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Unhappy owner (unsure about cat)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

I've been reading your threads and excellent, thoughtful replies for a few months now, but I feel the need to step forward and get your opinions about my situation. I'll try to be relatively brief.

I have a small studio apartment in Virginia where I work (and nice house in Massachusetts, but that's another story). My wife and stepson have our grey tabby female (named "Kitty" -- she came to us from an elderly gentleman and that was her name, honest) and since I am alone much of the time I decided to get a cat for myself. Actually, he decided to get me, because Inky (again, the name he came with from the shelter) tagged my leg as I walked by and after I held him for a few minutes, he and I decided we were a good match. He was about 7 months old when I adopted him and I've had him since early April. Inky is a cream-colored tabby -- quite handsome and charming when he wants to be, which is most of the time.

When he is less than charming it's because he's biting me. I've owned a number of cats in my life so far and none have been this insistant about biting -- though I think that I am enabling this behavior to some degree. Inky doesn't go outdoors; even though my apartment complex is far away from traffic, there are simply too many hazards (which have been amply enumerated on this site). He doesn't seem to want to go out (no whining or meowing at the door), but he would go if I left the door open long enough. I pick him up when I come in the door and he nuzzles and purrs until I put him down -- this has become a ritual we both enjoy.

However, there are some predictible times when Inky wants to bite me. He wants to be picked up after I get our of the shower every morning and will purr and nuzzle until I start to put him down (I do have to go to work after all) at which point he will try to bite my arm or hand. If I react in any way, he gets more agressive. Another time will be when I'm playing with him with a toy on a wand (something like a cat dancer or da Bird) -- he will turn from playing to lunging for my arm. This morning, he came into the bathroom as I was getting into the shower and started biting my legs and feet. By the way, these bites hurt and often draw blood.

I have tried to follow the excellent guidelines on this site. I try not to pull my hand away (even though it hurts and bleeds). He can be distracted by a ball of yarn which he can bite and claw as much as he wants. If he's reached the point where nothing else will distract him, I say "no" sternly and put him in the bathroom -- the only other place in my apartment with a door -- for 5 - 10 minutes. When he comes out, he acts sorry and rubs against me.

I want to emphasize that he is otherwise an excellent cat and a good companion -- he gets me up at 5:40 AM, but that's to be expected. He often sleeps with me on the couch or on my bed and he has LOTS of toys, scratching posts, etc. to keep him busy.

But the biting incidents are increasing -- last night and this morning there were 4 separate incidents. I don't think that saying "no" and putting him in the bathroom is working. He doesn't seem to be connecting the "crime" with the "punishment". I really love Inky (as does my wife and stepson when they have visited), but I am losing sleep (and blood) over this and I would like to figure out how to change this behavior. Right now it's got me stumped.

With apologies again for the length of this thread...

Jeff

P.S., If I figure out to do it, I'll post a picture of Inky!
post #2 of 17
Jeff, is Inky neutered? Coming from the shelter, I would presume that he is, but just to be certain, I thought to ask. If he isn't neutered, now is a good time to do that. The aggressive behavior you described sounds a lot like an intact male cat to me ... if he is neutered, when did that happen - how long ago?
post #3 of 17
It sounds as though Inky wasn't taught his manners by his mom cat and the elderly gentleman who owned him didn't teach him either.

Firstly, start clipping his nails on a regular basis (easy once you've done it a couple time and best done while Inky is in sleepy/groggy mode ) to help eliminate some of the blood-drawing.

I would also immediately stop moving (as you say you've done) and hiss very loudly at him when he bites. He'll understand the hiss more than the "no!" I believe.

Using da-bird or any toy on a stick should not be contributing to the aggressiveness IMO. Actually that should actually be drawing him away from your hands or feet.

Bijou likes to be in the bathroom when we are having a shower as well, so what we do is put an extra towel on the counter for him to lay on while we shower (which keeps him off the floor and away from the feet) which might help in your case.

It may take a while but Inky can be taught better manners. I really, really do suggest the hissing at him. It still works for our 2 if they get overly stimulated, especially Bijou after he comes in from outside. I guess he smells other animals outside and he gets pretty rough with Mika and although he usually isn't rough with us, he can occasionally get a little too rough with me so I do the hissing thing. He stops immediately.
post #4 of 17
Yah hissing or a sharp psssst! usually work for me in correcting behaviors. Otherwise you can use a pop bottle with coins in it to shake when he does it. It sounds like a kitten that didn't get to play with siblings enough as a kitten and dosn't know when the bite hurts. Though he is older and should have had some experience at the shelter... My cat Clover was awful with the feet attacking thing. I just had to be the wiser and watch if he was going to ambush me and be ready to respond (like coming out of a shower I might throw a towel over him or something to break the behavior).

