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Casper's become a biter...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
My latest foster boy Casper has turned into a biter.... He has nailed me twice in the last two days... not doing things like putting med in his ear or swiping Petromalt into his mouth (he wouldn't lick it off his paw.) And he has made two UNsuccessful attempts.

I have had him in my care for four and a half weeks. This has transpired in the last five days or so. What do I do? He seems sweet but scared otherwise. I have seen signs of progress in his behavior and trust level.

Stimulus biter? Is he sick and hurting? His ear seems like it is getting red again....

Nothing specific seems to trigger the behavior.. I have been watching for signs that he is getting too worked up. This morning's bite - outta nowhere. With a growl and a swat to top it off.

He seems to love to be pet and scritched.. and after the first nasty bite, I let him dictate the touching... he tells me with sniffs, head nudges and head pushes that he wants attention or for me to contintune.

He also does not poop regularly.. .so he is getting small 1/4 tsp per wet meal ... dose of pumpkin plus the Petromalt.

He is eating and peeing just fine.
post #2 of 16
I would look for the slightest warning signs........ the tail low and wagging, the ears, eyes and head. If there is a lack of eye contact, but one ear is listening for your every move, head is low, definite warning sign. The ears are extremely sensitive for them. This is one of their most sensitive areas, and when it comes to infection there isn't an where for it to go. Swelling and/or irritation in this area causes extreme discomfort, and is definitely one of the most difficult areas to treat.
It is difficult with fosters to build a trust and respect, not knowing what they have been through, and how to gain their trust. When he lashes out at you, hissing and batting, definitely if he bites I would hiss at him. Give him a good spitting hiss, one that says "that is unacceptable, you better back off!"
post #3 of 16
I've been living with a cat who was born feral, turned up in the courtyard behind my apartment, and moved in with me almost five years ago. He was nearly a year old when we met. I fed him & spent time with him outdoors every day for ten months, very gradually earning more and more trust, before he could try eating in my kitchen (with the door open to the outdoors). Luckily, Bu is very vocal, and also uses many "gestures" to communicate, so we communicate very well.
It's very clear to me that when he bites he's expressing his displeasure with me -- I've done something he didn't like and was offended by. Even now I can't always tell what I did wrong, tho I usually know.
Hissing at a cat is more likely to make him afraid of you than to change his behavior, when you're in the trust-earning phase of a relationship with a cat who wasn't born a pet or didn't have a well loved early life. Remember, that quick bite to say, "I didn't like that!" is normal cat behavior. Also remember, his jaws are very strong -- he could break the bones in your hand. So, a little quick clench of teeth around your hand or arm doesn't seem serious to him.
With Bu, I showed him the blood he'd drawn (just a few drops), holding the wound close to his face. While I did that, I said in my most pitiful voice that it hurt, I didn't like it, I was unhappy about it. I tried to use the kind of quiet, somewhat high pitched tone of a hurt cat.
After I had done that a few times -- it only took a few times -- he got it. Now, when the impulse to put his teeth on me happens (less and less often), he does two things -- he goes for an area where I have clothing on, usually that means long sleeves (yes, really), and he wraps his teeth around my arm without enough pressure to break the skin. He can even grab my hand, now, while being careful not to break the skin. Which is pretty remarkable, since he's telling me he's angry with me!
I'm a firm believer in a loving approach. The cat who lives downstairs always hisses at Bu, and has never become his friend.
cheddi
post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheddi View Post
Hissing at a cat is more likely to make him afraid of you than to change his behavior, when you're in the trust-earning phase of a relationship with a cat who wasn't born a pet or didn't have a well loved early life. Remember, that quick bite to say, "I didn't like that!" is normal cat behavior. Also remember, his jaws are very strong -- he could break the bones in your hand. So, a little quick clench of teeth around your hand or arm doesn't seem serious to him.
With Bu, I showed him the blood he'd drawn (just a few drops), holding the wound close to his face. While I did that, I said in my most pitiful voice that it hurt, I didn't like it, I was unhappy about it. I tried to use the kind of quiet, somewhat high pitched tone of a hurt cat.
After I had done that a few times -- it only took a few times -- he got it. Now, when the impulse to put his teeth on me happens (less and less often), he does two things -- he goes for an area where I have clothing on, usually that means long sleeves (yes, really), and he wraps his teeth around my arm without enough pressure to break the skin. He can even grab my hand, now, while being careful not to break the skin. Which is pretty remarkable, since he's telling me he's angry with me!
I'm a firm believer in a loving approach. The cat who lives downstairs always hisses at Bu, and has never become his friend.
cheddi
This approach may work with a kitten or cat you have unlimited time to build a relationship with, but this is a foster kitten. I would hope after five years you would have a bond.......
Hissing is a completely normal vocal expression between cats that merely states fear, boundaries and/or a warning. It is part of their communication. Mother kitties do it with their kittens when they are weaning them, siblings do this when they have had enough, new introductions always have a hiss here and there. Hissing is a natural instinct and communication of respect me in the world of cats. To think that after a cat attacks you, showing the damage and speaking to them in your language, even if you think it's a high pitch cat tone, is ridiculous.
post #5 of 16
I don't know.... If he is sweet otherwise, I wonder if he is in pain? Maybe he does need a vet check...
post #6 of 16
If it's stimulus biting it can be worked through, although maybe not in the time frame for a foster. With Tex every time he bit I would gently say his name to get his attention, and hold his scruff until he let go, then get up and walk away from him for a while. After a year he bites more gently, and if I see it coming all I have to do is say Tex, and he remembers he isn't supposed to do that. For my part I am very careful not to pet him too long at any one time, even if he rubs on me for more. It's been a long time since he bit hard enough to draw blood.

