Biting, Scratching Aggressive Cat, Advice Requested

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
Thread starter
Super Cat
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
Messages
1,138
Reaction score
2,741
Location
nyc
I'm starting this thread on the advice of C calicosrspecial but welcome advice from all parties. This may be long but I will try to summarize as best I can.

Luciano moved in with me Dec 2016. From April-Dec he mostly lived upstairs at my neighbor's apartment, but he was too aggressive with her other cats & she thought he needed to be an only cat. Most of the time he was up there, he was kept in a large cage. Once he got out and terrorized her other, older cats & made his mark on her as well. He was put on prozac and xanax up there and I continued that at my place.

The vet determined he was between 1-2 years old in April 2016 when he was brought in for the first time. He was physically healthy, but we don't know anything about his early life. The vet said he was terrified, more so than a cat at a run of the mill vet appointment. He's a large cat, tall & long, but not heavy. He was 15 pounds, now he's down to 14 and a bit because he's been sick for a week or so. He had something wrong with his stomach, was vomiting and not eating Sat-Tue. He's on the mend now, still not eating very much but not vomiting either. He is drinking. The reason I know he's feeling better? He started purring again, and he started biting again.

When the initial prozac prescription ran out, it seemed to me that he was getting along well in the apartment. He had free reign, although back then I was trying to keep him off the table and kitchen counter. I've since given up on that. The vet agreed and said if he seemed more relaxed and calmer it was ok to taper him off xanax as well.

The first biting incident involving me was during what I call an affection session. He used to rub his face on the back of my head, especially when I came home from work. I'm told he was marking me as his and it was a good sign. However, that often escalated into him biting or chewing my hair, holding the sides of my head with his claws, sometimes digging them in and biting my head, one time the side of my face. I've learned now to get up quickly after a couple of face rubs to the back of my head, as endearing as it is. My theory is that he gets too stimulated, don't know if that has any basis in fact.

He leaps up and bites my thigh and scratches with his front paws as well. Sometimes there is blood, but usually it's just a red mark left behind from the bite, but it's a strong enough bite that it turns into a bruise. He does it to my shins as well, but he doesn't have to jump up to do that. Sometimes I can figure out why he's doing it; he sees me getting ready to leave, I'm trying to get him to go back into the apartment from the hallway because I have to leave, etc. Sometimes it comes out of the blue. I walk out of the bathroom and get it, he's sitting next to me on the couch & I'm scritching under his chin and he's purring and bites me while purring. My boyfriend exercises with a yoga mat on the floor and gets bitten. Either I have to play with him the entire time my boyfriend is exercising, or we have to put him in the bedroom. Sometimes when he's taking the mat out of the closet, Luciano walks into the closet to explore, where he doesn't get to be too often and seems to enjoy. If that happens we simply close the door. He doesn't seem to mind, in fact sometimes when we open the door again he stays in there a for longer.

I've tried saying no sternly, I've tried walking away from the situation. Neither thing works, he keeps coming. In fact, if he jumps up and tries to bite and I'm quick enough to move out of the way, he will keep coming until he gets flesh, just getting clothing isn't enough. Sometimes I can thwart an attack by putting a throw pillow between us, but he tries for quite a while to get around it.

He's back on prozac now, although since he hasn't been eating for a few days, he hasn't been getting his dose. And up until this evening he hadn't bitten either of us this week because he was under the weather and not doing much of anything.










o
 

abyeb

Charlie's Purrson
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Messages
7,477
Reaction score
9,434
He's been neutered, right?

By any chance, are there any outdoor or feral cats in your area? It could be some redirected aggression, so if you've observed any feline lurkers outside, it might be a good idea to try to cover the windows, to see if it helps Luciano feel more comfortable.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
Thread starter
Super Cat
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
Messages
1,138
Reaction score
2,741
Location
nyc
Yes, he's neutered. As a matter of fact, he's my first cat & if I hadn't been told he was male, I wouldn't be able to tell. I don't spend a lot of time down that end. :)