On a really random note there is a man hanging upside down cleaning outside my cube window right now. I'm trying not to look at him but its very awkward!
post #5 of 17
I used to live with a cat who groomed her humans incessantly, a habit we were having a hard time breaking her of. (It's sweet at first, but eventually it becomes hard on the skin.) Wearing gloves and long sleeves all the time wasn't practical (especially not in the summer!), and nothing we did seemed to deter her. It turned out that I had a particular brand of moisturizing lotion that she absolutely could not stand, and whenever I put that on, she'd start licking me and then recoil in disgust. (At least it smelled nice! )

I don't know how keen you are to try out body lotions and hand creams (my boyfriend would rather his skin dry up and fall off than lather any "girly" stuff on himself), but if you found a nice (non-toxic) lotion with an unpleasant taste, perhaps that would deter Inky from biting? (Of course, I have no idea how you would go about testing the "unpleasant taste" factor in a store ... I don't recommend opening bottles of body lotion and licking the contents!)
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolarityBengals
On a really random note there is a man hanging upside down cleaning outside my cube window right now. I'm trying not to look at him but its very awkward!
ROFL
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mirinae
I used to live with a cat who groomed her humans incessantly, a habit we were having a hard time breaking her of. (It's sweet at first, but eventually it becomes hard on the skin.) Wearing gloves and long sleeves all the time wasn't practical (especially not in the summer!), and nothing we did seemed to deter her. It turned out that I had a particular brand of moisturizing lotion that she absolutely could not stand, and whenever I put that on, she'd start licking me and then recoil in disgust. (At least it smelled nice! )

I don't know how keen you are to try out body lotions and hand creams (my boyfriend would rather his skin dry up and fall off than lather any "girly" stuff on himself), but if you found a nice (non-toxic) lotion with an unpleasant taste, perhaps that would deter Inky from biting? (Of course, I have no idea how you would go about testing the "unpleasant taste" factor in a store ... I don't recommend opening bottles of body lotion and licking the contents!)
I have found that both of my boys don't like Curel hand and elbow cream. DH uses it and it doesn't have a "girly" odor.
post #8 of 17
It's all great advice, so I'd just encourage you to hang in there. I went through some tough times at first, and I think many people do. But the rewards are worth it.
post #9 of 17
In addition to the other ideas, the taste-deterrent is an excellent one. If you manage to find one, it will cause the cat to himself decide he doesn't want to bite you... which is an even more reliable incentive than punishment. You might try applying Bitter Apple Spray to your hands, arms and whatever other part he's biting. It's non toxic.

I don't know if it will work in that way or with your cat. However, I sprayed it just once on my plants several months ago, and after 24 hours my cat (who had been relentless about chewing the plants) never touched them again.
post #10 of 17
My Zissou is a lot like yours. It's not scary-aggressive biting, but still something you'd like to stop. I am lucky enough to have a biter who understands that it hurts Mommie and so she never breaks the skin (not once, in all the times she has bitten me, has it actually hurt).

So, you are being bitten when you put her down after the after-shower petting. If I were you, I would stop doing this. You have created a pattern, and the way to break it is by not starting the behavior that led to the biting. When mine bites in "love", like when she is sitting on my lap or in the mornings, I remove her from my lap and ignore her. When she comes back a few minutes later, I give her all the attention she wants so long as there is no biting. If she bites, immediate and consistent removal. She stopped doing that months ago, now.

Saying "no" works with Zissou for every single naughty-kitten thing she does except for biting. When she bites me, I actually yell "Owwww!" as though I've stepped on a tack. Saying "no" they have associated with doing something bad. But if they know you are really in pain, most cats (and yours acts like this will be his reaction to) realize they are causing you to be hurt and stop.

I agree with what has been said: Your cat did not get enough time playing with his littermates. When kittens play with each other, they quickly learn each other's boundaries and learn the difference between play-fighting and real fighting. Yours did not seem to learn that, meaning you have to teach him now. He may have no idea he's hurting you, so you have to let him know. Also, the startling "OWWWW!" makes them associate and unpleasant outcome with the biting, and not just a stern "no" or what have you.

Good luck!
post #11 of 17
Welcome, Jeff, to you and your family! I hope we are able to assist with your inquiries!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SolarityBengals
On a really random note there is a man hanging upside down cleaning outside my cube window right now. I'm trying not to look at him but its very awkward!
That's so off topic, but sure made me laugh
post #12 of 17
We have had a VERY similar problem with my bottle baby(4-5 months), but it is getting better. This is what is working for us: Time out AS SOON as she puts her teeth on us. The VERY FIRST time (was surprised that this worked with her level of aggressive play, but it is) and be VERY CONSISTANT! I also growl at her and put her down, sometimes walking away. If she follows and continues to bite, I turn around and give her the biggest, meanest, most insistent "I SAID CUT THAT OUT!" growl I have. I also do that if she is going after my husband and isn't minding him. Usually, she then knows she has crossed the line and remembers that I am bigger than her and am REALLY ANGRY! Again, if she isn't minding, she would be going into timeout after that (your cat should in no way be allowed to hurt you .I think the trick is, like with kids, you have to make their bad behavoir THEIR problem not yours. ).Gretta is now to the point that putting her down when she bites works half the time, and the other half is timeout and "kill the stuffed bear" time . Oh, and you can also put him in timeout with the stuffed "victim", so he can't get to you instead of the stuffy, if leaving him with it doesn't work. That's about all I remember from before I erased half of it -If I think of anything else, I'll come back. I hope all this advice everyone has for you does the trick!
I'm sorry if this is disjointed- I accidently erased half of it and I am trying to cook dinner . I wanted to try to help, though, because I literally "feel your pain" . He seems to be playing with you as a sibling, and not like the "ALPHA CAT"
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of your thoughtful replies (even with the man hanging upside down

He was much better last night and this morning. I tend to agree with the not enough playmates theory. He was found or turned in to the Baltimore Animal Control people and then rescued by a no-kill shelter (Rude Ranch in Annapolis, MD.; very good people) -- but there's no background info other than that.

