Taming Catzilla


In June, last year, I lost my cat. She was MY cat and she loved me the most. We had had her since she was a kitten and she grew up with us. Losing her wedged a huge hole in my heart, one that is still there over a year later.

Finally, I decided that even though no one could fill the void she had left, I could at least try to pour the love I was no longer able to give her, into another soul.

I wanted a cat I could love and hug and squeeze and that would love and hug and squeeze me back. We had previously had a Maine Coon and they are such a chilled, loveable breed, so I was looking for this type of cat. Not a replacement, but a new family member all the same.

We went to a few different shelters and we finally found her. A one year old female Maine Coon that let me pick her up and cuddle her. She was the ONE!

After a few weeks, once the home check and compulsory vet visit was done, we picked her up and she came to live with us. We kept her isolated at first, as you do with a new cat. She had toys and plenty of hiding places plus a whole double bed to herself and a window to look out of and bask in the sun.

After a while, we started to introduce her to the other animals in the house. We have 2 other cats and 2 dogs. I was worried about how my male dog would react, as she is a fully-grown cat.

This is where everything went tits up.

She walked out of her room one night and sniffed my sleeping male cat. He woke up with a fright and hissed at her.

That was it. Enter CATZILLA!

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From then on, she hissed and scratched and bit at everyone. Human, cat or dog.

It took over a month to let her out into the house completely and I was so nervous to let her into the garden. What if she hissed at the 30kg male dog and he just snapped her up? He is of a very skittish temperament to begin with.

She slowly started to trust, but each time we thought she was getting somewhere, something would happen and she would be even worse than when she had started!

Eventually, everyone in the house seemed to dislike her immensely. Everyone was tired of being hissed at and scratched. It gets a bit tedious being hated so much, that eventually you cease to care.

I realized that she had zero social skills. She had no idea how to approach or play with other cats and she was just as clueless with dogs and people. Someone had broken this cat and she had zero trust in anyone else as a result.

I collar my cats. Very loosely, before everyone freaks out. I have a tag on the collar with our vet’s details. I have no idea how I got it on her and lived to tell the tale! About 3 weeks after she started wearing it, she got her front paw stuck in the collar.

Cold sweat went down my back. Holy Mary mother of God – how was I going to help her without losing an arm? I tried, very gently. I got scratched and bitten for my efforts. Eventually I had had enough. I put on my Hubby’s motorbike gloves and shut her and myself in the bathroom.

I would have been bitten to the bone and scratched to ribbons if it had not been for those gloves, but I did manage to free her. She felt so violated and kept away from me for weeks, disappointed that her best efforts had not deterred me. She will never wear another collar. She is microchipped at least, but she will never have to go through that again.

5 months have passed since we got her. Now you can stroke her once, but not first thing in the morning. If she sits or sleeps with you, you cannot move. If you do so, she will hiss at you and leave.

BUT, there is no more scratching. No more biting. So, it’s an improvement. Also, we get her lovingly walking by your legs and she rubs up against you. (Just don’t make a big deal of it OR make eye contact!)

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She will never be the stereotypical sweet, cuddly cat that I had imagined. However, having a difficult cat and managing to get an entire household to accept her for who she is, to adapt to her AND have her reciprocate, is a feeling that I never knew existed.

If I work from home, she follows me around the house. She LOVES playing with string and my eldest daughter is a master at playing with her.

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The dogs have gotten used to the ‘cat flight sounds’ and no longer leap up to see what’s going on. So, there is less aggression in the house. The other cats just walk away leaving her in a ridiculous defensive pose.

I might add, that she is bonkers and runs up and down tables and chairs in an OCD fashion (it must be the same path every time) and has redecorated the table cloth with her claw mark holes.

She is also an expert tree climber and likes to hang about in her favorite tree over 10 meters up. She will sit there all day, very content.

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Her name is Xena, named after the warrior princess, and affectionately known as Catzilla. She is my problem child and I will love her forever because of it. She might even love me back someday…

This blog is dedicated to my friend Sibongile who has been nagging me to write for a while. For you my friend.

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