A bad boy cat which is under an owner-imposed curfew because of its ‘reign of terror’ may actually have hearing problems, according to an expert.
Dr David Sands believes the so-called Lion Cat of Wingrave, which once hospitalised a neighbour and intimidates dogs in the village, may act aggressively because it is disorientated.
He said: “Turkish Van Cats have genetic disposition to deafness that could affect its behaviour.
“It could be a factor because they become quite easily disorientated and the last form of defence is attack – which could be triggered by somebody picking the cat up.
“If you’re deaf and something is coming up behind you, your ‘fight or flight’ effect is triggered.”
Dr Sands believes the theory holds true because Oscar’s owner reports that he is calm and subdued at home – an area where he is comfortable.
The owner of the Animal Behaviour Clinic in Chorley, Lancashire, claims hard of hearing animals suffer a form of prejudice, saying: “I have dealt with deaf animals and it throws up all the kinds of problems that you would get with people.”
He says that some vets do not consider the issue because they are not looking for it - and owners believe the pet is simply ignoring them.
He cites one example where a client had to attach a sign around their pet’s neck to say the animal was deaf.
When asked about why Oscar may intimidate dogs in the village, Dr Sands suggests: “It’s a big chunky cat and not one of those airy-fairy cats.
“Also dogs and cats are natural competitors - where they do socialise together it’s often about their socialisation while growing up together.
“Some cats are aware that dogs can be aggressive towards then and it’s a fear association of ‘I will get you first before you get me’.”
Oscar made the headlines after vanishing last month and being found 25 miles away terrorising a village in Northamptonshire.
His loving owner is considering moving to a house with a large, secure garden for him to roam around in.
In response to suggestions that he may have hearing problems, Oscar’s owner Caroline Hughes is unconvinced - saying he ‘hates the sound of the vacuum’ and ‘when upstairs, he can even hear it when I open a sachet of food’.
Meanwhile another cat behavioural expert Debbie Ottway,of Monewden in East Suffolk, believes Oscar’s aggression can be controlled with the simple rule ‘don’t pick up a cat unless you are sure the cat won’t mind.
Her suggestion was made, because Oscar attacked and hospitalised neighbour Tom Ridgway after he was picked up by him – because the cat would not leave the house.
Ms Ottway said: “In any case like this, what is needed is neighbour co-operation and understanding - i.e. willingness to fit cat flaps that exclude all but the household cat.
“Also, agreeing a ‘timeshare’ whereby certain cats are let out at only at certain times, and agreeing to leave the cat alone if you see him.
“If there is no co-operation, the situation won’t improve.
“It appears that (owner) Caroline Hughes is bending over backwards to try to manage the situation.”
In 2010 Oscar appeared in a Ikea TV advert, which featured 100 cats roaming around a store in Wembley.
Speaking last month, owner miss Hughes joked that his ‘reign of terror’ started when she was regularly approached by dog owners who asked her to ‘call my cat off their dog’.
She said: “More recently a new neighbour had moved in to the street bringing four cats and a dog. The dog was terrified of him within days and the cats have long since stopped going outside because Oscar would just sit there and wait.
“He’s always been worse in the evenings and at night, which is why for the last 18 months I’ve gone out walking the streets at dusk to find him and bring him inside - trying to make sure the neighbours and their pets could at least have peace while they slept.
“I had also started keeping him in on sunny weekends in the summer, just so people could enjoy having their windows and doors open without him inviting himself in.
“He’s got into the odd fight with cats that tried to stand up to him over the years, but it’s mostly psychological.
“I’ve honestly never understood why he’s like he is. He’s a different cat completely when he’s at home - about as daft, friendly and adorable as you can imagine, in fact.”
For more about what happened when Oscar went missing last month click here