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Old 10-25-2012, 03:17 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Angry Excessive Biting

I know there are probably dozens & dozens of threads about biting already, but we've tried a lot of the standard suggestions and they just don't seem to be helping much!

My husband & I just adopted our 5 month old female tabby, Whiskey, about 3 weeks ago. She has quickly become our little child / 3rd member of the household but she is also a MESS!

I was expecting her to be hyper (she's still young, after all) and to scratch & bite, but the biting is really out of control! She will come up to us while we're sitting on the couch, jump up in one of our laps and BITE! It's usually an arm, but she's also bitten our sides and occasionally our faces (which is very concerning, of course). If we react, she will latch on and get serious about the "attack." This doesn't only happen on the couch; she also goes for our legs when we're standing. She doesn't break the skin with her teeth (only her claws) and I know that if she really wanted to, she would. Most of the time I think she's being playful, but other times she seems genuinely pissed, especially after she's already attacked once and we've told her to stop.

We've tried "Hey!" and "Ow!", gently pushing into her attack (I read that this is supposed to cause her to release her grip since prey usually don't push back, but it hasn't worked) and even a little bitty spray bottle. These methods either do nothing or get her even more agitated. I've also attempted giving her no reaction (difficult to do when she bites hard!) but then she just keeps gnawing on me until I react.

We definitely need to give her more play time, that's clear. However, I don't think that alone will stop the biting. After play time, she seems even more likely to attack because she is riled up.

The only thing that seems to work at all is spraying a can of condensed air, and that's only about 50% effective. It's also a pain remembering to carry the can everywhere you go!

I know biting is unfortunately a problem that takes time to correct... we just aren't sure how to go about correcting it, at this point!
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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PS - We are also working on clicker training. Whiskey knows "up" (stand on two back legs) and "sit." I just started teaching her "lie down" today. We are also training her to come when called and she is doing well. She is very intelligent & responsive, she has a big dose of kitty stubbornness when it comes to getting her to STOP doing things.

I have considered Feliway plug-ins to help curb the aggression, but unfortunately the refills are just too expensive if we needed it long-term. Does anyone think Rescue Remedy might help?
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:27 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You can try playing with her, as much as your schedule allows for it, until she is utterly exhausted. Usually biting is an aggressive display of energy, since a cat rationally knows you aren't a prey item - she isn't trying to "kill" you ;}

So, continue play time until she's panting and doesn't go after the toys any more - don't let the play session end while she still has energy. As you said, that will just keep her riled up.

If she has no energy left, then she probably won't find it worth the effort to bite!

There's another suggestion I can make - and I'm sure I'm going to get criticized for this, but here goes:

My cat was a bit of a spastic, unprovoked biter for a while after my dog died (they were best friends, and the dog's death drastically affected the cat's behavior). She would suddenly decide to bite after calmly sitting near you for a while, or she would bite after being petted for a few seconds. She was never provoked or "over-petted", she simply decided to bite randomly.

The spray bottle didn't work, nor did any of the other "common" methods of light punishment. She began to bite other people as well, and that became unacceptable.

Whenever she would bite, I would try my best to scare the living daylights out of her. I shouted "NO" repeatedly in my deepest voice, pounded the carpet near her with my palms, stomped my feet, and made several threatening gestures. A few times, if the biting was particularly egregious, I would grab her scruff firmly for a few seconds while shouting "NO". Basically, I was trying to scare her as much as possible without actually hurting her or getting too physical.

She would generally then retreat to hide behind the nearest piece of furniture, act huffy for a while, and then come back out and be completely calm again.

She was not turned into a chronically-scared cat by this, and the biting behavior stopped after just a few days of this.

A cat isn't a stupid animal, and will learn "aversion" quickly, especially if the terror only occurs when it's doing something it isn't supposed to.

EDIT: Rescue Remedy is one of those homeopathic things, which means it has about one molecule of useful ingredients in it, and 99.9999999% water otherwise. I really don't believe in the effectiveness of any homeopathic "remedies", myself.