I live in an apartment building, three flights up & currently there is scaffolding on the building and mesh around the scaffolding. So not only are there no cats outside, there are no birds either. Once the scaffolding comes down, I'm anxious to see how he will react to birds outside his windows. My windows face out to the street, not a courtyard. The closest cats are my neighbor's cats upstairs. There is a dog at the end of our hallway. When I let him out there, he usually goes down there & smells by his door. The dog (Falafel, a cute miniature schnauzer) sometimes barks, but it doesn't bother Luciano. On the rare occasion Luciano's been in the hallway and Falafel comes out to go walkies, Luc beats a quick retreat back to the apartment.
 

basscat

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 29, 2015
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
5,298
The first biting incident involving me was during what I call an affection session. He used to rub his face on the back of my head, especially when I came home from work. I'm told he was marking me as his and it was a good sign. However, that often escalated into him biting or chewing my hair, holding the sides of my head with his claws, sometimes digging them in and biting my head, one time the side of my face. I've learned now to get up quickly after a couple of face rubs to the back of my head, as endearing as it is. My theory is that he gets too stimulated, don't know if that has any basis in fact.
ileen ileen
You just described our boy EXACTLY. Hair is bad. Wet hair is worse.
And you know what kind of cat I have.....
The best I can tell.... He thinks you're a toy (AND/OR) it's something in your shampoo/conditioner.
We now just stop him before he gets too wound up and starts biting.
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
Thread starter
Super Cat
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
Messages
1,138
Reaction score
2,741
Location
nyc
Wet hair IS worse, you're right! And since I'm a swimmer, my hair is often wet. I don't think it's my shampoo though, because since I'm a swimmer, my hair has different smells - chlorine before shower, Ultraswim shampoo after shower on swim days, other shampoo on non-swim days. He's chewed it all, dry hair too.

Are you saying Luciano has some wild bobcat in him?
 

basscat

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 29, 2015
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
5,298
Are you saying Luciano has some wild bobcat in him?
No. I was just implying it could be worse and it's just a cat thing in general. Any cat could do it.
Not sure how to stop the hair thing. We just get away from him before he gets really wound up.

Our tabby does the ankle leg attack thing. About once a week. We can now see it in his eyes MOST of the time, and just dodge him for a minute or so. Those are getting less frequent and end quicker though....as he gets older I guess?

It's play. ROUGH play, but, it is play. Stern NO or a loud shriek, and stop and leave immediately (for at least 5 minutes).
ANY retaliation will be viewed as "game on!" Even just pushing him away. It's best to just up and leave for a few minutes.
He's either learning that play biting and play attacking isn't welcome, OR, he's growing out of it. It's all getting less, but, nothing near immediate. Just takes time and redundancy.

How you know it's play? Defensive or what we might view as Mean aggression is entirely different and obvious when you encounter it. (growls, hisses, whines, with full claws swinging and a bite will be to the bone)
 

basscat

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 29, 2015
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
5,298
OH! Try a small, soft, fuzzy, squeaky toy? Something soft and woolly with a squeaker.
None of our cats can resist those!
If it's handy enough, it will distract them immediately.
 

Shane Kent

Crazy Cat Gentleman
Top Cat
Joined
May 9, 2016
Messages
1,319
Reaction score
5,945
Location
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
I used to get attacked by my cat Kitty when she was living in the office building I work at. She would grab my arm with claws and teeth. She bit really hard but usually not enough to break the skin. Claws however... I could pick her up, pet her, etc. Like you, out of blue she would grab me and not playfully.

Now I have her at home she never attacks me anymore. It was loud at my work during the day, I think it had her stressed out and high strung. It is quiet in my neighborhood she is very relaxed here.

Do you think something is stressing the cat? Noise, smell, etc there are lots of things that can stress a cat out. The litter box or even where you place it can upset a cat. If he is stressed may also explain the not eating. If it is loud where you live you could try creating a quiet space for him like a big box with thick blankets over it. And eliminate odours that may be bothering him.

I could not believe how rapid the change was in Kitty when I moved her to my house. Completely relaxed, sleeps without a care in the world and best of all no more claws or teeth when I pet her.
 

cessena

TCS Member
Adult Cat
Joined
Dec 6, 2004
Messages
168
Reaction score
35
Location
Chicago, IL
My cat does this. As I'm petting her she will get suddenly very bitey and aggressive. She also reacts if I'm in a weird place like on the floor. It's gotten better as she's gotten older, and as weird things like me being ont he floor have happened and nothing untoward has happened. Generally any time she goes too far and hurts me I remove myself from her. ("Horrified gasp" followed by leaving the room, bed, whatever, which usually diplaces her, now if I gasp she's like 'oh shit what did I do?") So she's not getting punished but her "toy" is taken away.