It's tricky to rehome a biter though. They can't go anywhere with kids or elderley, and a lot of people aren't going to take the time to learn his limits and to continue working with him. I figure that at the rate we're progressing in another year or two mine won't bite at all, but he'll be too settled in here to leave by then.

If you think it may be pain from an ear infection, which it may well be given his history, then antibiotics should help short term, and possibly an L Lysine supplement to build up his immune system for the long term.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
When I went to feed him his wet food tonight, I was greeted with hiss-hiss-hiss when I opened the door... and then I talked to him in a normal voice and I got a couple of tiny sad mews. I think this is a very mixed up boy. But I'll tell ya, I didn't put my hands anywhere near him.

And you are right - He is NOT mine, I cannot and will not keep him. He needs to be made adoptable OR go to someone who CAN and DOES have the long time commitment to work with him - and is willing to do so. I was hoping to show him starting next week. That is not going to happen... I am keeping him in quarantine 10 days b/c of the bite... as well as the fact that when scared he may bite a potential adopter - and I don't want that to happen.
post #8 of 16
That doesn't sound like stimulus biting. Either he is in pain, something is frightening him, or he is one of the few with problems that make him aggressive. My neighbor has one, I've learned to steer clear of him. For the most part though, there is a reason when a cat acts that way. Maybe dogs barking outside, or another cats smell coming in an open window?
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
When I went to feed him his wet food tonight, I was greeted with hiss-hiss-hiss when I opened the door... and then I talked to him in a normal voice and I got a couple of tiny sad mews. I think this is a very mixed up boy. But I'll tell ya, I didn't put my hands anywhere near him.

And you are right - He is NOT mine, I cannot and will not keep him. He needs to be made adoptable OR go to someone who CAN and DOES have the long time commitment to work with him - and is willing to do so. I was hoping to show him starting next week. That is not going to happen... I am keeping him in quarantine 10 days b/c of the bite... as well as the fact that when scared he may bite a potential adopter - and I don't want that to happen.
I agree with you, he is obviously in distress and confused. The best outcome for him would be a home and person who has patience and kittiology. Unfortunately most people are so self absorbed they don't even try to help themselves..............
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookworm View Post
That doesn't sound like stimulus biting. Either he is in pain, something is frightening him, or he is one of the few with problems that make him aggressive. My neighbor has one, I've learned to steer clear of him. For the most part though, there is a reason when a cat acts that way. Maybe dogs barking outside, or another cats smell coming in an open window?
I have other fosters - that may set him off ... and I probably smell like them. I am also concerned about his health..especially his gut. He does not poop with any regularity. He's getting all kinds of assistance in that dept. The vet says this may be normal for him... or may not. I will talk to the vet next week about r/o medical stuff... if it's behavioral/fear aggressive... that's a real problem.
post #11 of 16
I'm leaning toward pain, as he's been smelling your other cats on you from the first and just recently started to bite. Or some strange animal outside that is upsetting him.
I had a cat who had suffered some brain damage and his whole life he would have little spells where he didn't recognize any of us, but those lasted hours or minutes then he was back to normal. It seems like Caspar has had a complete personality change rather than a mood swing.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookworm View Post
I'm leaning toward pain, as he's been smelling your other cats on you from the first and just recently started to bite. Or some strange animal outside that is upsetting him.
I had a cat who had suffered some brain damage and his whole life he would have little spells where he didn't recognize any of us, but those lasted hours or minutes then he was back to normal. It seems like Caspar has had a complete personality change rather than a mood swing.
That is possible. Though this bathroom IS on the upstairs hallway and the other cats go thundering by... sometimes the rattle the door ... they know he is in there and HE knows THEY are there and I am pretty sure he's scared.

But everyone who mentions illness or pain is right... it should be ruled out.
post #13 of 16
Oh, is he being isolated from the others in a bathroom? I hadn't thought of that. It makes sense that he would be as he's had a communicable URI, but I wonder if this is cabin fever?
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookworm View Post
Oh, is he being isolated from the others in a bathroom? I hadn't thought of that. It makes sense that he would be as he's had a communicable URI, but I wonder if this is cabin fever?
It's possible he is tired of being cooped up in there... but he doesn't seem interested or is too scared to leave the bath. The last time I had a cat quarantined in there... he let me know when he wanted to hang out... But I was also putting the remaining cats in the master BR at night. I had stopped doing that... they have the run of the place 24/7 and I think they may be unintentionally terrorizing Casper. Not sure how to handle this. Lock up the other cats at night again and let Cas out? I think the other boys would protest .. Rounding up the boys is a real chore... running up and down the stairs .. putting them in the MBR. But I might have to do that again for a couple of weeks.. see how Cas reacts.

And at this point I am afraid to touch Cas - for fear he will bite me again.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Some fresh observations. My boyfriend and I have been interacting with Cas and watching his behaviors more closely. We both agree that he is afraid of the other cats... my BF said when he went into the bathroom to see Cas that Cas was "cowering" in his bed. He may also be afraid of me a litle bit - I am the "bad cop" putting him in the carrier, putting meds in his ears, his mouth, etc. It is also possible that the two serious bites that I received were redirection... one or more of the cats may have been right out side the door when he bit.
post #16 of 16
Sounds pretty likely, but how to fix it? Of course if he goes to a home where he is the only cat that wouldn't be a problem I guess.
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