Need help with biting cat

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kilroy

TCS Member
Kitten
I have a 5 year old male domestic shorthair who as long as I've had him (since he was 11 months old) has randomly attacked me and bitten me very badly on my leg.  He grabs me with all of his teeth and his claws and hangs on; needless to say at this point I'm terrified of him.  I've had him checked out by the vet who says he's fine, and he is endlessly loving with every other person he meets, especially my husband.   I haven't been able to figure out any single thing that might trigger his attacks, and even my husband says they seem to come out of nowhere.

I don't want to take him back to the shelter where I got him because they'll put him down, but I can't live like this.  Please, can anyone help?
 

johnson-bennett

TCS Member
Young Cat
This may be a misguided play behavior. Cats are predators and need stimulation and activity on a daily basis. Your cat may have all this pent-up energy and nowhere to release it until he sees your moving feet go by. Here are my suggestions:

1. Engage your cat in interactive play sessions at lease once a day (and hopefully two) by using a fishing pole type toy. Move the toy the way prey would move so the cat can truly engage in a mock hunt. Move the toy across or away from the cat's visual field. Here's more on interactive playtime. For playtime to be beneficial from a training aspect, you need to use a fishing pole toy so that it puts a distance between your flesh and your cat's teeth. This sends a message to him that biting the toy will result in a good consequence but biting flesh will not.

2. Provide your cat with things to do during the day when you're at work or busy. Environmental enrichment is extremely important because as predators, cats would naturally engage in about 12 or more hunts during the day which means they would have many bursts of energy release. To provide that at home, set up puzzle feeders, activity toys, and other opportunities to climb, hunt and explore. You can set up some open paper bags on their sides and put treats or toys in them. Make a homemade puzzler feeder by putting some dry food in an empty water bottle that has some holes cut in it. There are many companies that make puzzle feeders such as Nina Ottosson, Stimulo, Play-n-Treat.

3. When your cat bites, stop all motion, disengage him from you and then ignore him for a few moments. Let him see that when he bites skin then all the fun stops.

4. For a while, carry some small toys in your pocket such as fuzzy mice. When you're walking through the house if you see him and he looks as if he's about to pounce, redirect his behavior by tossing a toy away from you. Don't do this if he is already biting you -- do it when he's at a distance and hasn't engaged in the behavior yet.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC

www.catbehaviorassociates.com
 
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kilroy

TCS Member
Kitten
Unfortunately, having been trying to solve this problem for 4 years, I've pretty much tried all of these things.  He isn't distracted by my tossing a toy or crumpled ball of paper, he's on a prescription wet food diet because of bladder issues so puzzle feeders probably won't work (any way to make that work with wet food?).  He has a Cat Dancer toy which he'll chase sometimes and not others & a feather wand toy that he completely ignores.  When he does want to play he likes to chase mouse toys that I toss for him, and I try to get him to do that every morning but he won't always play. 

I've tried hissing at him when he bites, squirting him with water & putting him in another room, nothing has worked. 

I can be near him if he's asleep or clearly settled somewhere, but if he's moving around the apartment I am constantly afraid that he's going to bite me because I don't know what sets him off.  This is not a good way to live.  At this point he knows I'm scared of him and that makes the situation worse.  I desperately want to solve this problem, but it's been going on for so long that I don't know if there's any way to fix it (mostly because I don't know how to stop being scared).

I realize I must sound really pathetic; I never in a million years expected to be afraid of a cat.  We had outdoor cats when I was a kid & I never had a problem with them. 

Sorry for the epically long post. 
 

flintmccullough

TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Is he neutered?

Whats the stress/activity/commotion level like in your house?

When did he first start this, how old?

Was he ever "taught" not to bite?

If he is not neutered, there is part of your problem, but he still needs to be "taught" not to bite.