The key for us has been making sure she gets some really active play time a few times a day. She pretty much only goes for the laser pointer, so we try to get her going with that once if not twice a day until she is flopped on her side and disinterested. It keeps her from being quite as reactive, and it has helped with some over grooming she's been doing.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
Thread starter
Super Cat
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
Messages
1,138
Reaction score
2,741
Location
nyc
Thank you all for your input and suggestions. Up until last week, we were playing a lot with him with his mouse on wire/wand toy & da bird. He leaps and chases them like mad. But since he's been sick, he's not responding to those toys much at all. His energy is depleted since he's not eating much. And since he's not eating his wet food, he's not getting his prozac.

I haven't yet tried a soft fuzzy squeaky toy. He used to love tin foil balls, doesn't really use them anymore. I'll have to look for one.

As for noise/smells etc, maybe there's something to that, but there's not a lot I can do about NYC noise. There are always horns, sirens going off, construction noise etc & I do see his ears move around a lot. I will try putting blankets over a box and see if he uses that. He does love boxes. :) The thing that surprises me is that he doesn't respond to noises from TV. We're trying to learn all we can and watch My Cat From Hell all the time, have dozens of episodes waiting on my DVR. There are always hissing, growling, angry cat noises on that show and he pays it no mind whatsoever.
 

basscat

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 29, 2015
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
5,298
Did you take him to the vet for his illness? It's really bad for a cat not to eat. If his ears are noticeably warm to the touch, he may have a fever. Fever will keep one from eating.

And some cats are just biters. I've heard that many times this has to do with being removed from their mother and litter mates too early. Kittens interact with each other when younger and learn not to bite, or not to bite too hard. Otherwise, they just don't know.
You chomp down on your brother and you get chomped right back! LOL
As he gets older, he should grow out of most of it.

I have bitten a bobcat ear (more than once). And I will say that will get one to stop biting right then and there! LOL.
It gets you a look like... WHAT THE #$^%!!! :lol:
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12

ileen

with Luciano since 12/5/16
Thread starter
Super Cat
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
Messages
1,138
Reaction score
2,741
Location
nyc
I'm pretty sure he was separated from his mom/litter mates too early but have no way of knowing for sure (unless someone knows of a legit pet psychic...)

Yes he's been to the vet. $800 later his bloodwork and urine are normal, no fever, heart rate normal, he didn't eat tinsel (xray). There may be an issue with his pancreas, or something he ate that caused all the vomiting could have slightly inflamed the pancreas. They gave him sub-c fluids, a B12 shot & anti-nausea meds. I tried a bland human food diet (organic boiled chicken and rice) and he didn't eat any of it. Instead of eating 95% of his wet food and grazing on the dry, for the past couple of days he's been eating most of the dry food and barely touching the wet. He is drinking normally & peeing and pooping normally. He drank normally throughout, maybe a bit more than normal when he was throwing up for those days. The poop seemed normal (consistency, amount) when I cleaned the litter box yesterday morning. We're going to see if his appetite improves for a few days before trying to switch him to a bland cat food diet.

I had stopped worrying about his biting/scratching/aggression for a week while he was sick and not doing much of anything. But now he's getting better (I hope), but not fully back to eating his regular amount, and the biting is back. My arms and legs are bruise & scratch free for the first times in months, I'd love to keep it that way.

I realize now that the issue didn't really escalate in the summer, his behavior had remained fairly steady. What did change was my wardrobe. When I was wearing boots, thicker pants, long sleeve shirts, sweaters, coats etc when he jumped up to bite me as I was leaving, he didn't leave a mark. It was when I switched to sandals, dresses, short sleeves, cropped pants etc that he started making his mark.
 

basscat

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Dec 29, 2015
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
5,298
Yep! Wearing shorts is almost asking for it. :lol:
If he's regaining his appetite that's good.
When our boy was sick, we fed him tiny bites of raw ground turkey. And that's all he would even attempt to eat.
And aside from forcing water into him with a syringe, he would drink a little KMR on his own.
 

calicosrspecial

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
2,709
Reaction score
1,590
Hi,

Thank you for the additional information.

