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Why so mean

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I found an orange tabby kitten under my car about 6 weeks ago. I figured his age to be about 8-10 weeks and now a vet visit last week has confirmed that he is now about 4 months old. He was dirty and hungry so I cleaned him and fed him. I thought that we were off to a good start beacause he would cry to be held, which I was happy to do. We have taken him to the vet, he now is completely up to date with exams and shots. Thanks to the Animal Trustees of Austin!!!. My problem now is that he is very mean. You can't pet him without getting a bite. All of our toes are bloody. He is not playing. We have shown this cat nothing but love and he hates us. Will this get better? If not he will have to find a new home. He is due to be neutered this Friday. Will this help?
post #2 of 12
Feral kittens are so misunderstood. He isn't mean, he is scared. You took him to the evil vet, and he was handled more there than ever before, poked, prodded, stuck with things. His private space was invaded and now he is on guard against you in case it happens again.

You can't expect him to warm up to you (as a human) when he has no concept of what humans are. You need to just let him be the kitten he is. Play with him with interactive toys such as Da Bird, and sit on the floor in the room he is in, read out loud to him, or lie down on your back and let him climb all over you. He has to trust you again, and that takes time. Neutering will help, but again he will lose trust with you for awhile because of his experience at the vet. Just be patient with him, don't scold him or get mad at him, or god forbid, hit him when he attacks you. He is just being a feral kitten.
post #3 of 12
First of all, thank you for rescuing this kitty! It's tough to remember, but unlike dogs, cats are just not programmed to like or want to be liked by humans. Like Hissy said, it's an issue of building trust, which simply takes time, especially with feral (formerly wild) cats.

It could also be that he's teething. Cats get their adult teeth in somewhere between 4 months and 6 months. Get regular-sized bendy straws, and scatter them about your house, especially where he hangs out and you play with him. He can chew these (and will), but he can't chew through them like with hard plastic, so he won't end up swallowing little bits (before you see the straw has many holes in it and needs to be replaced).

Also, I don't know if you're playing with him with your hands (or feet), but that is simply a no-no. Don't. It's cute and fun when they're small - until they begin to bite. And then they get big. And for now - stop trying to pet him. At this point, if you're not playing with him (with a wand toy), basically ignore him.

The fastest way to change his behavior is to let him have his space. In essense, start over with this little guy, and treat him like a feral that needs to be socialized. Encourage play with wand toys, but any other interaction - other than a "head-bump" from him wanting pets, should result in you blowing a short sharp puff of air in his face, followed with a stern "no" (not in a raised voice). If he's playing, and nipping at your ankles or fingers/hands, lean down, give the puff, say no, and grab a straw to play with him. Same thing if you're walking past him and he tries to nip at your ankels or feet. But DO NOT do this if he bites you when you reach out to pet him. His biting is the only way he can communicate with you that he doesn't want to be petted.

The problem isn't that he's biting you when you try to pet him, the problem is that you're trying to pet him when he doesn't want to be petted.

But in the meantime, he'll quickly learn that biting is not acceptable.

Take a quick read of some of the other threads in this forum about socializing kittens. The basic requirement of you is patience, and his basic need is space. And, quite frankly, the more you ignore him when you're not playing with a wand toy, the more comfortable he'll get more quickly. Especially if you have other cats, and he sees your interaction with them. At some point, his curiousity will get the best of him.

In the meantime, you can also take a sweatshirt or t-shirt and do something while wearing it to get it good and sweaty. Place this under his food dish. This will help him come to associate good things with your scent. You can do the same thing, but place treats on it for him. And just leave it - walk away.

I have no doubt that he'll wind up as a wonderful pet. All of our six cats are feral rescues. But they take time - you have to earn their trust. And even though he wanted love and cuddles as a baby, now that he's a teen, he apparently doesn't want those same hands reaching out at him.

There are many things you can do to work on his socialization. But the bulk of them involve basically ignoring him until he comes to you again - but being around him NOT looking at him, NOT trying to pet him, NOT searching him out to see where he is - just being around him, ignoring him, until he learns you don't want anything from him but to take care of his needs - which will then, eventually, include his wanting to be loved by you.

post #4 of 12
The negative effects of living on the streets linger far longer than it takes to wash their fur or feed them back to a healthy weight. There are issues that take months to sort out and it takes a tremendous amount of patience.

