Thursday, January 31, 2008

Overview of cats and biting behavior

I spent a lot of time researching cat behavior yesterday. It's as if by osmosis, my crew all understood it already! They shared canned food together in a row last night and the two tuxes are engaged in their usual Morning Kitty Chase and Wrestle.

I am getting a better handle on Syl.vie and her biting, both the reasons and what to do. I think her trunk is extra sensitive, much as a clothing tag prickling irritated skin. She doesn't like to be randomly touched, as in I almost got bit yesterday when I kissed her back (in the midst of a purring session on the bed, so it wasn't entirely random), if only she could have contorted enough to reach me. So I try to pet her head and, if I go below that, I do long strokes. However, there is a problem, I've learned, with the long, relaxing stroke. It reeks of sex and provokes friskiness. Maybe, in part, it is her reacting to a house full of males.

Feline Aggression: Biting, Fighting, Scratching, Attacking
Continuous pleasurable stimulation can overexcite the cat causing aggressive behavior. The cat becomes sexually excited and the resulting aggression is a part of normal sexual behavior.

Kitty, stop biting!
[S]he asserted that the problem was a miscommunication between cat and human. If you're petting the cat with long, slow strokes, the cat will relax and purr, but may eventually start interpreting this as sexual. Then they move to advance up to the next stage of the cat foreplay ladder, which is nipping and biting. Imagine, then, the cat's surprise and confusion when we react badly to the bite and get angry.

Cat bites during petting
Petting aggression in cats is absolutely normal. The reasons for petting aggression are not fully understood but research suggests that it has to do with the fact that the cat has mixed emotions about the whole petting phenomenon. Most adult cats that aren't related don't touch each other much except for fighting and sexual episodes. So even though the cats seems content, it may realize that this is not normal and an instinctive predatory response is elicited which results in biting.

Why does your cat do that?
Why does your cat take a small bite on your arm or cheek and hold on for a few seconds? Some cats, when they are very happy and feeling extremely affectionate toward the Big Unfurry Cat, will gently take a piece of human skin between their teeth and hold it for a few seconds. Think of it as the feline equivalent of kissing.

Cat & Kitten Biting and Scratching
It's is normal for cats and kittens to bite and scratch. If a cat is frightened or feels threatened, it will naturally try to defend itself. If you touch your cat in a sensitive area, he may bite or scratch as a way of telling you to "quit it." There is a fine line between pleasurable petting and irritating handling. When your cat has had enough, the only way it knows how to say, "stop it," is with its claws or teeth. Cats and kittens will also scratch and bite when they are playing and acting out their hunting instincts.

Teach your cat to enjoy being touched and handled so he doesn't feel threatened, defensive or irritated.... [with specific method for training cat to not bite]

How do I stop my cat from biting me?
If your kitten is biting, understand why-first-before you try to stop her. If it is just play time, I don´t try to correct it unless it continues for more than three weeks. After that, when the kitten bites, gently grab their bottom jaw so that you are ´biting back.´ Don´t let go until the kitten is beginning to panic. This is one way to gently let them know you are the boss, and biting is not a good thing to do to you.

Some older cats will feel the need to test you. They will bite, and even attack your hand to see how well you trust them. DON´T PANIC! If the cat is not drawing blood, they may be testing you. Try to leave your hand in place until the cat withdraws, then slowly pull your hand back.

You have determined that your cat/kitten is just playing when he bites you, now what can you do to stop this unwanted behavior.

One method is to allow the kitten to bite your finger, then gently, but firmly, press down on his tongue. This is very effective in teaching your kitten that you will ´bite back´, so he shouldn´t bite you at all.

How do I stop my cat from biting me?
Whenever your cat does bite you, don't pull away. In pulling away, you react the way prey does, and your cat's instinct will be to bite harder and hold on. When she bites you, gently push toward your cat's mouth. This action will disengage your skin from her teeth. It also will confuse her because prey never goes willingly in the direction of the predator's mouth. Once you're disengaged, redirect her toward the toy. She'll get the hang of it in no time.

Ouch!!! How to stop cat aggression toward people.
Thorough and outlined by reasons for biting

Guide to interpreting tails: Tail Talk


Anonymous said...

fascinating. My little ol' sweet one was always a biter and scratcher when aroused, what I have now learned, by stroking, which she interpreted as sexual. I got a kick out of it and she never hurt me, but she surprised house guests sometimes. I always had to warn them---once you see her tail going, watch out!

She is old and sweet now and snuggles and never gets feisty anymore. She melts my heart.

Aunt Becky said...

Neat! I've never researched this before (thankfully my cats are old farts who don't fight with us).

Mrs. Hairy Woman said...

Very informative... Wehave two cats and the male tends to kneed more than the female.. but loves to snuggle on your lap whilst digging his sharp claws into your flesh... Sure its comforting for him.. but when you are on the receiving end.. its not so nice...great post...

Anonymous said...

I want them critters nowhere near me...bad enough they make me sneeze.

I had a next door neighbor once who had a very agro-cat. This thing would venture up on top of semi-open doors. It would wait and leap at the heads of people in her apartment. That was the meanest cat I ever encountered.

Cricket said...

e-e, cats are usually made mean. They don't come mean. Either they are provoked or they are not socialized enough.

I've probably had 15 cats and only had two that bit. The first was an outdoor cat who adopted us then disappeared a few weeks later. She was odd in that she loved being around us, but only wanted to be touched on her terms, which we didn't know. She was quick!

I think it will work with Syl.vie; I am learning her cues and she seems to be stopping herself, too. No bites or snaps today. All of them are getting along well and I think the lower stress will help.

Janie said...

My 90 year old mother has a housecat that she adores.

However, about once a month, while she is laying in bed, her cat attacks her arm.

Today (May 6, 2010) she has a huge wound from the biting and tearing.

We do not know what to do.

I called the vet to see about pulling those 4 fang teeth but he is not in favor of doing this.

Again, what to do! Her cat is about 4 years old, a male that has been fixed and de-clawed.