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New Cat from MSPCA; need help with out of the blue aggression

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hello all.. I have a feeling this is going to get long so I'm going to keep it to the facts as much as I can..

I just picked up a male shorthair, roughly 9-12mo old from the MSPCA(local shelter). When I visited him at the shelter he was really friendly, very outgoing, and loved to play. He had been neutered a week or two before I met him.

I took him home on Tuesday, after poping out of the box and hiding under the bed for 5 minutes, he came out and was pretty happy to be pet. This night he slept in my bed as if we were old pals, and the next morning he got a lot of petting and play time, no problems.

That afternoon he started "biting" after being pet for a few minutes. The first 1-2 times he did this I batted him on the nose. (I've since learned this was the wrong thing to do, but at the time it seemed like a good idea). Last night I basically put him in a "time out" and didn't pay too much attention to him. He was seemingly ok with that.. Before I went to slept I tested the waters with him and he would go to bite me after like 5 seconds of petting.. Slept in the bed, no problems..

Today, I can't touch him at all. Which is fine, I don't really WANT to touch him. The problem is he wants to be pet. I swear, he wants attention, but if I even touch him, he paws at me and bites. The freaky thing is, that when he does this he starts to purr..

Any thoughts are appreciated.. I'm really discouraged as he seems to be getting crazier.

-Lunacy
post #2 of 15
Hes probably testing his limits with you, often cats bite, nip as a sign of affection. Just let him be, watch for signals of aggression and stop physical attention, but you can talk to him, tell him fine no petting.....
post #3 of 15
The first thing I would do is phone the shelter and ask if they noticed anything like this with him. Then call a vet and get him examined - you should do this anyway with a new cat, even though he comes with a health certificate from the shelter. It may be behavioural - he is not used to being petted so gets overstimulated, or you may be actually hurting him for some reason when you touch him.
post #4 of 15
I'm no expert but it is a new environment for him to adjust to even though you have played with him at the shelter but that was at his place and not your place. When I found my stray kittens at approx 4 months, one of them was somewhat aggressive. He would bite me out of the blue when I pet him even though he was the one that came right up to me. I've learned to just walk away when he tries to get my attention yet bite me when he gets it. I think he now understands that biting is not a good thing since whenever he is doing something he is not suppose to do, I would say a firm "NO!".

Do you play rough with him? It could be that he thinks you are still playing with him and being still a baby, biting can happen. This goes the same with clawing.

It could also be that you are hurting him when you pet him or that you are bothering him and he wants to be left alone. It's possible that he maybe injured somewhere so getting a full physical would be a good idea.

I don't think cats purr because they are happy. It can be one of the reason but other reason can be that purring sound is soothing so it also can calm them down from stress, etc.

Give it some time for him to adjust to the new environment. I can't tell you how many times I've been scratched and bitten by them for the first month or so. Keep a first aid kit close to you....hehehe j/k
post #5 of 15
Many cats, maybe more so with males, get overstimulated quickly when you pet them, or try to pet their stomachs, and that sounds like it might have something to do with your experience. Keep your pats to his front top half, and don't overextend the sessions, plus be sure you're not passing on static from a carpet. He's hiding now because you slapped him, but will get over it soon... just give him time and a little space.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the insight.. I woke up this AM, and he was sleeping on my bed. I went to pet his head and he immediately went to the biting/pawing/purring combo. so I just tried to go back to sleep.. sigh..

-Lun
post #7 of 15
Both of mine are affectionate, but one of them (Radar) only lets you pet him when HE wants it. If you reach out to him and he is not in the mood, he will warn you off by putting a paw on your hand. If I ignore that, I can expect to get nipped - not a hard bite, but he will grab with his mouth.

If you reach out to pet a cat and he puts his paw up to your hand, it usually means stop.

Many cats are very happy laying on a lap and purring, but do not like to be petted. Since you haven't had him long, he may just be feeling a bit uneasy and may welcome petting when he is feeling a bit more settled, or he may always be a 'look but don't touch' type of kitty.

Whichever it is, I am sure you have found yourself a wonderful companion
post #8 of 15
Rather than petting, try playing with toys. Or get one of those "kitty gloves" with little dangly things on the fingers. Play hard with him until he tires out, then go to petting.

He might also be trying to love nip, and just doesn't realize how sharp those little teeth are. Puppy does this, and he also purrs while doing so. It seems to mean that he want attention, but he wants rough-and-tumble playtime. After we wrestle with him for a while, he chils out. (We've also discovered that he only likes wrestling if he's "winning", so we let gently get our fingers to keep him in the game.)
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks again to everyone...

So I called the shelter to see if they had any more history on the guy, and they didn't have record of him acting weird..

I have played with him quite a bit with a long string attached to a stick. I'm wondering if he still associates this play with playing aggressively with me.. And no, I've never rough played with him..

I'm feeling stressed about this little guy, I swear, when he comes in the room I get anxious now..

