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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-18-2016, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Biting issue

Hi everyone! I'm new here and new in cats too! Hope to get good advice from here about cats.

My husband and I just recently adopted two cats. The 2-year-old male is a perfect cat and a favorite in the house: always stick with you, have to check out everything you do, like to chat with all kinds of cute, amusing sounds, and very well behaved (NEVER BITE PEOPLE) - except for some occasional scratching on our furniture to get more attention. He is mature and kitten-like playful at the same time. He has very sensitive stomach though. We're now trying to find the best food for him - don't want him to be on Science Diet - but unfortunately high quality dry food seems to cause him severe diarrhea (we did a good transition from old to new). Anyway we are working on that and hope to get him the best food we can without upsetting his stomach.

The other cat, a 1.5-year-old female, however, has some behavior issues. She is such a mellow cutie when she's sleepy and we adore her. But when she's excited, she does A LOT OF love/play bites when we pet her and likes to bite whatever come in handy - carpet, box, cable, paper, etc. We don't think it's a medical issue since everything else (sleep, playing, eating) is fine. Most of time it's not due to stress/fear because she usually gives biting/licking combination, which shows she's enjoying petting, although getting a little overstimulated. She does other kinds of bites too, for example, when we pick her up from the dinner table or when she's sleeping (in inappropriate place). This I can see is a sign of upset/anger/stress. The biting issue revealed itself about one week when she came to our home. At the shelter and when she first arrived, she is super affectionate and couldn't get enough petting and didn't show a sign of aggression. Then she suddenly changed into a super energetic cat and cannot get enough play/chasing the other cat, and when not satisfied, lashed out in biting.

When the behavior first appeared, we did a lot of research online, and sticked to the procedure of shouting loudly -- slowly pulling back our hand -- walking out of the room and leaving her calm herself a bit -- coming back with toys. Didn't work. Then we talked to the people in the shelter and came to the conclusion that she just had too much energy and need to burn out with play sessions. Then we paid attention to when she gets excited, came with a wand toy and burned her out. It worked like a charm in the first two days - largely reduced bitings - then when we couldn't stick with 10 play sessions a day (she's energetic whenever she's awake but we really have work to do. Plus she's not very into toys, so it takes some time to get her interact with the toy and she will gain back energy very soon), she went back to it. It's really frustrated that we can't interact with her in a way that makes both sides happy and can't see a hope for improvement.

She also have other issues like not being able to cover poops appropriately (so it's easy for the poop to stick on her feet) and occasionally peed out of the box when there is at least one clean box available (we ruled out medical issue and think it may be due to bad parenting), etc. These are minor issues that we can stand. What really concerns us is the biting problem. Even if we get used to it, in a few years we'll have our own baby, we're afraid that she will treat the baby with aggression too.

We're struggling with whether we should return her to the shelter. On the one hand, she has been with us for two months and we really love her. The idea of giving her up make us feel really bad. On the other hand, if she persists in this habit and when she really shows aggression to the future baby and we have to give her away, by that time she will be very bonded to us and will suffer even larger trauma; also, she'll be older then and it'll be harder for her to be re-adopted if we have to give her to a shelter. So we're begging for advice: how to deal with her biting issue (maybe not the traditional ways since we've almost tried them all)? whether we should return her now when we're less bonded and when she has higher possibility of being re-adopted? Or whether we should wait and see what she'll do in a few years? Any input is appreciated!


Cissy
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-21-2016, 08:26 AM
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To be absolutely honest I don`t have a magic cure, but you could put lemon juice on your hands? Cats hate citrus taste. I put it on all my computers and stuff I don`t want her touching and she leaves it alone- And my cat TRIED to like the citrus taste, but couldn`t handle it! She never bites my stuff now even thogh the lemon has worn off. I have lemons spare ready just in case she tries again though.

I`m sure others have better ideas.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-24-2016, 03:51 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Socratatus! We tried lemon/orange juice mixed spray when she's scratching our bedroom door non-stop several times a night (we do not allow them in because they will chase each other and step on us, also one likes to scratch on the bed and the other sometimes has pee/poop on feet, which makes impossible to sleep well). She's not afraid of it at all. Even some other tricks like double-sided tape don't work too. I guess the best way is just to pet her less. But the problem still remains that when we have a baby or other family members come to stay she may bite when being pet/touched...

