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Aggression seems to be getting worse, not better

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
So, I'll start with the background. Mocha was a stray, found abandoned at 4 or 5 weeks of age. She has been with me for about a week and a half, and is now roughly seven and a half weeks old. So she's very, very young and I understand that. Overall she is a fantastic little cat. She hasn't destroyed a single thing in my apartment (yet), lets me sleep for all but maybe an hour of the night, and even lets me clip her little toenails as long as she is groggy enough. Perfect with the litterbox since day one, has a healthy appetite, and is always purring and seemingly happy to see me when I arrive home from work, ready to play with her favorite toys. There's just one little problem: she wants to kill and eat me!

Alright, maybe not. But her kitty aggression seems pretty extreme to me, an inexperienced cat owner. It usually starts off when she gets bored of playing with her toys, so I put away the "fishing pole" and sit down. Next thing I know, she's stalking my hand or arm. Once the ears go flat it's clear that I'm in trouble, and she's trying to bite. At first my reaction was "No problem, that's what kittens do. I'll just say 'NO' or hiss, ignore her for a few minutes and she'll get it." Well, it's not working. I've tried basically everything suggested here and I think she was doing better last week than she is now. If she bites I'll try to give her a sharp "NO!", take my hand away, and ignore her for a few minutes. If saying "NO!" doesn't work, a hiss will usually get her attention and she'll look at me like I'm nuts before scampering off. But this keeps going and going and going, no matter what toys or how much play time I offer after her "time out." She has never broken the skin, but she came damn close last night when she went after my finger in a fit of insanity. Each day it seems a little more viscious and less like play.

So, here's the real question: Should I be worried? I don't know what the development of a kitten, particularly one disadvantaged by the absence of littermates and a real mom, should look like. On the one hand, I know that I can expect virtually nothing out of a kitten that isn't even 8 weeks old yet. My girlfriend, (who now calls the kitten "Little Monster"), has been telling me that I should just quit being concerned and wait for her to grow out of it. And if that's true, fine by me. I'm NOT looking for a "quick fix" here by any means. I just don't want to find out down the road that I did something horribly wrong, leading her to be an aggressive adult.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. Your experience would be greatly apprecated!
post #2 of 13
You are right that you will need to nip this behavior in the bud so it does not get out of hand. And, you are also right that you will likely see more of this kind of behavior because Mocha left her mom before mom had a chance to socialize her. But...all is not lost! Please click here to read about cat aggression. You will need to focus on the section about play aggression, because this is what your little hellion is doing -- playing much too hard. I am sure that if you forllow the directions in the play aggression section of this page, you will have a much better behaved little critter on your hands.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the link. That page is where I initially learned what to do, but I appreciate being directed back to it because there are a couple of things I haven't tried yet. Blowing in her face has been the most effective thing to end an attack, but I have yet to try putting her in the bathroom for two or three minutes when she really flies off the handle. That might become necessary for when she doesn't want to calm down. (Although she usually ends up biting me even harder if I try to pick her up.) Re-directing her with a toy before she attacks sometimes works, but she usually would rather take on something big and fleshy.

So just give it more time and keep at it, yeah?
post #4 of 13
If you can, get her a playmate her age or a little older. (your local shelter/rescue should be chock full right now!) They'll bite and claw eachother and not you, plus she'll learn boundaries easier from another cat as it can tell her in "cat" when she's starting to get too rough.
We got two kittens at the same time and it was wonderful!

~Julia
post #5 of 13
When you need to pick her up while she is in a biting mood, you should scruff her (one hand holding scruff and other hand under her back legs). Scruffing won't hurt her and, most importantly, she cannot scratch or bite while scruffed.
post #6 of 13
Gosh, I feel your pain. Bijou was terrible - he would chase my feet and bite my ankles and jump on my legs, hands, arms, whatever. I looked like I have been in a war zone. I tried hissing, blowing in his face. I finally just stopped and stood very still when he got rough (nothing to chase anymore) and firmly said no. It took a while but he finally outgrew it and if it's any consolation, he is so laid-back and easy-going now you would have difficulty believing it was the same cat. He doesn't have a nasty bone in his body and the only one he plays rough with is Mika and she can hold her own with him even though she is half his size.

There - get another kitty - problem solved.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I think another kitty might be in the cards one of these days. I'm not really inclined to add another right now for a number of reasons, but maybe when Mocha is a little older. (I would prefer that the next one be a young-ish but fully grown cat from a shelter.)

I can tell you that she's been pretty good this afternoon. I expect her to go nuts again at dawn (or maybe before) but at least for the time being it's safe to walk around without medieval armor. Just a few little nips and lots of playtime.
post #8 of 13
I don't have my kitty yet but I have been doing an enormous amount of reading.

