Lux the Attack Cat: Family Trapped By Cat Calls 911 - But Who's Really to Blame?
“I have a kind of a particular emergency here” started Mr. Palmer on a recent, now notorious 911 call. Going on, he explained that his cat had attacked his 7 month old, so he kicked it “in the rear.” That’s when he said it “went off, over the edge…”
“We aren’t safe around the cat.” he told the responder, “It’s a very large Himalayan, and we’re trapped in our bedroom. He won’t let us out of our door…. He’s trying to attack us. He’s very, very, very hostile… He’s kind of a violent cat already, but he’s really bad right now. He’s charging at us. He's at our door, bedroom door.... Can you hear him?”
Photo Credit: Inside.com
That’s right. Large as he may be compared with other felines, an entire family - mom, dad, baby, even dog - was trapped in a bedroom by a cat. Understandably, it’s a story that’s garnered a lot of laughs! Even the owners say they can see the humor in it. But it’s also a story that’s garnered a lot of controversy as the issue of feline aggression is discussed. Not mentioned in the 911 call, but important to note, is that Lux, the 22 lb Himalayan mix didn’t attack unprovoked. Mr. Palmer later told reporters that his tail was being pulled by the baby when he scratched him, and it wasn’t until he was kicked that Lux lost it and started charging.
Who’s at fault here and what should be done?
Is this the case of a bad cat or of bad cat care?
Can the family learn to manage Lux safely or is keeping him an irresponsible risk to their child?
"My Cat From Hell"
Since the episode which ended with officers using a dog snare to finally catch the rampaging kitty, the owners initially surrendered Lux to a local animal shelter before changing their minds a few days later. “As we do with any owners who surrender their pet to the shelter and then change their mind, we work with them to find the best outcome for the animal…[We] do everything possible to support keeping the pet with its family,” said shelter spokesman Mike Oswald who also noted that Lux was healthy and showed no signs of abuse. Even more, Lux, who has become something of an internet sensation, is now slated to be featured in the upcoming season 5 of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” – a show in which Cat Behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy works with families to curb unwanted feline behaviors.
What’s Galaxy think of all this? “Every parental site on the Internet blames the cat for this confrontation. Every pet site blames the family…We need to step away from the hysteria. There is a story behind all this. Don't assume anything." While he won’t be able to make a real assessment of Lux’s particular issues until he sees him, he says it’s clear there is something wrong. It might be a past history, the environment he’s in, the way his family is interacting with him, or he may just be sick! "If they're not feeling well, cats will socially withdraw themselves, or they will lose weight, or they will gain weight, or they'll be howling in the middle of the night when they never did before. I've known cats who acted out similarly to Lux because of an abscessed tooth, a brain tumor, hyperthyroidism or diabetes." Regardless, of the reason though, Galaxy seems confident that Lux 's issues can be managed.
As an experienced cat owner, I’ll admit eyes rolled when I first stumbled on the headlines of this story. I have a large persnickety cat of my own at home – unfortunately, the victim of abuse before he came to live with us – and even when we had just gotten him and he was at his most aggressive, there’s no way this could happen. Had he tried to charge us, one of us would have grabbed a barrier and corralled him into a room by himself. He’d have been the trapped one, not us. Their sort of pathetic management of situation aside though, I had to groan reading they had kicked the cat while it was obviously already agitated. “Of course, he freaked out!” I thought, “How would you have reacted if you had two much larger creatures pulling at and kicking you?!”
While I’m willing to believe Mr. Palmer is well-meaning and honestly loves his cat, he’s clearly not up to speed with feline handling. First off, he should have known better than to allow the baby to interact with the cat on his own - especially when the cat already had history or aggressive behavior! Secondly, even as a sympathetic mother, let’s be honest - kicking the cat wasn’t preventing an attack or protecting his baby as some people - Mr. Palmer included - have attested. He kicked Lux after he had already scratched. What he was really doing was attempting to punish him – obviously with very poor results. Unfortunately, I know firsthand the idea that it’s okay - even necessary according to some - that misbehaving pets be physically punished persists among many otherwise kind, intelligent owners. My cat Pooka is an example of just this thinking.
When, as a kitten, he jumped up on a table where he wasn’t meant to be, his owner swiped him off harder than he had intended to and accidentally broke his leg. Since I happen to know his previous owner, I can confidently tell you he wasn't the cruel, villainous person you might imagine. He was just a person who had been misinformed. Still, regardless of his intentions, this early trauma had a definite negative impact. When we got Pooka, he was a very frightened and aggressive kitty. He’d run to hide under tables and furniture and hiss ferociously just being looked at. He really only felt safe outside. Though three years later, with lots of work, Pooka now enjoys our company (and recently reached a milestone of sleeping with us in bed!), he’s still wary of people, and acts out when startled. He’ll hiss, grumble, and he’ll take a swipe at you if you’re close enough. When this happens though, we meet his (fear-induced) anger with calm. Step away, make sure he’s got a path clear of people and other cats to escape, and let him be. Encourage good behaviors and create positive associations with play and treats. A natural homeopathic anxiety medication also helps.
Spread the Word!
It’s really important people understand and spread the word that cats don’t view any punishment as something they’ve caused or deserve like a human might logically conclude. In their eyes, physical punishment is an attack, pure and simple and when attacked, their response is fight or flight (aggression or skittishness in the long term), not falling into line.
I’m just hoping for the sake of Lux and his family, Mr. Galaxy can drive this message home. While their story may be funny on the surface, the issue of uneducated pet owners definitely isn’t. Like babies themselves, our cats are very small and depend on us for food, shelter, love and protection. When they act out, it’s up to us as their caretakers to set a positive example, not to retaliate.
Photo Credit: KPTV.com