Actually this sounds like mis directed aggression. As in, if you are having a bad day, in a really bad mood, you tend to take it out, on the next person you see, as in anger management issues. If this is the case, you need to find, the reason for the aggression. Could be as simple, as he sees kitties outside, or he is being mistreated at home, who else, comes in your home, when you are not there, have kids?

  
 
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kilroy

TCS Member
Kitten
He was neutered before we got him when he was 11 months old.  I have no idea what his prior living situation was like, only that they dumped him at the high-kill NYC  city shelter because he got a URI.   The first time he bit me we had only had him for a few weeks, I got up at night to use the bathroom and he ran at me and sank his teeth & claws into my leg.  Before that he was just sitting in the living room, I didn't step on him or anything like that.

He spends his days mostly with my husband, who's retired, while I'm at work.  Georgie adores him and is constantly begging him for petting, which my husband doesn't necessarily want to do several times a day.  We very rarely have anyone else in the apartment & when we do George is super friendly & looking for petting.  We live on the 15th floor, so all he ever sees outside are birds, which fascinate him.  Some people have suggested that he thinks I'm an interloper getting between him & his favorite human (my husband), but what am I supposed to do about that?  I was here first :) 

I want to say thanks to anyone who's trying to help or who might still have suggestions.  I don't want to get rid of him & I refuse to do anything that will get him put down, but I can't tolerate things the way they are (I know, I've been tolerating for 4 years, but the last 9 months or so have been really stressful between a lost job & a death in the family, the problem with George is pushing me pretty close to my personal edge).
 

flintmccullough

TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Gotta make this quick, just came in here, to check something, lol.  

2 thoughts.  The first one doing from memory, its possible he was neutered to young, might have an undecended testicle, and they didn't get all the "stuff", which would make him act like a tom cat, or in horse terms, a gelding would act like a stallion.  I will have to look up the whole story tomorrow. The second one, and saw this on the TV show, My Cat From H*ll.  

Same thing, kitty very aggressive, attacked the wife and her clients, but not the husband.  Jackson recommended more play time, and the one thing he recommended, which no one thought of, and did not make any sense to the family, but, it worked.

Cats like to be up high. He asked them to get several cat trees, and put one near the window, that she like to look out of, the kitty, not the wife. He also asked them to build shelves along the wall, so the kitty could walk on them, and not the floor. Believe it or not, it worked.

I highly recommend, you watch the TV show, they have several episodes, of kitties just like yours, you might pick up some tips. 

Hope this helps, best of luck, and will look up the other for you tomorrow.  
  
 

johnson-bennett

TCS Member
Young Cat
Playtime is a very powerful behavior modification tool and it's something I recommended in my answer. Since cats are predators, they are hardwired for bursts of energy and that's where interactive playtime is beneficial. It's so helpful in fact, that over 30 years ago when I started doing behavior consultations I started calling playtime "play therapy."

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC

www.catbehaviorassociates.com
 
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kilroy

TCS Member
Kitten
Yes, I read your previous response and I'm aware of the importance of playtime.  I do play with my cat, when he chooses to.  We played for about 20 minutes this morning & then he was done & wouldn't respond any more.  So really, this isn't telling me anything I don't already know or don't already do.
 

johnson-bennett

TCS Member
Young Cat
Playtime is better in shorter segments. Do two or three sessions per day for just ten minutes or so. Be sure to wind the action down at the end of the game so the cat is left relaxed. Additionally, consider doing clicker training to teach the cat that good behavior will have a positive reward. In cases of biting or aggressive cats, I follow the nothing in life is free method. Instead of just leaving food down for free-will eating, I schedule meals and I hold a portion of that for training sessions. That's where clicker training will work. When the cat walks by you nicely, click and reward.

Also, you mentioned that your husband is home and does the petting. Part of that should be playtime and also leaving puzzle feeders out for the cat. Sometimes we misread a play solicitation for affection. Too much petting can cause some cats to get too stimulated.

Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC

www.catbehaviorassociates.com
 
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