Last edited by marie73; 10-24-2016 at 04:24 AM.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-24-2016, 01:42 PM
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Your female cat at 1.5 yrs., has her personality pretty much fixed. What you see is likely what you're going to get. You've done all the right things in trying to curb her biting....at her age now, she should be growing out of the "terrible teens", when some kittens are very rambunctious and bitey. Her biting could definitely be a problem with a baby or toddler or visitors. You would have to isolate her from visitors. With your own baby you would be constantly on the watch to make sure your baby didn't get bitten. With this cat's excessive energy it would be a real chore to try and wear her out, as most of your time you would be directed at the baby. There could even be jealousy issues if this cat thinks the baby is getting too much attention. Something to think about. Not every cat is suitable for a family situation and should be "adult only". Your male cat sounds like a sweetheart and a keeper for sure. It won't be an easy decision as I know how much you love the cat. I wish you all the best!

"There are no ordinary cats.";"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."~ Colette
"A loving cat can mend a wounded heart." ~ Unknown Author
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in avatar -- "Always in my heart."
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-25-2016, 01:54 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks catloverami!

Yeah we're also concerned with the jealous issue. We first suspected that she was a jealous cat because she always "bullied" the other cat -- always started up a fight, always wanted to be on top and was always the one who's chasing, despite that he's larger and much stronger than her, and he's not always interested in wresting (it's getting better since he's fighting back more often). But we noticed that these "fights" always started with her grooming him, which is a sign of affection. So we're not sure if she's bullying him/being jealous or not. Even if she's not jealous, she's often the more fierce one -- always kicks his head with back legs while he seldom does it (he bites and uses front legs to push her away or hit her head, no claws out), sometimes with claws out and seemingly heavy biting. She seems to enjoy the fighting and not feel threaten - sometimes has flatten ears but quickly resumes to normal when not kicking, give lick/bite combination, never hisses or runs away, always wants more fight and likes to chase him. He obvious has the ability to fight back but we guess he's just good tempered and knows better of the boundaries of a playful fight. She does the exactly same thing to our hands with kicking back legs and claws and bites. We think she just can't tell us from other cats she plays with, while he obviously understands the difference.

She also likes to take his toys and bed (which resulted in him backing up or a small fight) - but NEVER FOOD cause he's really serious about having his own dishes - which may be another sign of jealousy or trying to show dominance. All these types of behaviors makes us worried about what she will do to a baby who she can't recognize as a non-cat and a fragile creature.

That being said, we heard someone else said if we gave her back it's very possible that she will be returned again and again to the shelter because of her behavior issues. We don't want see that happens! And today I invented a new game for her (she's not a big fan of wand toys) - tossing her toys around and letting her run to get the toy and then giving her treats. She's a food-lover and loves this game and she hasn't bitten since then! I know it's only been a short period of time and it's hard to tell, but maybe she's more worn out and feels more bonded with me with this more interactive game? Maybe I'm just soothing myself. But I do hope there's a chance that she can improve and we can keep her.

Last edited by marie73; 10-25-2016 at 02:33 AM.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-25-2016, 03:25 AM Thread Starter
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BTW, I'm curious about the percentage of cats with this type of personality - bitey and with excessive energy. Are most cats like this or like Roger, who knows well about the play boundaries, and can tell the difference between his playmates and people so never bite us? With two samples - and very different two samples - it's hard to tell what cats generally are like. If the expectation is "well Iris's just being a cat and you must have very good luck to have Roger" then giving her back may not make things better. We do want two cats to keep each other's company. Maybe we would end up with another cat with even more serious problems.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-25-2016, 05:01 PM
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I have no idea what the percentage might be of shelter cats. With purebred cats where the breeder is conscientious it would not be such a gamble, as majority of well bred purebred cats (with titles) have had aggression/biteyiness bred out of them. A cat that shows aggression or bites a judge at a cat show will not go far, nor get any titles such as Champion or Grand Champion. Also, genetics plays a part....with domestics one may not even know what its parents were like in terms of temperament or activity level. With purebreds, some breeds genetically are more placid and calm (Persians British Shorthairs, Burmese) and others very active and rambunctious (Cornish Rex, and Abyssinians) for example.