There is a lot of great advice and a lot of good information.

It does sound like he was taken from his mother/littermates early.

It sounds like he views hair, legs etc as playthings, things that are fun. So we really want to teach him that hair, legs, arms etc are not toys.

So I think we need to let him know that that behavior is unacceptable (a stern "no" and an attitude of disappointment) and then taking out a toy and getting him to play with that. It sounds like he doesn't want to hurt you he just doesn't really yet know that his biting needs to be more careful (and to end). So redirecting his behavior and showing him that play is for toys only is helpful. If you can pull out a toy before he even goes for your legs or hair that actually is even better. Anytime we can show him that only toys are for play and legs, etc aren't that is helpful. Also, cats take on our emotions so he should pick up on your dislike of his behavior.

Legs can act like prey. Cats are hunters, always wanting to stalk and pounce. The more we direct that onto a toy it is helpful in changing behavior.

Do you feel that you (or your boyfriend) get more cautious when you sense he is going to grab on? Cats can sense our emotions and if we act differently their instinct is to get defensive. But these incidences seem to be more hunting instinct. Legs moving or someone doing yoga can act like a prey animal.

Do you have cat trees, scratching posts, a lot of bedding, and/or cat shelving? We want to really give him a lot of options to be a cat. To go high (which builds confidence and allows him to survey the situation and feel secure). I think the suggestion of a hideaway (which provides more security and more quiet) is a great idea.

I wonder if the scents from the cat's above might be causing him some stress. So we need to build his confidence and feeling of security. So we do that via 4 things (Play, Food, Height and Love).

So keep playing with him as much as possible. Really good play sessions, make the toy act like prey. Get him to stalk it, then pounce then kill it. Then a little rest then repeat. After a good play session feed either treats or a meal. Use food or treats to just build trust and bond. I would like to see your boyfriend feeding him if he doesn't already. Give him places to go high and to get his scent on (so cat trees, if possible cat shelving). Also, scratching posts. Things he can get his scent on so he can feel ownership. And finally stay calm and confident around him, let him know he is loved, using food. Beware of overstimulating him. Only touch him when he wants to be touched and from low. Don't act like prey or have your feet, hands etc act like prey.

The benefits of stepping up play are a few. It builds confidence. It can get rid of the excess energy (but he is young so he has boundless but ti should help a little). It helps him view toys as play not hands and feet.

The good news is he is not attacking or wanting to hurt. He is just more playing it sounds. So we can get him out of this.

Also, see if you can find toys that he can play with when you are not around. Anything to help him ease some of the boredom.

I don't think this is part of the issue but if possible we don't want to close doors on him or take territory away. We want him to feel secure and total ownership. Also, I would probably just keep him in the apartment as the smells in the halls might be an issue.

Don't worry, I will be with you every step of the way. I am highly confident we will work through this. Cats do not want to hurt unless they feel threatened and your cat is no different. I believe based on what you have told me that he is just playing (albeit a bit rougher). We'll see how he responds and adjust as needed. He sounds like a good cat that is just a bit rough in his play. Hopefully we can redirect him into toys sooner rather than later. His environment will be important so please let me know what you have in the way of cat trees, scratching posts, etc.

Please feel free to ask anything anytime and share any info. There is no such thing as too little information.
 

calicosrspecial

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 14, 2016
Messages
2,709
Reaction score
1,590
I wanted to comment on some specific aspects of your post. Below are those responses. The prior message is more of our game plan going forward.

I'm starting this thread on the advice of C calicosrspecial but welcome advice from all parties. This may be long but I will try to summarize as best I can.

The vet determined he was between 1-2 years old in April 2016 when he was brought in for the first time. He was physically healthy, but we don't know anything about his early life. The vet said he was terrified, more so than a cat at a run of the mill vet appointment. He's a large cat, tall & long, but not heavy. He was 15 pounds, now he's down to 14 and a bit because he's been sick for a week or so. He had something wrong with his stomach, was vomiting and not eating Sat-Tue. He's on the mend now, still not eating very much but not vomiting either. He is drinking. The reason I know he's feeling better? He started purring again, and he started biting again.

Having him purr is a great sign of his comfort and feeling of being loved.