I do think Feliway would work - since the diffuser lasts ~4 weeks, maybe you could try just once, and see if it helps? You don't have to keep buying refills, just give it a try once :}
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamie.lynne View Post
I know there are probably dozens & dozens of threads about biting already, but we've tried a lot of the standard suggestions and they just don't seem to be helping much!

My husband & I just adopted our 5 month old female tabby, Whiskey, about 3 weeks ago. She has quickly become our little child / 3rd member of the household but she is also a MESS!

I was expecting her to be hyper (she's still young, after all) and to scratch & bite, but the biting is really out of control! She will come up to us while we're sitting on the couch, jump up in one of our laps and BITE! It's usually an arm, but she's also bitten our sides and occasionally our faces (which is very concerning, of course). If we react, she will latch on and get serious about the "attack." This doesn't only happen on the couch; she also goes for our legs when we're standing. She doesn't break the skin with her teeth (only her claws) and I know that if she really wanted to, she would. Most of the time I think she's being playful, but other times she seems genuinely pissed, especially after she's already attacked once and we've told her to stop.

We've tried "Hey!" and "Ow!", gently pushing into her attack (I read that this is supposed to cause her to release her grip since prey usually don't push back, but it hasn't worked) and even a little bitty spray bottle. These methods either do nothing or get her even more agitated. I've also attempted giving her no reaction (difficult to do when she bites hard!) but then she just keeps gnawing on me until I react.

We definitely need to give her more play time, that's clear. However, I don't think that alone will stop the biting. After play time, she seems even more likely to attack because she is riled up.

The only thing that seems to work at all is spraying a can of condensed air, and that's only about 50% effective. It's also a pain remembering to carry the can everywhere you go!

I know biting is unfortunately a problem that takes time to correct... we just aren't sure how to go about correcting it, at this point!
As Lakota mentioned if you're not playing with her until SHE is tired (not until you get bored/run out of time/ect) then all you're doing is getting her excited and actually making your problem worse.

Play with her until she's panting and so tired that she won't play anymore. If you do that a few times a day it should help.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamie.lynne View Post
PS - We are also working on clicker training. Whiskey knows "up" (stand on two back legs) and "sit." I just started teaching her "lie down" today. We are also training her to come when called and she is doing well. She is very intelligent & responsive, she has a big dose of kitty stubbornness when it comes to getting her to STOP doing things.

I have considered Feliway plug-ins to help curb the aggression, but unfortunately the refills are just too expensive if we needed it long-term. Does anyone think Rescue Remedy might help?
Clicker training is a great idea! See if you can catch her before she bites and gets too wound up. She's doing that because she's bored, so she comes to you, gives you a chomp and then YAY! WE PLAY THE CHASE GAME! So now, she's biting to get attention. She needs to learn to ask for attention in nice ways, which means YOU need to give her attention when she's being good.

When she walks over to you ask her to 'sit' or 'up' or 'lie down'. When she does it grab a toy and play for a bit. She'll eventually learn that doing something good will result in play time, and you won't get bit anymore!

IMO feliway won't help. Feliway diffusers help cats who have anxieties...your girl is just bored and has kitten energy. If you don't find positive ways to get that energy out she'll find her own ways, and you won't like them at all.

...I'd think about another kitten for her to play with. I'm not suggesting this lightly because you would need to be able to afford another kitten, and deal with the times when one is playful and the other isn't, but from experience it's generally easier having two kittens. As a happy bonus the other kitten will teach her how much bite pressure is too much, and they can wrestle and play together so you won't always have to amuse her. At 5 months an intro is most likely going to be easy, but there is a chance that it won't go well and you need to be prepared for it.
If you do go this route my preference would be to get another kitten that's about her age, not too much younger or older. After all, you want them to be play buddies!

