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Help with socialization, 6 mth old stray

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

I am new on these boards, and introduced myself in the new cats thread. I have a 6 year old female domesticated cat, and just took in a 6 month old stray kitten last week. There he was, by the stairs in a train station, meowing and reaching out with his paw to everyone who came down the stairs. When I made kissy sounds he came over to me and nuzzled repeatedly.

The cops' only advice was: "If we call the locals they'll probably just put him to sleep, so why don't you take him home?" They spent a half hour constructing a makeshift carrier out of cardboard boxes and caution tape. I couldn't just leave him there!

As it turns out, the cat really was crying for help, because the vet saw a large, painful abscess on his back. They explained that he probably got bitten, and the wound became infected. He is feeling much better since the vet lanced it. We've named him Lucky, 'cause he is a lucky boy!

If you don't mind, I have some behavior / socialization questions, and would reeeeeeeaalllly appreciate any advice you could give. We have him in a separate room right now, so he doesn't interact with our other cat. He is very affectionate towards people, and is always nuzzling our ankles and feet.

However, he does have some biting issues. Most of the time we can trace it back to overstimulation or a faux pas on our part. (For ex, yesterday I made the mistake of preparing his food in front of him and attempting to walk from the kitchen to his room with the bowl. Usually, I bring it in already prepared. D'oh! Well, of course he chomped my leg for that one, he thought I was taking it away!) Once, it seems like he just attacked my husband unprovoked. My husband and I were standing next to him talking, not doing anything in particular to upset him and all of the sudden he wrapped his forelegs around my husband's leg and bit.

Unlike my other cat, he doesn't give you much time between the attack and the body language indications. My 6 year old female will let you know a few minutes ahead of time when you are petting her too much or whatever, and if you get nipped, it's your own fault, lol.

How do we deal with this?? We are certainly allowing that he has only been off the street for a week, and this is going to take time. His life depended on a quick reaction out there. But the rapid, unpredictable bites are very unnerving. He is being neutered this week -- will that help significantly? Otherwise, you can tell that he wants to give and receive affection. But he is very mercurial.

I've never dealt with a stray before, and do want to integrate him into our family. This biting makes us nervous not so much for ourselves, but for our other cat. She's never had to deal with this and has progressive heart disease, so the less stress the better.

Any ideas? Do you guys think this situation is viable?

Thanks so much,
Kitty
post #2 of 26
Thread Starter 
Oh, and of course, another related question is when we do get bit.....how do we diffuse the situation? I read the aggression towards people article on this site. Right now I'd be afraid to put my hands near his paws when he's doing that! If it looks like he is stalking me for another bite after he lets go initially, what should I do? (This happened to both me and my husband on separate occassions.)

Thanks again for any advice and help,
Kitty
post #3 of 26
I wish I could offer some advice Kitty, but I just wanted to say how awesome it is what you're doing! I know a lot of people on here will probably have some advice (they have been so great about helping me socialise the three semi-ferals we took in a few months ago) so I am sure they will have some ideas!

Just sending good vibes and best wishes!
post #4 of 26
Well, this is going to sound mean, but if he scratches, put your thumb on the pad of his paw, and your finger on the top and give a squeeze, just enough to make its claws come out then llet go, they don't like it, so after a while they will stop. The biting, if he bites you hond his tongue down, lightly, he will not like that either. I know is seems harsh, with a little kitten, but it worked for my ex boyfriend with his adult cat, he never scratches or bites anymore. Another thing is that it is going to take awhile for him to realize those actions are bad. He must have had a bad experience, and he is probably frightened of everything now, as he has already had a bad experience with the world.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wendyr View Post
I wish I could offer some advice Kitty, but I just wanted to say how awesome it is what you're doing! I know a lot of people on here will probably have some advice (they have been so great about helping me socialise the three semi-ferals we took in a few months ago) so I am sure they will have some ideas!

Just sending good vibes and best wishes!
Aw, thanks Wendy! He is my first rescue and I just want to make sure I'm doing this right to make him a happy, well-adjusted cat -- with all he's obviously been through, he deserves it! Cats are the best!
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi Darly,

I do the claw thing that with my 6 year old cat sometimes and she doesn't mind too much. I check out her claws when she's napping.

