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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please Hepl- I just don't know what to do now... :(

Sake is the cutest little thing, (thats her in the avatar), but we have some very serious issues with her, that I dearly hope we can solve. Mainly her claws and her teeth.
She BITES, Alot. I've done everything I can think of. I've pushed my hand back into her mouth when she does it, I've coated my hands in bitter apple, I've put her down and ignored her when she bites, I've hissed, I've made sharp sounds to get her attention, I've redirected her attention onto toys.... Still she bites. Last week she drew blood. She simply walked up to me climbed up in my lap and tried to chew on the pen I had in my hand. When I didn't let her have it right away She chomped down hard on my finger. I'm now on a 2 week course of antibiotics. I spent a lot of my free time playing with Sake to try and wear her out. She loves to chase this firry string thing on a stick we got her as well as a furry mouse she got for christmas. Nothing seems to help. I'm a certified trainer but I don't have much expereince with cats really.
Now for the claws. Our couch is leather and is being ripped to shreds but not on purpose. Sake is very very good about using her scratching post and if she slipps up and forgets where he is allowed to scratch she usues the rug in the bathroom. The problem is that she is jumping form couch to couch or running back and for on one of the couches trying to play. Sometimes she falls off the couch or doesnt jump far enough when she is trying to get from one couch to the other and slides down the couch with her claws. So there are lots of little holes and tiny scratches that are getting bigger by the day. Now the plan when we first got Sake was to keep her claws clipped short and to put Soft Claws on them when she got big enough. To that end I played with Sake's feet and nails all the time. I used to be able to clip them all by myself. As the weeks went by Sake got worse and worse and worse about her nails. Now I cannot clip them unless my husband scruffs her and holds her back feet. She yowls and screams, (I didn't know cats could scream), and gets amazingly upset in general. If she happens to get loose you are assured of a nasty bite or scratch or both. Right after christmas I was able to put soft claws on her front feet but most of them fell off within a week. Today my husband clipped her back nails and we together tried to put the soft claws on. Sake was the worst she has ever been. I gave up and non of the caps stayed on probably I couldn't get her to hold still long enough to make sure the cap stuck. I was so afraid she was going to have a seizure she was so upset. That or she was going to get hurt, or we were going to get hurt. If I have to go to the doctor again I am sure Sake will be in touble. The last time a family friend saw me and agreed to let the incident slide and not report her. All animal bites have to be reported in our county those animals have to report for Quarintene. I simply cannot afford the charge for that, it's like $$150.00$$$ !!!

We have always tried to be positive with Sake, never correcting her out of anger or trying to "punish" her for anything. I did my homework on de-clawing and I know how controversial it is. I personaly am very against it. I don't know though, in this case I might have to make an exception, for the safety of both my husband and I and Sake' too. Although if we can't solve the bitting issue her calws may be the least of her worries. I just don't know what to do. My husband now want to take Sake to the shelter. That is NOT going to happen. I do have a friend that I work with that really wants her and has from the first time she saw her in the clinic. However all of her cats are outdoor cats, something else I am very against. On the other hand I don't feel comfortable placing Sake with a nice family wanting an indoor kitty since Sake has such a bad biting problem. She will even try to claw her bite you in the face if she isn't happy about something.
I am soooo at the end of my rope. My husband and I aren't even speaking to eachother today because he is so upset about the cat. I have wanted a cat for as long as I can remember and now I have one it is just a huge disaster. I don't know what to do. Please help!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 01:54 PM
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Poor little Saké is just being a kitten, and it sounds like she's wanting attention and affection. Sometimes a frustrated kitten will bite hard trying to initiate play. She's not being mean, she just forgets that you don't have a nice fur coat to protect you from her claws and teeth. She's doing what she would do if you were a sibling kitten and she wanted to play. Kittens have a lot of energy, and need a lot of play to burn that energy off. Keep in mind she's also developing her paw-eye coordination.
About clipping her claws, you might be clipping them too short, and accidently hurting her. Here's a link to a page with photos to guide you in your clipping technique.

