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Is this normal behavior?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I posted to introduce myself and my tiny gal Sophie (approx 8 weeks now) a few days ago. Sophie was a darling from the moment we brought her home...affectionate, cuddly, playful in a bouncy, happy way (she reminded me a lot of my yellow lab playing as a puppy!). She didn't "talk" much unless my sister (whom she loves) or I walked into the room after being away from her for awhile, or I brought her something good to eat.

Now suddenly, for the past 2-3 days, she's been a holy terror! She has been alternately "needy" (very vocally requesting my undivided attention in her tiny little kitten voice) and then playful in a very "aggro-hunter" way, arching her back, putting her ears half-down, and chewing incessantly on anything she can get her teeth on (including fingers, toes, shoes, cardboard, edges of furniture, pretty much everything BUT her toys). Today she actually full-out stalked me for the first time, emerging from cover in full "Sidewinder" mode (approaching with her back arched, walking on the tips of her toes, in a sideways manner - if anyone knows the general reason for this "stance" I'd love to know it!) and eyeing me as if I were edible!

I would have assumed that this is simply a "growth phase" (although the finger-and-toe biting is something we're going to have to work on!), but the similarities in behavior to a teething human infant are striking...the alternate neediness and "cranky" behavior. The vet had indicated that her molars should be coming in right about now (I can't really check without nearly losing a finger and having a handful of hissing angry kitten)...does this normally cause this "spazzy" behavior? Or is this simply Sophie coming into her own as a little "huntress"?

Any advice on dealing with this new phase would be hugely appreciated...as I mentioned in my introduction post, I've never had a cat before, and was largely unprepared for this one, so I'm in the dark here! I still absolutely adore her, I just want to make sure she is (a) developing normally, and (b) that I have the 'behavior modification' tools in place to handle behavior like biting, since now would appear to be the time to deal with it.

She is going to the vet late tomorrow afternoon to get her shots and her FIV/FeLV test, and to check on her umbilical hernia (can't WAIT to get her spayed and get that fixed, it makes me incredibly nervous), but if there's reason for concern over her behavior, I'd rather not wait to find out!

Thanks all

I'll leave you with a snapshot of Sophie in "spaz mode" (I had made a funny noise to get her attention, and obviously she didn't much like it!)
post #2 of 4
Congratulations on your new fur baby!

Your Sophie seems just like my Forrest was as a little kitten. Every day was a new "adventure" for the both of us when my boy was a kitten. Each day it seemed a new "purrsonality" would arise.

Sophie is just a wee kitten and from what you've written seems very normal. Just give her lots of attention and play with her whenever you can.

She is so cute and I'm sure will be your best friend. I know you'll be nervous during her spay, but she'll be fine and back home in no time.
post #3 of 4
WHAT A DOLL! She sure looks like she's full of personality!

I'm with AudioCat on this one - she sounds very much like the wee little baby she is! She shouldn't start teething until she's about four months old - but you're right, you want to stop the idea that fingers, hands, toes - or any part of a human - is a toy.

Little baby kitties are a lot like toddlers - they learn what "no" means, but they will push your limits and your patience at times. Of course, being just babies, they do need a lot of attention, and they should have it.

...but to work on her behavior? With cats, rather than discouraging them from doing something (which doesn't really work), it's best to redirect them so that what they're doing is appropriate.

In this case, I'd just go with the advice we usually give for teething kitties. Buy a box of bendy straws - the plastic is thick enough they don't chew right through it, but it's a great texture for them to chomp. Scatter them around and keep 'em handy. When she wants to chomp on fingers and toes, say "no" firmly, blow a short, sharp puff of air directly in her face (hissing doesn't really work coming from a human - but they understand that message ) - and then hand her a bendy straw as a toy to play with.

If she's "hunting" humans - don't let her get away with it - but get out an interactive wand toy, and praise her for hunting it.

Remember to give her positive reinforcement all the time for when she's playing appropriately - redirect her when she isn't - and ignore her altogether if she won't redirect. Being consistent is the most important thing - and ignoring her when she's trying to get your attention by being "bad" teaches her that being bad gets her nothing. And, of course, the positive reinforcement and praise help her understand which behavior is "right."

Kittens can be a real handful and a lot of work - but in 6 or 8 months you'll look back and think how quickly it all flew by! Take LOTS of pictures - they grow up so fast!
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks to both of you for the quick replies and the reassurance.

The "hellion" I just described is currently stretched across my lap, sound asleep, looking totally sweet and innocent.

I'm headed to the store for straws first thing tomorrow! She's a very smart and headstrong girl, not easily diverted (since I read your responses I've walked across the room a few times, and redirecting her steely gaze from my ankle to a toy was not as easy as I would've thought!) so I'm expecting a challenge...although to be honest, the biggest challenge might be getting my well-meaning but uncooperative family to go along with the program.

Is there any specific advice on positive reinforcement? Do they generally respond better to treats? Or is it just a question of finding the key to each individual personality? For the most part, when I praise her she looks at me like I've lost my mind! [Actually, I think that is, so far, my favorite thing about having a cat - the difference in personality between my three big, dopey, happy-go-lucky dogs and this tiny, intelligent, calculating little creature. It took me a month to fully housebreak my lab as a pup...Sophie figured out the litter box on the first try and hasn't had an accident yet.]

And for the record, no worries on getting attention - the general consensus around the house is that we're never going to get anything done because all we do is spend time with Sophie! I actually expected her to be more aloof, but she always wants some form of attention - either someone to cuddle with/sleep on, or someone to play with. And since I'm currently unemployed, I'm more or less always available!
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