A note on 'stubbornness'...you always listened to your parents when you were a kid, right? If you were anything like me, of course you didn't! How much of the time you didn't listen was it because you forgot, or got distracted, or didn't hear them the first time? I did a TON of that, WAAAAY more that I was 'willfully disobedient'. Your kitten isn't even a child and she has much less self control than even a toddler. Keep that in mind when you interact with her.

She isn't being stubborn when she doesn't listen to you, she's doing something fun and you're telling her to do something boring. It's just that simple. You have to give her a reason to make the right choices.

Try to always give her a 'good' choice when you want her to change her behavior. As an example: "Whiskey, don't chew my shoes! Here, have a toy you can chew on!", or "Hey! No climbing the curtains! Here's your scratch post that's just right for climbing." Or "Ouch! Don't bite me! Here's a nice big toy you can wrestle and bite all you want!"

If you don't show her what the right choices are she'll never make them in the future and you'll have a much harder time changing her behavior.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LakotaWolf View Post
There's another suggestion I can make - and I'm sure I'm going to get criticized for this, but here goes:

My cat was a bit of a spastic, unprovoked biter for a while after my dog died (they were best friends, and the dog's death drastically affected the cat's behavior). She would suddenly decide to bite after calmly sitting near you for a while, or she would bite after being petted for a few seconds. She was never provoked or "over-petted", she simply decided to bite randomly.

The spray bottle didn't work, nor did any of the other "common" methods of light punishment. She began to bite other people as well, and that became unacceptable.

Whenever she would bite, I would try my best to scare the living daylights out of her. I shouted "NO" repeatedly in my deepest voice, pounded the carpet near her with my palms, stomped my feet, and made several threatening gestures. A few times, if the biting was particularly egregious, I would grab her scruff firmly for a few seconds while shouting "NO". Basically, I was trying to scare her as much as possible without actually hurting her or getting too physical.

She would generally then retreat to hide behind the nearest piece of furniture, act huffy for a while, and then come back out and be completely calm again.

She was not turned into a chronically-scared cat by this, and the biting behavior stopped after just a few days of this.

A cat isn't a stupid animal, and will learn "aversion" quickly, especially if the terror only occurs when it's doing something it isn't supposed to.
I agree with the first bit of your post, but you're right you're gonna get flack for the bit I quoted!

Your cat was already upset and shaken up by losing it's buddy, so you decided that scaring the wits out of it was the solution!? I'm sorry, but that's not at all ok. Not to mention that you're not suggesting someone do that to an adult cat that they've had for years, this is a KITTEN who is still growing and developing.

Speaking from the POV who has a cat that someone tried to 'train' in the manner you're suggesting this is about the worst idea the OP could use. Jitzu is 8 and is still overcoming her fear of strangers because of methods like you described.

Using fear (with or without pain) is never the right way to train or teach anything or anyone. It might be effective, but what damage could it cause in the long run? You can't know until you try, and by then it might be too late.

OP, PLEASE don't try to scare your kitten into submission.

You have a very rambunctious kitten who just doesn't know all the rules yet. She's still a baby and she's still learning, you're an adult and it's your responsibility to react to her in a positive and understanding way. If you use fear to 'train' her you risk creating a cat who is fearful of all people and cannot be medicated, touched, or interacted with without a great deal of work.
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Old 10-25-2012, 06:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you both! The Mr & I will make a point to wear her out more often. My husband already plays with her a lot, including chasing her around (which I'm not sure helps the whole overly-excited thing, but they both love it). It is so hard to wear her down!

Librarychick, I have been trying to take the approach you talked about -- I know that I am the adult human, so I am the one who has the responsibility to figure out how to communicate to Whiskey what is & isn't appropriate behavior. I haven't gotten too horribly overwhelmed with her, but I think my husband does sometimes. I've explained this way of approaching the situation to him, and he agrees, but he gets frustrated since he's had less experience with cats. It's difficult not to see her as 'stubborn,' especially when it seems like she is hesitant about doing something we've made clear is 'bad.' For instance, it's a rule that she can't come up to us & try to eat or sniff at our food when we're on the couch. I know she knows we don't like her to do it, because she tries to come up all sneakily, sometimes from over our shoulders, haha! But I also know that the smell of food is probably overwhelming for her and it just takes time and repetition for her to learn.