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 02:02 PM
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Leia, a couple of questions:

How old is Sake? She looks like a kitten in your avatar. If so, the behavior you describe should improve with age. Kittens can be very wild and destructive when they play.

Can you describe her behavior before the biting occurs? Is she attacking or just playing? Is it possible she is getting overstimulated (too much petting, seeing strange cats in the yard, etc.)?

Have you looked into having her claws clipped by an animal professional?

As you mentioned, declawing is controversial for many reasons. What you may not know is that declawing can turn cats into biters -- without claws, cats only have their teeth left as a defense mechanism. It sounds like biting is your biggest issue here, so you certainly don't want to make it worse.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 05:37 PM
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Cali was very bad about biting (and I was warned) when I first got her. It seriously took about two months. Mostly what worked was just putting her down off me, off the bed and just not letting her near me. She got tired of that, I guess.

I take my two big girls to the vet to have their nails clipped. It's worth the money (and not very expensive). I still do the twins, but now that they're getting bigger, it's getting trickier. I may just take all of them in pretty soon.

I've had to rehome a kitten before, and it absolutely broke my heart, but sometimes you have to do the hard thing that's best for everyone involved.

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
 
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Actualy I AM the animal professional, I am a groomer and I work in a vet clinic. I have never had so much trouble clipping nails of anykind. I regually clip my rats and my ferret's nails as well as the dogs and of course all of my clients I see for grooming, many of which (too many in my opinion), are cats. A cat that behaves likes Sake' did this morning would be a canidate for sedation and I don't want to go down that road. I have strong feelings about even light sedation unless there is really no other way. I want to get her to the point that she is OK with her nail trims and understands that I am NOT going to clip off a toe, (however tempting it may be from time to time )

The BITING:
Sake' Kitty is ummmm almost 5 months old, not yet spayed. I gots to wait for my tax refund
Her behavior has been getting worse and worse as she gets older. The behavior IS playful at times but othertimes it is definitly not. I hesitate to call them attacks though, I'd like to think there is some cause we can fix. If only I can get into that little kitty mind of hers!

Sometimes Sake' is overstimulated and these are the times where I just put her down on the floor and let her alone. Othertimes, have been accidents as well, like the time my hubby was tapping his foot during dinner without realizing it or realizing that Sake' was around. Thats not kitty's fault. Nor is it her fault when hubby forgets that he cannot play with her with his hands. We are working very hard on getting her to understand that biting us is not acceptable, but she can bite her toys. Usualy the bites are aimed at ankels, hands, and unfortantly the face. I am the usualy target, not my husband. I'd say the hands and ankels take about 60% of the punishment and the face gets the other 40%. Last night Sake was being quiet after about 3 hours of playtime with various toys, (by toys I mean we were playing with her with the toys), and the dogs. She hoped up on the couch and was laying on my outstreached legs past the knee. I was not moving, at all. I was making a concious effort to stay still so as not to temp Sake. I try very hard to to give her to oppurtunity to repeat a behavior I don't like. Repition is bad in this case. No dice within two minutes she had nailed me just above the ankle. Now when she bites in those cases I try not to give her a big response. I don't want her to think she can do that and make mommy or daddy jump. I picked her up by her scruff and put her on the floor. I didnt snatch her up off my legs or anything either, and I didn't make a huge production over it. It was simply, Ok you bite and you can't lay here. Today she jumped my husband who was standing still, not moving. I watched this. Today I am starting to keep a diary of when she does things and the circumstances. Today we have had two incidents so far. She also jumped from the counter onto my shoulder and then almost suceeded in biting me in the eye. As it is I do have a scratch just below my eye. I don't know what promted that. I wasn't even standing all that close to the counter. My husband had to get her off me because I couldn't quite get a hold on her. Other times she will jump up into my lap and just have a go at my face, and there have been times she she has been curled up on my chest or shoulder while I was reading and suddenly decided my eyes looked tasty. Oh a side note: I don't breath on her if I can help it. I know if you blow on their ears or the back of their head or into their face it can be irritating. My dogs hate it as well. I thought at one time that might be what was prompting the facial assaults but no more.