How do you insert your finger in his mouth while he's in the process of biting? He's not a small cat -- at 6 months, he's 8 lbs. Wouldn't that attempt make the situation worse, since he's already in attack mode and all? (I'm kind of scared to put my hands anywhere near him when he does that -- I just wait till he lets go and give him some cool off time...)

Thanks!
Kitty

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarLy View Post
Well, this is going to sound mean, but if he scratches, put your thumb on the pad of his paw, and your finger on the top and give a squeeze, just enough to make its claws come out then llet go, they don't like it, so after a while they will stop. The biting, if he bites you hond his tongue down, lightly, he will not like that either. I know is seems harsh, with a little kitten, but it worked for my ex boyfriend with his adult cat, he never scratches or bites anymore. Another thing is that it is going to take awhile for him to realize those actions are bad. He must have had a bad experience, and he is probably frightened of everything now, as he has already had a bad experience with the world.
post #7 of 26
Its a difficult thing, but as I said it did work for my ex. It was just a suggestion, I don't know the process well, Ive never had that problem
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarLy View Post
Its a difficult thing, but as I said it did work for my ex. It was just a suggestion, I don't know the process well, Ive never had that problem
Thanks so much for the help! We'll see what works -- it seems like it's going to be quite a learning process!
post #9 of 26
ok, here's my 'biting fix'. i read in one of my many cat books that a mother cat disciplines her kittens by tapping them on the nose. that's what i do/did - tap firmly on the nose, while saying 'no' whenever the kitten would bite me. i wouldn't do the claw thing - you want to be able to trim them w/o problems.
this has worked for me for the 4 cats i've raised from kittenhood. i'm not saying they never bite - but as soon as they do, they quickly back away, 'cause they know they're not supposed to.
post #10 of 26
When we brought in our rescue, Ms Friskers, about a month and a half ago, she often bit, seemingly from over-stimulation while we were petting her. What I started doing is that every time she bit me, I would blow a short gust of air in her face. She HATED that, and would usually go sulk after I did it. I would always make sure to give her a short head scratch (to let her know I'm not mad at her just what she did) and then leave her alone for awhile.

It only took about a dozen times, and at this point, she hasn't bitten anyone in about 2 weeks. Even this past weekend when 5 people crowded in to see her kittens, and one of them gave her a pat, she didn't look happy, but she didn't bite! I was so proud.

Someone over in the behavior forum suggested the idea -- I second it heartily -- worked like a charm, and not dangerous to me or her!
post #11 of 26
Quote:
When we brought in our rescue, Ms Friskers, about a month and a half ago, she often bit, seemingly from over-stimulation while we were petting her. What I started doing is that every time she bit me, I would blow a short gust of air in her face. She HATED that, and would usually go sulk after I did it. I would always make sure to give her a short head scratch (to let her know I'm not mad at her just what she did) and then leave her alone for a while
Oh, I think this sounds really good. I might just use this myself if necessary.

I would be wary of doing to much too close to their mouth - you want to avoid making them feel too threatened because then they might just bite for real (and as someone who was just bit by their kitten at the vet the other day...well, that is no fun...I finish my course of anti-biotics tonight!).
post #12 of 26
yeah, i done the 'hissing' thing also - seems to work well... you're speaking their language!
post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi Laureen,

Would that also result in my hand being another target? This seems more aggressive than just a play bite, and I don't want to further annoy him. Your cats have allowed you to do this with no problem?

Actually, I *think* I made progress the other day. I stayed with him while he ate, sitting on a chair. I tried to keep the eye contact to a minimum so he didn't feel like I was staring at him. He stood in front of me, looked, groomed, looked, groomed. Then he hopped up and smelled my hands, which were folded on my lap. Then, he nuzzled my legs twice, wrapped his body around my right leg and bit. I stayed as still as possible, then tried to get his attention by saying "hey!" firmly, but not loudly and snapping my fingers. He looked up, relaxed his grip after a few seconds, sat there for a few seconds more, then went off to eat more food. I then played with him with a fishing pole toy with no further incident. Staying very still and calm while getting his attention seemed to help. But I have to think about what will prevent it in the first place, too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen227 View Post
ok, here's my 'biting fix'. i read in one of my many cat books that a mother cat disciplines her kittens by tapping them on the nose. that's what i do/did - tap firmly on the nose, while saying 'no' whenever the kitten would bite me. i wouldn't do the claw thing - you want to be able to trim them w/o problems.
this has worked for me for the 4 cats i've raised from kittenhood. i'm not saying they never bite - but as soon as they do, they quickly back away, 'cause they know they're not supposed to.
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi Zoethor,