-Lun

PS: As I typed this message out he came in the room, jumped up on the desk, nussled a little, then went away. No bites! yay..
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
OK.. he is sitting on my lap totally perfect now.. .. ODD
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunacy View Post
I'm feeling stressed about this little guy, I swear, when he comes in the room I get anxious now
He will pick up on your feelings so try really hard to relax around him. Give him time to settle in, let him come to you instead of you forcing yourself onto him.

Good luck and feel free to post a pic of him
post #12 of 15
What are the chances you're wearing a new hand lotion, or using different soap? They can smell what we can't!
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunacy View Post
Hello all.. I have a feeling this is going to get long so I'm going to keep it to the facts as much as I can..

I just picked up a male shorthair, roughly 9-12mo old from the MSPCA(local shelter). When I visited him at the shelter he was really friendly, very outgoing, and loved to play. He had been neutered a week or two before I met him.

I took him home on Tuesday, after poping out of the box and hiding under the bed for 5 minutes, he came out and was pretty happy to be pet. This night he slept in my bed as if we were old pals, and the next morning he got a lot of petting and play time, no problems.

That afternoon he started "biting" after being pet for a few minutes. The first 1-2 times he did this I batted him on the nose. (I've since learned this was the wrong thing to do, but at the time it seemed like a good idea). Last night I basically put him in a "time out" and didn't pay too much attention to him. He was seemingly ok with that.. Before I went to slept I tested the waters with him and he would go to bite me after like 5 seconds of petting.. Slept in the bed, no problems..

Today, I can't touch him at all. Which is fine, I don't really WANT to touch him. The problem is he wants to be pet. I swear, he wants attention, but if I even touch him, he paws at me and bites. The freaky thing is, that when he does this he starts to purr..

Any thoughts are appreciated.. I'm really discouraged as he seems to be getting crazier.

-Lunacy
NOTE: You should probably try the other methods suggested first, and give your cat some time to acclimate to it's surroundings and come to trust you a little better. We didn't start doing this until Poe had been here for 2 1/2 months or so.

Our Cat Poe was a male Adult cat that we picked up from the shelter. He's been the same way off and on. He's very bitey at times. He likes to be rubbed, but not too-much. We tried everything to stop the biting. All kinds of positive reinforcement, none of it has worked.

Time seems to be taking care of it somewhat. He's been with us for 4 months now and he's a calmer cat (though still nervous and aggressive sometimes, it happens less now than before).

When he insists on acting out his aggressions on us, he gets what I call "cage time".

For Example: The other night I was sitting on the floor digging through some DVD's in our entertainment center, Poe came up and sat down right next to me. I was mostly ignoring him while I searched through the DVD's, Out of nowhere, he bit my arm and hissed at me, then immediately went running because he knew he was in trouble.

I immediately got up, picked him up by the scruff of his neck, and put him in his carrier where he stayed (that time) for an hour. (I usually only do it for 30 minutes but I was super pissed off and ready to take him to the pound that time. I guess because it just happened out of the blue, not because I was petting him or anything. Just totally out of the blue).

Well, Poe hates being in the carrier. And after an hour he was suitably chastised (He spent the whole time trying to figure out how to open the door, and alternately giving up and crying-meowing, then trying again.) I let him out and he went about his usual business of coming up to me for pets to let him know everything is ok between us now.

Normal bites from petting will earn him being ignored. If he comes back and wants to be pet and then bites when we do, he gets cage time.

Slowly but surely he seems to be learning that biting is not a good thing. But I can see it taking a couple of years to almost completely kill the biting habit he has. It'll never go away completely, but we are making progress. After 4 months I was able to brush his teeth today. I held him by the scruff of the neck and brushed his teeth and he actually seemed to enjoy it. I choose to think of that as progress because there was no hissing or attempted biting involved (well, he gnawed on the finger brush a bit but that was because I was brushing his back teeth. hehe.)

Older cats are harder to handle, you have to have a LOT more patience with them than with Kittens who are fairly easy to train, but it can be done. Just don't listen to anyone who tells you that the cat doesn't understand what he's doing. All you have to do is watch with your eyes, and you'll see that when he's staring right at you and runs up and chews on a cord and then runs into another room, he KNOWS he's doing something he shouldn't. Cats are a lot smarter than most cat owners will give them credit for, I have found, and they should be treated accordingly.

Some days Poe is just cranky as hell. Some days he reverts to acting like when we just got him, he'll hide under the bed or the couch. And then as much as a week will pass by and he'll be fairly cuddly, sleep next to you, meow for pets or attention. And then one of us will be petting him and him do the biting thing several times and spend 30 minutes in the cage.

He has yet to break the skin though, so that's something. The first time he breaks the skin, he goes back to the pound. I won't have a pet that draws blood... And in the four months that we've had him, we've had to bathe him, clean his hind-area several times, brush him once a week, clean his ears out and administer ear-mite meds. We clip his toenails every few weeks when they get too sharp, and now he's going to start getting his teeth brushed once in a while so we can avoid large vet bills later on and keep him as healthy as possible. The only thing I've given up on is teaching him how to be walked so he can go outside once in a while in a harness. I think we just got him too late to try teaching him that.