Some questions:
-Can the age at which a kitten was removed from his/her litter mates and mother have an effect on their behavior? It CAN in dogs. We "rescued" Sake' at 4-5 weeks old. We were unaware of how young she was, I was told by the friend who got her from the "breeder" that she was nine weeks old. Then after the fact said friend admitted she had known the kitten was only 4 weeks old. We got her the day after our friend brought her home. It's a whole long story poor Sake!
-Can the fact that a kitten had no or only one other litter mate affect it's behavior later. Puppies that have no litter mates can be predisposed to agression and fear issues if not socialized early on. There were only two kittens born in Sake's litter and I am unclear on weather or not the other kitten survived.
-Can color effect behavior. Maybe this one is silly and please nobody get offended, but I was grooming a white cat two weeks ago and had to have help. The kitty was very very unhappy and it was to late to sedate. The tech said that most of the white cats they see are unfriendly in the clinic. She said my kitten was the first one to be sweet to her. I looked at her like she had green hair, and was very offended at first. Buuuuutttt, it's an interesting question.

I can't think of any more specific info to give. I am trying to convince hubby not to be angry with sake'. I do need help though. So far clicker training hasn't been going to well and he is getting fed up with watching me try and train a cat. Then again I don't care if I can get her to come when called at this point. What I mostly care about is putting a stop to her trying to bite me in the face. That isn't withing the limit of things I am willing to put up with.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 06:29 PM
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Well, about the clipping of the nails, my groomer can't do her own pets' nails. My cats are little angels with her, but the one time I tried, I got scratched so badly, I will never attempt it again.

As far as the rest, I really don't have any other advice, but I can see how much you love her.

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 10:26 PM
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Three words: patience, patience, patience.
At five months old Saké is still just a baby, and remember that she hasn't had the advantage of being socialized with mother cat and siblings for eight to twelve weeks. That is a big setback to a kitten. It sounds like you're doing the right thing, just keep on. Remember to be consistent. When Saké exceeds her boundaries and starts getting too rough the fun always stops immediately. Sit up, ignore her, and fold your hands and/or cross your legs so she doesn't have access to play.
It may sound silly, but you could try getting a pair of leather welding gloves to protect your hands and arms. I did that for Sam (beloved Bridge kitty) when I first rescued him from an abusive situation. The gloves let me play with him enough to wear him out without getting my skin shredded. And later, I successfully used the gloves to teach him discretion in using his teeth and claws. Sam grew up to be a loving companion and a genius kitty.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 10:58 PM
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The fact that Saki did not have her mother or littermates around is a huge factor in her socialization skills. Both mom & sibs help to teach boundaries, so she hasn't had the benefit of that experience.

The other thing to know is that she is at the age where she is teething. So her gums are probably sore, which is part of the reason you're seeing this escalate.

A few things you can try; Feliway diffusers to help calm her down in general. Rescue Remedy to calm her before clipping her nails. How about wrapping her in a towel for nail clipping (or will that freak her more?). Your husband also needs to stop playing with her with his hands, not try to stop...just stop.

I would take the opposite approach with your reaction when she attacks...instead of staying calm, I would let out a yell and make a bit of a fuss like I'm crying so she knows it's causing a negative reaction. Along with pushing her away and ignoring her for a while. Time outs also help, when she's biting, put her in the bathroom for 10-15 minutes.

One other thing that could be affecting her...are you sure she can hear? I can't see what color her eyes are, but white cats with blue eyes are often deaf.

And the last suggestion is not one I make lightly and rarely do, but getting her a friend of the same age may actually help. It will help with teaching boundaries and give her someone to work off excess energy with.