It sounds like you've already received more injuries in a couple weeks than I have from working with Nano for over six months. In addition to what has been said, I'd suggest you simply ignore him for a month. Healthy food, potable water, clean litterbox, etc. But just let the cat walk around your home and go about your normal business. Cats aren't stupid, and eventually he will come to realize his essential needs are being met and he is not being abused.

At that point, you can start building a trusting relationship with him where he identifies you as his primary caretaker. Previous posters already listed a few ways to develop trust. Once all of that is in place, then you can reliably start moving into the territory of giving and receiving affection (without injury!). This cat will eventually trust you enough to really "cut loose" in your presence.

But it just takes a lot of patience until the cat comes to accept and trust that whatever harsh realities he knew while living on the streets are past him, and he can comfortably trust that humans won't hurt him and he won't go hungry and there aren't predators after him.

Good luck and thanks for trying to help this little guy!
post #5 of 12
Once you've got him to trust you...Something else to consider is your own reaction when he bites you because he may sometimes still do that out of habit. I've found that yelping and saying NO or ouch somehow just doesn't cut it woth cats.... You might want to try giving him a hiss when he does something you don't want him to do. That's how i get through to some of the adult cats that live outside (and my own cats sometimes). Sometimes they get a bit off base and swat me while we are playing and i give them a big hiss to let them know that it's not ok to do that. Somehow they get the hiss much better than "YOWCH!"
post #6 of 12
Hi! I have worked with many ferel cats in the past and the kitten is scared. He many be crying because he is scared and might not want to be held. What I would do in this case is stop picking him up unless he comes up to you to be picked up. Just pet him for a while. Be slow because if you are to fast you will scare him. Don't be to loud either. Some people make the mistake of laughing and talking loud around ferels which just scares them. Neutering him might calm him down so as well. Good luck! Good Bye!
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi Thanks to everyone who responded! I will try all the advice for Motor, I know that he is sweet somewhere in there..He's too cute not to be. Anyway he was neutered Fri. and the vet said to give him atleast a month, which I will. I already had a wand toy which he loves, so we will keep playing and hopefully he will start to love us.
post #8 of 12
There's some excellent advice here!

Remember that feral moms "program" their babies to mistrust humans. If your kitten was 8 - 10 weeks old, it will take a while to deprogram him. Hissy has some great articles on how to deal with ferals (which, really, this baby is). I'd search the forums for that info and check that out. I think you got him young enough to get him to eventually trust you, but it may take longer than you originally thought. Thanks so much for caring for this baby!
post #9 of 12
Thanks so much for taking this little guy in. He sounds like a lot my cat, Pete, who is from a litter of feral kittens trapped when they were about 3 1/2 months old. I have no doubt if you follow all the great advice here and just give him some some time and patience, you will discover the sweet, loving cat he has the potential to be. Pete was the last of his brothers and sisters to come around after nearly three months of hissing and cringing at human contact. He was returned by the first family that adopted him who described him as vicious. I've had him for almost six months and can't imagine a sweeter, gentler boy. It's been a joy to watch him blossom. Good luck with your little guy. Please keep us posted on his progress.
post #10 of 12
Ditto to all the great advice, esp. Zazi's suggestion about hissing. I've used it with good results on my ferals. One of my best cats, Scott, was just hours from being put down at the local shelter because he was so wild & agressive. In fact, with the stricter standards in place, I doubt that he would have been released to me at all. Fortunately, my vet vouched for me, and I brought Scott home. It was several days before he' d eat, and when he did come out from under the bed, he was prone to growl & approach to swipe at me (which was why the shelter attendants wanted him destroyed). I found that hissing at him made him stop that behavior quite quickly, and once we established that boundary, Scott became friendly. It took time, but in a few months, he was a real lover-boy that loved to be held, petted & was even friendly with company. Good luck with MOTOR - what a darling name!
post #11 of 12
I think it is wonderful that your baby has an "inside" home. I took me a year to get on the good side of some of my outside ferals, to the point where I can pet some of them, but only when they are eating. Maybe when you feed him, you could just pet him and tell him that you love him and that he does not have to be afraid. Never under estimate the power of your voice.
post #12 of 12
Just to add to the choir: Thanks for giving this boy a home!
It will take work but will be worth it..My Lovey (named because he was the opposite at first and grew into his name ) was given up three times I later found out because of his "visciousness".
This could now be further from the truth after 5 months and when I tell the woman who was fostering him how he is now, she can hardly believe it!

Good LUCK!
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