P.S. Also don't be afraid to handle him. The first thing you should probably learn to do is to hold him by the scruff of the neck. We had the vet-tech show us how to do it. It doesn't hurt the cat and you'll need to know how to do it any time you clean his ears, administer medicine, or brush his teeth. Over the course of a few months he will get used to being handled like this, and it will mostly become a minor annoyance to him. You can also use this method to stop him from biting. If you scruff his neck and then gently push him down to the ground and say "NO" firmly, it might help as well. Get familiar with holding him like this though. It's the only way to hold him so that he can't bite you if you need to get him under control. And don't be afraid to BE firm. Just don't pull any hair out or anything. hehe.

And lastly, You're going to have to make certain sacrifices to have this cat as a pet. You're going to have to be extremely patient but very firm and consistent. You're going to have to remember that having a pet is like having a 5-6 year old child that will NEVER grow up. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but together you guys should get through it fine.

If you want to take the easy route, you can get yourself a kitten and probably spend about 1/4 of the time teaching them than you would an adult, but where's the fun in that?

P.S.S. In a lot of ways I'm thankful for Poe. His problems I can sort of understand. He's never given us litter-box troubles. He doesn't spray, he doesn't get food everywhere. He cleans himself thoroughly once a day, etc. His aggression is his only real issue, and while it is a big issue, I don't think it's one that necessitates having him put to sleep. Some days he's so loving that it makes all the rest worth it. And since we've had Poe he's healthier than ever. He's lost weight, is generally much happier than he was when we first brought him home, he is more trusting, and more playful. I just think at some point he was probably abused and treated poorly, and I can totally relate to that.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jokieman View Post
He has yet to break the skin though, so that's something. The first time he breaks the skin, he goes back to the pound. I won't have a pet that draws blood...
I hate to sound harsh but that statment makes me wonder if you know what you are getting into with a rescue kitty. Karma was very aggressive with us at first she had MAJOR trust issues and would attack for no reason and would usually break skin. Sometime it would bleed other times we debated if it was deep enough to need stitches. This went on for months. We ended up using very possitive reinforcement. Sometimes we would just keep holding her and telling her we loved he and she was safe, using a very soft tone. Once we stopped scaring her and made her realize no matter what she was safe the aggressive attacks stopped. She still reverts to old ways at time, usually because she want attention. All we do now is say No firmly and ignore her. If she keeps doing it we lock her in the bedroom for a little while until she calms down. We would never lock her in her carrying case as punishment. Now she is loving and everyday is a reward that we have her and had the patience to get through it. We can't see our lives without her now. A bedroom or bathroom that actually has space is quit and safe is a much better option. Using the cage as punishment is not a good idea. You do not want kitty to be afraid of it, it will be much harded to utalize it when an emergency is happening. Most cats hate their cages but they really do not like confindment.We have started to let Karma play with hers so she thinks its a fun place to be. Living in southern california if we ever have an earthquake I don't want to have to struggle to get her in the cage. Also if we need to go to the vet it will be much easier to get he in it.
Cats have claws and teeth, Accident happen skin breaks. People bleed. If you don't want a pet who breaks skin get a fish.

For the OP, be patient. He is in a new place with new people, smells and thing around him. He is testing you. At least you get some love from him now. There are people on hear who wait months just to get close to their new cat. He could have abuse issues or abandonment issues. I believe when a cat has issues like that they seem more guarded. That was the case with Karma. It took about 6 months before she would go near my DH. Her previous male owne was not very nice to her so she took it out on all men. Now they are the best of friends. Be patient, keep asking questions. It will get better. We are hear to help. You will get many different ideas of what to do, just figure out what works best for you and I can't say it enough, give it time.
post #15 of 15
People that return their pets to the pound at the first sign of trouble have NO business even having a pet in my opinion.

I have a story. Zoey was surrendered to the pound by her previous owners at 9 months and they requested she be 'euthanized' for 'biting'. When I visited her at the shelter she was the sweetest most beautiful cat I've ever seen and I knew I had to take her home. Did she bite? Yes. But I do not feel that she was biting out of anger. She would try to bite me every single time I pet her. I was very frustrated as she seemed to be happy, purring, loving, and then she'd nip at me. I could not pet her without her trying to go for my hand. So... I tried giving her time outs, I would stop touching her and totally ignore her if she bit me, I would quickly grab a toy and have her bite that. I would tell her NO! but that seemed to just fuel her fire. Finally I contacted an animal communicator and I started her on flower essences and eventually got Saki the kitten and since then she has not bitten me at all. With a lot of LOVE and PATIENCE and actually taking the time to try to break her of the habit, she now NEVER bites me anymore. Cats can change, just like people. Dont give up.
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