He was neutered (and microchipped) when the shelter acquired him in February, so he would have been about 6 mos old or so. He has never sprayed and is fastidious about cleaning him self and using his box.

I'm quite sure that I'm part of the problem in that I am looking for his attention and probably let some pre-biting behaviours slip past. I'm rethinking how we interact based on your comments. I started by taking my shower with the door closed and him outside, thinking that it might help break that behaviour.

How do people feel about cages? There is room for one on my balcony and I thought this might give him a chance to be outside without danger -- of course, I would only do this when I'm home.

I will try the lotion trick and try to find some bitter apple spray. I've also heard that cats don't like a citrus smell.

Again, thanks for your suggestions and support. I will keep you posted. DOn't worry, I'm not giving up on Inky.

Jeff
post #14 of 17
Hi Jeff!

Happy to hear you're not giving up on Inky (which is quite a cute name BTW
Just a quick one from my experience. I meowed a loud and clear "Owwwwww!" everytime Singa started biting me during play. She is now quite gentle about and immediatly stops if she hears even the slightest "ow".

At one point she continuously jumped onto my leather rimmed mirror and wouldnt even stop after I squirted her with water - that's when I used the hissing on her. I got down on all fours and jumped in front of her hissing. You should have seen the startled look on her face. Didn't go near the mirror for quite a while afterwards!

Good luck!

PS. Does a pic exist of the upsidedown man? I would love to see it. haha!
post #15 of 17
Some of you talked about using foul tasting lotions. Thats a good idea but it led me to another thought. What about keeping a bottle of "bitter apple" nearby??? He'll remember the taste, thats for sure and after a couple of times he WILL associate the punishment with the crime. (as you put it) Nonetheless it still sounds like his positive traits far out-weigh his negative one(s).
Good luck with him!!
post #16 of 17
Just a word of warning about the bitter apple. Make sure to wash your hands well before eating. Nothing will ruin your sandwich like the taste of bitter apple! LOL

Teresa
post #17 of 17
This

Quote:
Originally Posted by catsallover
We have had a VERY similar problem with my bottle baby(4-5 months), but it is getting better. This is what is working for us: Time out AS SOON as she puts her teeth on us. The VERY FIRST time (was surprised that this worked with her level of aggressive play, but it is) and be VERY CONSISTANT! I also growl at her and put her down, sometimes walking away. If she follows and continues to bite, I turn around and give her the biggest, meanest, most insistent "I SAID CUT THAT OUT!" growl I have. I also do that if she is going after my husband and isn't minding him. Usually, she then knows she has crossed the line and remembers that I am bigger than her and am REALLY ANGRY! Again, if she isn't minding, she would be going into timeout after that (your cat should in no way be allowed to hurt you .I think the trick is, like with kids, you have to make their bad behavoir THEIR problem not yours. ).Gretta is now to the point that putting her down when she bites works half the time, and the other half is timeout and "kill the stuffed bear" time . Oh, and you can also put him in timeout with the stuffed "victim", so he can't get to you instead of the stuffy, if leaving him with it doesn't work. That's about all I remember from before I erased half of it -If I think of anything else, I'll come back. I hope all this advice everyone has for you does the trick!
I'm sorry if this is disjointed- I accidently erased half of it and I am trying to cook dinner . I wanted to try to help, though, because I literally "feel your pain" . He seems to be playing with you as a sibling, and not like the "ALPHA CAT"
and this

Quote:
Originally Posted by x-ta-Z
Hi Jeff!

Happy to hear you're not giving up on Inky (which is quite a cute name BTW
Just a quick one from my experience. I meowed a loud and clear "Owwwwww!" everytime Singa started biting me during play. She is now quite gentle about and immediatly stops if she hears even the slightest "ow".

At one point she continuously jumped onto my leather rimmed mirror and wouldnt even stop after I squirted her with water - that's when I used the hissing on her. I got down on all fours and jumped in front of her hissing. You should have seen the startled look on her face. Didn't go near the mirror for quite a while afterwards!

Good luck!

PS. Does a pic exist of the upsidedown man? I would love to see it. haha!
are very good advice. I think your kitty is trying to make you submit, to show you that he is the alpha kitty and not you. You need to show him that you are the alpha kitty and then he will submit and let you alone. The alpha kitty traits you need to show are hissing or growling when he displeases you, as suggested above, walking in front whenever possible, as well as eating first. Don't let him boss you around or he will not submit to you. He must see you as a competent leader, but also you must show yourself to be stronger than him or he will feel that he should be alpha instead.
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