When the initial prozac prescription ran out, it seemed to me that he was getting along well in the apartment. He had free reign, although back then I was trying to keep him off the table and kitchen counter. I've since given up on that. The vet agreed and said if he seemed more relaxed and calmer it was ok to taper him off xanax as well.

The first biting incident involving me was during what I call an affection session. He used to rub his face on the back of my head, especially when I came home from work. I'm told he was marking me as his Yes, he wanted to "own" you. VERY good sign. and it was a good sign. However, that often escalated into him biting or chewing my hair, holding the sides of my head with his claws, sometimes digging them in and biting my head, one time the side of my face. It sounds like he got overstimulated, his way of showing more affection. I've learned now to get up quickly after a couple of face rubs to the back of my head, as endearing as it is. Exactly the right thing to do, to let him know it is unacceptable. Since he does love you and wants to be with you he will learn this behavior yields an unacceptable result - you leaving. My theory is that he gets too stimulated, don't know if that has any basis in fact. I think your theory is correct. He is too excited, he may never have felt love before.

He leaps up and bites my thigh and scratches with his front paws as well. Sometimes there is blood, but usually it's just a red mark left behind from the bite, but it's a strong enough bite that it turns into a bruise. If it was aggression or a real attack it would be a serious bite, deep, with the claws digger in deep as well, his ears would be back and flat, his hair could be up, his eyes would be dilated. This sounds like he is playing albeit a bit rough. Like jumping on a tree wanting to climb it. He could be wanting to get closer to you. He does it to my shins as well, but he doesn't have to jump up to do that. Shins and legs and feet can act like prey, something moves then stops and to a cat it looks like fun to play with that. Sometimes I can figure out why he's doing it; he sees me getting ready to leave, I'm trying to get him to go back into the apartment from the hallway because I have to leave, etc. I think I would try to keep him out of the hallway to try to eliminate one potential driver of this behavior. Sometimes it comes out of the blue. I walk out of the bathroom and get it (he could be hunting waiting for the prey to appear and it is fun to a cat to pounce on prey - legs, feet etc), he's sitting next to me on the couch & I'm scritching under his chin and he's purring and bites me while purring. Sounds like an overstimulated love bite. Getting him to purr is a positive but watch that he doesn't get too overstimulated. This is very common. I often give a stern "no" not a yell but a no with some disappointment letting the cat know that is unacceptable. It is amazing how cats don't want to hurt and realize they did wrong. We don't want to escalate the situation and turn it into a negative or stressful or different situation though. My boyfriend exercises with a yoga mat on the floor and gets bitten. Again moving things - hands, arms, legs, feet that look like something fun to play with or prey. Either I have to play with him the entire time my boyfriend is exercising this is an excellent solution as play is positive anyway and it distracts the cat, or we have to put him in the bedroom taking territory away can create a negative association so I like to avoid this if at all possible.. Sometimes when he's taking the mat out of the closet, Luciano walks into the closet to explore, where he doesn't get to be too often and seems to enjoy. If that happens we simply close the door. Again I tend not to like closing the door as it can be viewed negatively especially for a cat that are freedom and very territorially focused. You can close it slightly to give him some privacy but I would suggest not closing totally. He doesn't seem to mind, in fact sometimes when we open the door again he stays in there a for longer.

I've tried saying no sternly, I've tried walking away from the situation. Does he react at all to your tone of "no"? Does it cause him to pause for a second? What is his body language like? Neither thing works, he keeps coming. Can you try to keep a toy near to try to distract him? If he is easily distracted it will be a positive. In fact, if he jumps up and tries to bite and I'm quick enough to move out of the way, he will keep coming until he gets flesh, just getting clothing isn't enough. Moving out of the way tends to be the way prey acts. Prey tries to get away from a cat. So it makes sense he continues. Sometimes I can thwart an attack by putting a throw pillow between us, but he tries for quite a while to get around it. We really need to try to distract him whether it is a toy or a treat. When we can get him seeing toys as more fun than parts of a human body we will have succeeded. It is easier said than done but try to remain as focused as possible. Also, try different tones when you say "no". "Ouch" in a voice that suggests pain also is good. Cats really do sense emotions so when it is more disappointment or something where they think they hurt you it tends to work pretty well. I use this often and have had great success with all sorts of cats.

We'll want to make sure he stops viewing this as fun and a game so redirecting it into a toy is best.













o
 
Top