An awful lot depends on the cats early upbringing, and how long it stayed with its littermates and its momacat. Most cats that stay with their momacat for at least 11-12 wks, even a little longer is better, since between the ages of 5wks to 12 wks, they learn what it is to be a cat, able to read cat body language, learn to control its bite and claws by wrestling with its littermates and interaction with momacat. If the breeder/owner of momacat was diligent in also teaching the kitty manners, e.g. if kitty is picked up and held it doesn't get put down again until you wish no matter how much it squirms to get away. Kitty learns to be calm and know it will then get down to go play or whatever. Kitty should get lots of interaction with different things...., playing with toys, visitors, friendly dogs or other pets, strange noises, music. This should all be part of its socialization so that it grows up to be a friendly outgoing pet that doesn't bite or scratch. Your girl may have missed out on this early stage, as many kitties do that are found somewhere and brought into a shelter at an early age, and unless it gets its socialization in a foster home, may never have learned "manners". If you decide to get another cat from a shelter I would certainly get one from a good foster home, or from someone you know "put in the time" to raise the kitten properly. Hope this has helped to answer your questions.

"There are no ordinary cats.";"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."~ Colette
"A loving cat can mend a wounded heart." ~ Unknown Author
Alkitotle aka "Alkee", "Lambie" (July 2/04 - Oct. 2/15) -- white Devon Rex
in avatar -- "Always in my heart."
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 10-26-2016, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catloverami View Post
I have no idea what the percentage might be of shelter cats. With purebred cats where the breeder is conscientious it would not be such a gamble, as majority of well bred purebred cats (with titles) have had aggression/biteyiness bred out of them. A cat that shows aggression or bites a judge at a cat show will not go far, nor get any titles such as Champion or Grand Champion. Also, genetics plays a part....with domestics one may not even know what its parents were like in terms of temperament or activity level. With purebreds, some breeds genetically are more placid and calm (Persians British Shorthairs, Burmese) and others very active and rambunctious (Cornish Rex, and Abyssinians) for example.

An awful lot depends on the cats early upbringing, and how long it stayed with its littermates and its momacat. Most cats that stay with their momacat for at least 11-12 wks, even a little longer is better, since between the ages of 5wks to 12 wks, they learn what it is to be a cat, able to read cat body language, learn to control its bite and claws by wrestling with its littermates and interaction with momacat. If the breeder/owner of momacat was diligent in also teaching the kitty manners, e.g. if kitty is picked up and held it doesn't get put down again until you wish no matter how much it squirms to get away. Kitty learns to be calm and know it will then get down to go play or whatever. Kitty should get lots of interaction with different things...., playing with toys, visitors, friendly dogs or other pets, strange noises, music. This should all be part of its socialization so that it grows up to be a friendly outgoing pet that doesn't bite or scratch. Your girl may have missed out on this early stage, as many kitties do that are found somewhere and brought into a shelter at an early age, and unless it gets its socialization in a foster home, may never have learned "manners". If you decide to get another cat from a shelter I would certainly get one from a good foster home, or from someone you know "put in the time" to raise the kitten properly. Hope this has helped to answer your questions.

You're right. Adopting cats from a shelter is like gambling, and when luck goes against you it may really stress you out, especially for a first-time cat owner. Our original plan was to adopt one adult cat (so the personality is known) first and wait for a few years before we either adopt or buy one or two kittens so that we can have a better control of its/their personality and behaviors. We ended up adopting two because we couldn't walk away from both of them in the shelter. If it was not Roger, we would probably think cats are all like Iris and may give up having more cats. In fact Roger is the one whose background is unknown to us as he was a stray who meowed at a family's front door before they took him to SPCA, while Iris we know was from a multi-cat family where she was raised as a kitten (but seems that they didn't really pay attention to her behaviors). It came as a real surprise that Roger is a sweetheart while Iris is a ... mix of demon and angel. We'll definitely think very carefully before we decide whether to keep her or give her back (btw the new game doesn't work. She's biting again). But if we did return her , your advice is really valuable when we go for another second cat (maybe a purebred if we got the time to do a though research on the breed and breeders).
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