This sounds like a good idea! I'll try it, while trying not to get my face too close to him. (We still don't know each other that well yet, and he is still a wild man!)

He is at the vet today getting neutered, so hooopefully that will
help the aggressiveness too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoethor2 View Post
When we brought in our rescue, Ms Friskers, about a month and a half ago, she often bit, seemingly from over-stimulation while we were petting her. What I started doing is that every time she bit me, I would blow a short gust of air in her face. She HATED that, and would usually go sulk after I did it. I would always make sure to give her a short head scratch (to let her know I'm not mad at her just what she did) and then leave her alone for awhile.

It only took about a dozen times, and at this point, she hasn't bitten anyone in about 2 weeks. Even this past weekend when 5 people crowded in to see her kittens, and one of them gave her a pat, she didn't look happy, but she didn't bite! I was so proud.

Someone over in the behavior forum suggested the idea -- I second it heartily -- worked like a charm, and not dangerous to me or her!
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by KittyCurledUp View Post
Hi Laureen,
Would that also result in my hand being another target? This seems more aggressive than just a play bite, and I don't want to further annoy him. Your cats have allowed you to do this with no problem?

no... it's a very quick move - sort of a 'get attention' tap. i remove my hand as soon as i've made contact. i only have to raise my finger, now! that said, i don't play with them with my hands, only a toy.
they rarely bite, or even attempt to, except for Chip didn't raise him [adult adoptee] so don't know the root cause of his biting... 'course, he's declawed, so that could be a factor for him.
also, he tends to bite in 2 situations - i'm doing something he doesn't want me to do [ actually, they all bite in this circumstance!] or it's what i call a 'love bite' - he's happy, purring, stretched out on my lap/chest - & he bites my chin or jaw. he's not vicious/skin breaking biting, but it still hurts :ouch: for this, i say ouch - VERY LOUDLY & 'feed the bite' - i. e., lean into him till he releases me.
he's gotten better, but he still wants to do this on occasion. he used to do it frequently!
post #16 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wendyr View Post
Oh, I think this sounds really good. I might just use this myself if necessary.

I would be wary of doing to much too close to their mouth - you want to avoid making them feel too threatened because then they might just bite for real (and as someone who was just bit by their kitten at the vet the other day...well, that is no fun...I finish my course of anti-biotics tonight!).
Yikes! Yeah, it is not fun. My leg is all black and blue from being bit, but he didn't puncture much skin, so the vet didn't suggest a doctor. That's why I am nervous, cause his bites are decidedly not play bites, and getting any other appendages close enough during a gentle correction may be bad news.
post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen227 View Post
[size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]
no... it's a very quick move - sort of a 'get attention' tap. i remove my hand as soon as i've made contact. i only have to raise my finger, now! that said, i don't play with them with my hands, only a toy.
Hmm, ok, I'll try this too. He is back from being neutered and so far has not bitten me yet today. But he is still sleepy from yesterday's trauma. I really need to calm myself down around him because I get so nervous due to the previous bites that I am afraid to touch him -- I get all tense immediately when he nuzzles. (Btw, the top of his tail does a swirly motion when he nuzzles me. With my other cat, any tail movement means "approach with caution, I am not in a good mood." I haven't figured Lucky out yet -- whether this means that petting is acceptable or not.)

I don't want to mess up his socialization here, he does need to get used to touch. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get over this automatic nervous response!

Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen
they rarely bite, or even attempt to, except for Chip didn't raise him [adult adoptee] so don't know the root cause of his biting... 'course, he's declawed, so that could be a factor for him.
also, he tends to bite in 2 situations - i'm doing something he doesn't want me to do [ actually, they all bite in this circumstance!] or it's what i call a 'love bite' - he's happy, purring, stretched out on my lap/chest - & he bites my chin or jaw. he's not vicious/skin breaking biting, but it still hurts :ouch: for this, i say ouch - VERY LOUDLY & 'feed the bite' - i. e., lean into him till he releases me.
How many cats do you have? My other cat rarely bites either, but as hubby reminds me, she was a handful as a kitten too. It's been too long since I've been around an active youngster, I guess!

I am also concerned about trimming his nails eventually since we are not at the point where we can physically handle him yet. Getting him into he carrier to take him to the vet was pure dumb luck. He just happened to decide to go in there himself to retrieve a favorite toy. I had tried to coax him in a few mins. earlier by gently putting my hand against his backside. That's how I get my other cat in.) It didn't work too well with Lucky and I got attacked for my pains. Oops.

Anyway, when his claws grow in again, if he is still going at us, we could have some serious injuries. So I am a little nervous about that eventuality. I could take him to a groomer....if I could get him in the crate, and there's no assurance of that.

I'm just rambling here, sorry. I just want to do the right thing by him!
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Getting him into he carrier to take him to the vet was pure dumb luck. He just happened to decide to go in there himself to retrieve a favorite toy.
Dumb luck - the best way to get cats in their carriers! My husband had rigged up an elaborate thing to get one of our boys in, but he was not interested. I went upstairs, threw a mouse toy in, and he went straight in.

I totally understand your pain, by the way. Like I said, I got bit by one of my boys last week at the vet, and when he got back, well, I was nervous about touching him again. I am a better now, so hopefully your nerves will pass. And yes, it is important for you to be calm. I remember something my parents always told me when I was young - animals can sense your nerves which makes them nervous which makes them prepare to attack. I was raised with lots and lots of animals, but they still reminded me occasionally.

I also understand your situation for other reasons - our kittens were just a month younger than yours when we took them in off the streets. Ours were technically semi-feral - born to a feral mother, but around people so much they weren't truly feral. This site has been a huge help to me in working with our kittens. Patience is the most important thing, but any questions you have, here you will find someone who can give you some ideas.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by KittyCurledUp View Post
How many cats do you have?
i have 5 i had 4 until last june, & was perfectly happy with them. then i found a sickly little feral kitten in the back yard... & couldn't just leave her there to die. you can read her story here & see pix here, here, here, & here.
the idea was i was fostering her/nursing her back to health... but she's still here!
post #20 of 26
that biting thing sucks, i've had several cats who do it. i've always tried to handle by de-empasizing what i don't want them to bite (me!) and encourage good biting (toys). we have a 'Tribble' toy, basically a small stuffed animal we keep around. when the cat clamps down we try to distract him with the Tribble. since he's all excited he invariably transfers to the toy and goes to town on it.

i have found that any type of reactive discipline usually ends with the cat biting down on me even harder, so i try to keep about distraction, while trying not to teach the cat that biting me leads to playing, either. it's a fine line sometimes.

the neutering will probably help, and honestly time will help; he's a young cat, a year from now nature will mellow him out too! keep up the good work!
post #21 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks Wendy! This site really is amazing. I haven't had much time to write over the last few days, but what I have been reading sounds so promising. People socialize ferals all the time with good results, toward both resident cats and humans! I don't think my boy is a true feral either, but he has had a tough life lately.

Thanks for all of your help!

Quote:
Originally Posted by wendyr View Post
Dumb luck - the best way to get cats in their carriers! My husband had rigged up an elaborate thing to get one of our boys in, but he was not interested. I went upstairs, threw a mouse toy in, and he went straight in.

I totally understand your pain, by the way. Like I said, I got bit by one of my boys last week at the vet, and when he got back, well, I was nervous about touching him again. I am a better now, so hopefully your nerves will pass. And yes, it is important for you to be calm. I remember something my parents always told me when I was young - animals can sense your nerves which makes them nervous which makes them prepare to attack. I was raised with lots and lots of animals, but they still reminded me occasionally.

