Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cattle Dog

So this is what happened...Andrew and I were in the kitchen he was cutting up raw chicken and I was unloading the dishwasher. The dogs were underfoot, well the Cattle Dog was. I almost tripped over her and so I ordered her out of the kitchen. The Shih Tzu was mostly under the table and not in the way, so it didn't even occur to me to send him out -- not that it would have worked. He is barely trained and "out of the kitchen" isn't a command he knows. Partly because he has the sense, and the size, to stay under the table.

Anyway, I figure Cattle Dog was pretty annoyed about being sent out, far away from the chicken and any hope at all of getting a piece of something that got dropped on the floor. The spastic cat (whom I started calling "Ed," as in "special ed" until Brian made me stop) crossed her path and CD snarled, grabbed the cat in her mouth and held him down like she does to the Shih Tzu when she wants to assert that she is the boss. Andrew and I both yelled "NO." The Cattle Dog let go and Andrew was there holding CD's head to the ground right away. He forced her to stay laying down, head on the floor, for maybe fifteen seconds. A few minutes later she came up to make friends with Andrew again and he gave her some attention.

I don't think that CD would have hurt the cat physically, at least not intentionally, but when she is feeling the need to assert dominance on the Shih Tzu she has been known to hold him down, mouthing and snarling for quite a bit. We sometimes tell her "enough" and she stops, but the Shih Tzu doesn't mind. In fact he will often go back to harassing her.

The cat though doesn't understand this language. He also doesn't have the power in his limbs to do anything about it. If his claws happen to be near skin, he can certainly sink them, but the swiping and kicking other cats do? Yeah. Not so much. Poor wobbly thing. If the Cattle Dog tried that with any other cat ... well, she wouldn't do it twice.

When the Cattle Dog seemed more snarly a while back we before we took her to the vet. There isn't anything wrong with her that can be discovered with a normal exam, and I can't afford to go looking for trouble. I'm really inclined to think that she is just a middle-aged, grumpy lady who is tired of all these other animals. She is also irritated that there are so many human legs to be avoided.

I hope she stops. Though I don't think she would hurt "Ed", she could certainly terrorize him. She is a difficult pet. She won't tolerate other female dogs, has a constant need to display dominance with small male dogs. She does seem to relax with large, confident male dogs though. She is fine with kids. Roland has taken her to school a few times and she is very patient while being swarmed and patted, not a typical behavior for cattle dogs. She is not the least bit cuddly, though she will follow you around all day and sleep at your feet. She is fairly well trained (come, sit, down, stay, off, go to bed, "out of the kitchen!") She is just such an anxious dog. She really needs to be exercised, but when you take her for a walk she gets so upset at every barking dog and passing vehicle that it is a miserable experience. Until today I would say she was fine with cats she knows. She chases strange cats out of the yard, but our cats she is good with. Until today.

She used to gently hold down the spastic cat when he was a kitten so that the my fat, slow lap cat (who died a while back) could get away. She also "herds" the Shih Tzu away from the spastic cat when he is getting too rough. You know, typical big sister stuff. No one is allowed to pick on anyone except her.

She would be happier living in the country with someone who had a really large yard and no other dogs, except maybe a big, confident alpha male. Oh, and no birds. She loves hunting them birds. She's snatched a crow out of the air once. I just don't trust that I could find such a home where she would stay. I'm nervous that they would get another dog and start having all the troubles we are and then she would just end up at the shelter.

The truth probably is that I am the one who is not happy with having two dogs. Either one of them is fine, but them in combination is getting tiresome.

By the way, here is a video of another spastic cat, whose condition is more severe than than my "Ed." Just in case you were confused about what it is. My cat's walk is less wobbly. If the cat in the video appears to be "falling down drunk" my cat has that deliberate, unsteady, "I'm not drunk" look to it. He's more wobbly in the yard (because the ground is not flat?). He has got better at jumping, but prefers to scale his way up the furniture. He loves climbing our lilac bush. He can't run any distance without falling, prefers to steady himself against something when he sits, and falls over if you pet him when he doesn't have support. He doesn't lie down so much as aims and falls, preferably against a sofa cushion or human. We have a very high-sided litter box which he is able to use well. Unlike many spastic cats, he has excellent control and always uses the box. He is a sweet kitty, and doesn't seem to mind being wobbly.


  1. Oh my...it was weird seeing a cat so uncoordinated (is it medical?) - mine would have probably caused some damage had the dog tried to hold her down...my cat is crazy (coordinated, a great hunter, and beautiful but crazy and ornery...the older she gets the worse it is too!)

  2. Sounds like a scary thing with your dog. Could it be that she's picking up on all the stress going on in the house?

  3. "spastic" is short for CEREBELLAR HYPOPLASIA. It is the result of damage to the motor center of the brain, basical cerebal palsy for cats.

    They can get it because the mother had distempter while pregnant. My vet thinks "Ed" has it because he spent several days as a newborn in a U-Haul trailer with two sibs and his mom. He thinks the heat and dehydration caused the damage to that part of his brain.

  4. In other words, Spastic Cat has feline ataxic cerebral palsy. Interesting, ataxic CP usually causes hypotonia, and ataxia in humans. I guess cats get spasticity and ataxia instead.

    BTW, it actually is offensive to call someone "Ed", as in "Special Ed". It's dehumanizing--special ed is a group of services, not a person.

  5. Lee, I do know that it offensive and I would never call a person who uses special education services "Ed." I know better. My husband is a special education teacher -- by which I do NOT mean that I am allowed to make tasteless jokes, just that I am aware that it is tasteless.

    I'm less worried about dehumanizing my cat though, and I don't have and don't want to bother with a blog name for him. Other people are bothered by the term "spastic cat."

    If any reader was offended by the use with respect to my cat, I apologize.

  6. Go ahead and try to find a family, being honest about what you think would be best. For instance, we currently have two dogs, and DH is certain that we won't do that again. (There are definite advantages to two, but it's still more work and cost that we want.) We used to have two cats, but after the second one died (actually, the third, as the first second one died the year before), we realized that our remaining cat just might do better as an only cat. So we FULLY understand that some animals do better alone. (In fact, cat #3 would have done better along as well. We kind of figured this as he was being a holy terror and our solution to it is what killed him. :( He had an reaction to the medication that was unheard of. :() Anyway, just saying that a responsible current or former pet owner may be happy to adopt your dog and give her the home she deserves!

  7. My CD is identical. And I do think it's "middle-aged lady tired of things syndrome." She tries, but like your CD she's very anxious about things (the vet has talked about doggy Vali.um for her) but as long as we give her some "alone" time, she seems to do allright.

    good luck!

  8. Cattledogs in general tend to be anxious, finicky dogs, and you're just lucky to have found one who is okay with cats at all! My ACDx (she's probably mixed with terrier of some sort, so that's part of the issue) is a scrappy, cranky, pushy little monster who would like to exist in a world with only herself and my male corgi/lab x in it. That said, she is who she is, and you work with it.

    Honestly, as a rescuer, finding an appropriate home for CD especially since she's already older will be hard. It's not so different from the reason you end up taking teenagers into permanency.


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