing what you said and I appreciate the advice.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?