I also understand your situation for other reasons - our kittens were just a month younger than yours when we took them in off the streets. Ours were technically semi-feral - born to a feral mother, but around people so much they weren't truly feral. This site has been a huge help to me in working with our kittens. Patience is the most important thing, but any questions you have, here you will find someone who can give you some ideas.
post #22 of 26
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I don't quite know how to walk that line yet either. I've been sticking with trying to get his attention verbally and snapping my fingers. Then I present a toy. This seems to always work so far.

Does the biting stop as he gets older? I am not really noticing a decrease in frequency overall since the neutering, but then again it's been less than a week.

I am just nervous for my other cat, when we do introduce the two. Getting bit doesn't bother me too much, but if he turned a bite of that force on my other cat, she'd really get hurt.

(I am definitely getting less nervous around him, since I am so used to the feel of the bite now.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmylegs View Post
that biting thing sucks, i've had several cats who do it. i've always tried to handle by de-empasizing what i don't want them to bite (me!) and encourage good biting (toys). we have a 'Tribble' toy, basically a small stuffed animal we keep around. when the cat clamps down we try to distract him with the Tribble. since he's all excited he invariably transfers to the toy and goes to town on it.

i have found that any type of reactive discipline usually ends with the cat biting down on me even harder, so i try to keep about distraction, while trying not to teach the cat that biting me leads to playing, either. it's a fine line sometimes.

the neutering will probably help, and honestly time will help; he's a young cat, a year from now nature will mellow him out too! keep up the good work!
post #23 of 26
Quote:
Does the biting stop as he gets older? I am not really noticing a decrease in frequency overall since the neutering, but then again it's been less than a week.
Glad that you are getting less nervous - I think that is really important. All animals are extremely sensitive towards our emotions, so they react to how we are reacting.

As for the biting thing - my husband said one of his old family cats was a bit of a biter when he was young, and then it decreased and stopped when he got older. This is purely anecdotal, so it obviously varies from cat to cat, but I think as long as you are working on training him, the bad behaviour has a good chance of being weeded out! As for the neutering - from what I understand (information from my vet tech!), it takes about a month for all the hormones to be worked out of their system. They essentially have a stockpile of testosterone that simply will not be replenished, and soon enough, they will have none left. I really noticed this with my girl kitten. Before we got her fixed, she was very suspicious of us and would hardly ever engage in any sort of play. Then bam! A month after getting her done (and with all the hormones gone), she is so playful and interacts with us constantly. She loves petting and she is much calmer and laid back than she was before we got her fixed. Obviously you never really know how your cat will be affected because all their personalities are different, but just remember it does take a bit of time.
post #24 of 26
Thread Starter 
Awwww, Laureen, how absolutely precious!!!!!!! They look so content -- very lucky that they found you!!! I couldn't leave my newby out there either, especially since he was literally asking me to take him home. I picked him up with my bare hands that day and he didn't struggle at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by laureen227 View Post
i have 5 i had 4 until last june, & was perfectly happy with them. then i found a sickly little feral kitten in the back yard... & couldn't just leave her there to die. you can read her story here & see pix here, here, here, & here.
the idea was i was fostering her/nursing her back to health... but she's still here!
post #25 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by wendy
And yes, it is important for you to be calm. I remember something my parents always told me when I was young - animals can sense your nerves which makes them nervous which makes them prepare to attack. I was raised with lots and lots of animals, but they still reminded me occasionally.
Last week I got down on the floor to see if he would sit on my lap, which he did. However, being too nervous for this manoeuver, my hands became all
sweaty. Probably sensing this, he hissed and bit my hand. So I won't try this again until I am more comfortable! I think it was definitely a case of him smelling and reacting to my fear.

My husband also grew up with cats and lots of animals -- one of his cats was a biter too, and didn't really outgrow it. :p
post #26 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful advice regarding this ongoing situation!

Today something cute happened. I let Lucky into the living room, and allowed him to explore without interference. I just sat on the couch and dangled his fishing pole toy to exercise him occasionally. Eventually he plopped down on the floor to nap. Then he rolled over onto his back, with his belly exposed....and fell asleep that way!

I've heard that this is a sign of complete trust -- is there anything to that? Is this a big breakthrough?
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