I have also read if you being bitten to scruff the cat and pin him down and hiss at him. It is similiar to how the mother cat would correct him. It also sets up the hierarchy -- you are the master, he is the cat. I also read that you should never play with a kitten with your hands, only toys -- that way they learn hands are for petting not biting.

An interesting book I got at the library -- "The Cat Who Cried for Help" by Dr. Nicholas Dodman. It is old (1997) but he has story after story of how he helped people with aggresive cats, peeing cats, shy cats, etc...

When your kitty is older, if it is still a problem there are probably drugs that can help (the book mentions several that can turn an aggressive cat into a loving kitty). Would hate to see what a lifetime of feline psychotic drugs cost -- but they may be an option.
post #9 of 13
I got my male kitten at 6 weeks and he was terrible with the aggression! I was afraid of him at times! I'm happy to report that he grew out of it and now at a year of age is a wonderful cat. So don't give up and remember that things get better!
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies! Right now I'm operating under the assumption that her behavior is "normal" considering her age, and that a particularly bad day means that I'm not giving her sufficient outlet for her energy. Mocha does give me more and more reasons to believe that she will turn out great in the end. This morning, for example, I got out of the shower and found her at my feet looking for attention. She was quite happy for me to pet her, and even rolled over and gave me her tummy to pet for a couple of seconds! That's a new one! Her behavior reminded me of some of the older cats that I have come to know. Also, I later found out from my girlfriend that Mocha spent the first three minutes or so after I left for work meowing at the door and then wandering around the apartment meowing and looking for me. (She settled down soon thereafter.)

So it's not like she's always acting crazy. Just when her little "alternate personality" comes out to generate havoc.
post #11 of 13
[quote=Yosemite]Gosh, I feel your pain. Bijou was terrible - he would chase my feet and bite my ankles and jump on my legs, hands, arms, whatever. I looked like I have been in a war zone. I tried hissing, blowing in his face. I finally just stopped and stood very still when he got rough (nothing to chase anymore) and firmly said no. It took a while but he finally outgrew it and if it's any consolation, he is so laid-back and easy-going now you would have difficulty believing it was the same cat. He doesn't have a nasty bone in his body and the only one he plays rough with is Mika and she can hold her own with him even though she is half his size.

[quote]

This is encouraging because our kitten is about ten weeks old and as my son puts it "I feel like a kitten chew toy". It's not just biting but scratching too; he's a feisty little fella who plays long and hard and sees every moving object as prey. Encouraging the kids not to pick him up or pet him when he's in play mode but to save it for his sleepier times has helped some. I'm having mixed results with hissing at him--sometimes it seems effective but I've had episodes where it seems to make him more aggressive. We've had him since he was 2 1/2 weeks old and he's had plenty of TLC and we've worked consistently on this biting but he's just full of it. A littermate was with the (wild) mama for another month and while she has playful times she's definitely of a calmer temperament.

We've got an appointment on the books for getting him altered in a few weeks.
post #12 of 13
Having gone through the kitten stage a number of times one of the best things I can recommend is to get a number of small stuffed toys and keep them scattered about the house. What your kitten is doing is normal kitten behaviour and part of the skills they would be developing with their litter mates - since they have no litter mates, you're it! What you will do is practise substitution. When ever the kitten starts to bite, gnaw, attack or rabbit kick a hand or other body party, you are going to grab one of those stuffed toys and put it in between they paws and teeth so that they transfer their attention to the stuffed toy. You can even 'activate' the toy by holding the other side and letting it wrestle with the kitten (gently since you are much stronger than they are). If they do attack your hand and you don't have a toy available, keep your hand still, hiss or growl at the kitten and say no. Your hand can't respond - he hs to get no 'reward' for his attack. Then when you get free get one of the stuffed toys and use it to play with the kitten. I have done that with mine, three of whom were bottle raised from 10 days old, and have never had a problem with going after hands or feet (except at night under the blankets when feet unfortunately look more like stuffed toys:-) ). Good luck.

Oh, if you don't have stuffed toys, you can make them out of stuffed socks - they work great and the kitten can wrap his paws around them, holding on and rabbit kicking with his hind feet.
post #13 of 13
the fact that's it dusk behavior is very reassuring, that's when my cat gets devilish too. I made an absolute rule to NEVER play with her with my hands. I always used a dangle thing with a string or threw toys for her to fetch. when she did play bite, I said no and her name ( always associate a command with her name) firmly but not with anger and stopped moving my hand rather than pulling it away. pulling it away seemed to make her go after it with greater zeal. Once she actually did nip me and I said a very real loud ouch and that got her attention and she stopped. clearly it wasn't her intention to hurt me but she had no way of knowing. Now when she is playing with the covers or paper near me and gets to my hand and smells it she licks instead of bites. and i tell her what a good girl she is.

redirection and praise are far more effective and feel better too.
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