When she does bite or latch on, what should be our response to get her to stop in the moment? Making noise works (eg the canned air) but only for a second. Even when she doesn't break the skin, her attacks are pretty painful and all I can think about is how to get her off me!

Also -- I'm worried that if we play with her right after she bites/attacks, she might get the idea that it is okay to ask for attention that way. So should we wait until she is being good and reward her with play only then, like you said?

And no worries about us scaring her. We've found that very little alarms her, so we know it wouldn't be effective, anyway!
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Old 10-25-2012, 06:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OH! And as for getting another kitten -- the idea has come up, but we just can't afford it. In addition, the house we're renting is pretty tiny, and I have no idea where we'd put a second litter box, or where the kitties would go to have separate alone time :/

Maybe someday, though...
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Old 10-26-2012, 03:07 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Since another kitten is out of the question, can you provide play items that the kitten can have fun with even when you aren't around?

Librarychick's post was outstanding!
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Old 10-26-2012, 09:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I'll likely be in trouble, too....but I have a biter. He's definitely not being aggressive....he simply loves to lick and mouth people, and this behaviour slowly becomes biting, which will get hard if he is left alone.

I simply tap his nose with one finger and say "no biting" very firmly. I also withdraw from play for a moment. He then usually licks me and looks contrite.

It took many repetitions of this for him to really get it....and he will still work himself up into biting mode when he is being very affectionate...but one warning will de-escalate him very quickly.

He has never reacted fearfully to the discipline or to me. His mum would have given him a good cuffing if he'd tried it with her!

The next thing up I would try if this doesn't work would be to find a time out spot...where the cat can be contained without interaction briefly, and place your kitten there without any reaction or interaction at all as you do it.....just for a couple of minutes.

Another thing to try is to take the kitten by the scruff of the neck.....it will relax...and firmly place it away from you when it bites.

I use the scruff hold to relax my hyper cat sometimes, not as punishment, too. He almost swoons and looks ecstatic, and it will help him if he going too nuts. This reaction might be peculiar to him, though!
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Old 10-27-2012, 09:00 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Our cat was absolutely vicious when he was a kitten, around 4-5 months old. He was just as you describe yours. I tried everything you've tried, and I even tried pulling him away by the scruff of his neck, as I'd heard that when they are kittens their mother does that if they're being too rough. That didn't work, either, though.

I'm sorry to say, I had to ride it out. By about a year old, he'd slowed right down on the biting, and I don't think he's bitten me since then (and that was two years ago). You may end up having to do the same. It's only a kitten phase. Some kittens get it worse than others, and you and I got the short straws.

The only thing I ever found that worked was something I actually learnt from a dog behaviourist, who suggested letting out a high pitched squeal when a dog was getting too rough, as that's how other dogs would let them know they were hurt. For a laugh, I tried it on my cat; the next time he bit me I let out a very high pitched squeak - it frightened him to death and he ran away! (I wouldn't recommend that as a long-term solution though...)

Last edited by fizzletto; 10-27-2012 at 09:03 AM.
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Old 10-27-2012, 11:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Arianwen, we have one of those little balls in a circle track, as well as other little toys she can bat around. Unfortunately she just doesn't seem interested unless we're there to make the toys move! I'm thinking about looking into some puzzle treat toys.

dlowen, that's actually exactly what my mom suggested we do -- lightly tap her on the nose and say 'NO!' I know it can work with puppies, but to be honest I'm a bit nervous trying it with Whiskey. I think she'd see it as a counterattack & would respond with more biting / scratching!

fizzletto, I'm really hoping this is just a stage, as you said!
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