Moving this to Behavior for you...


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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 08:58 AM
 
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Just a quick note about the nail clipping. Our Annie was pretty much the same as your sake in the beginning about the nail clipping. When she was a kitten, as long as she was drowsy, we could clip 1 or 2 paws worth of nails at a time. When she was around 7-8 months I noticed that all of a sudden she didn't want us to pick at one of her paws - turns out that she had broken one of her nails and it must have been hurting her. I think it wasn't too bad, since it didn't bleed, but it must have been irritating at least. I'm pretty sure that it happened one day when she was climbing the curtain and got stuck (but that's a whole other story ). We took her to the vet, but there wasn't much she could do except remove the broken part and let it heal on it's own. She's never been the same about nail clipping since.

Although it's probably not the best thing for her, our new routine now is to clip the nails as a team - the dh holds her and I clip the nails. The reason this works is that dh also holds a small container full of dry food and treats at the same time . I think the food/treats are enough to distract her from (or at least make her tolerate) the nail clipping. My hope is that with enough repetition, we'll only need to give her a few treats instead of letting her have as much as she can eat while I clip. Also, what type of nail clippers do you use? As a groomer, you probably have a nice set of clippers, but I found a huge improvement when I switched to the guillotine type - I think the noise they make isn't as aweful to her and we get a cleaner cut. Plus, I think repetition is important, we're trying to clip her nails once a week - whether she needs it or not

As for the biting - I wish I had some advice to offer. Whenever Annie bites, we usually say 'ouch, ouch, ouch' really loudly and act like she had half-killed us. It took her a while to catch on at first, but she rarely does it any more. But we've never had as severe a problem as you do - it was always playful when she was younger. Just a thought, I know you've tried redirecting the biting to a toy, but have you tried a small teddy bear type toy? Maybe something alittle bigger, like the size of another kitten might help? Also, if you don't have da bird - get it. It's absolutely worth every penny. Annie is relatively lazy now (she's over a year old), she won't even chase the laser for more than 5 mins. But she plays with the bird for an hour and a half three times a week - and I feel bad putting it away. Maybe if sake had something like that to take out her agression on? Keep at the clicker too - we've never used it for nail clipping, but we've been able to teach Annie a few tricks like 'high five', 'shake', 'sit', 'kisses' - but definitely not 'come'. I might try using it to teach 'down' for when she is on the counter (since we've already lost that battle!).

On a side note, it might help to know that while it seems funny, I was alittle creeped out by annie sometimes when she was a kitten. Usually, she was a little snugglebug, but every once in a while she would get this strange look in her eyes - like she was stalking me. Her eyes would get very wide, pupils dialated, and she would stare at me all wound up like a spring. some times she even made strange little peeping/chirping noises (not quite like when she sees a bird but close) Even though she was fairly tiny, it really freaked me out! Then, sometimes (especially when we were lying down or in a reclining position), she would pounce up onto us and get right into our faces so that our nose were almost touching. I used to say that it was like she saw something in our eyes that she had to see, up close, absolutely immediately. It was pretty creepy since you never knew when she would do it, and sometimes it was quite a shock! Maybe it just takes them a little while to realize that we don't like to play like that? At least Annie didn't try to bite our faces though, just our hands. I really think that you're problems will improve as sake ages, but I know that it's really tough right now. It can be so frustrating when they are kittens - we had major issues with cord chewing and curtain climbing. While it might seem funny, we had to reinforce the living room curtain rods - she was still climbing them when she was 10 months old! Finally though, she's settled down - so there is hope. Just try to hang in there alittle while longer.

Good thing this was just a quick note!
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 01:19 PM
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Gracie is hit-or-miss on cooperation with nail trimming, but we do it once a week no matter what (starting at 5 months when we got her). I find it helps to bundle her into a towel sometimes which I have spritzed in advance with Feliway, and pull out only one paw at a time to trim - especially if I don't have someone else around to help with treats. She still grumbles, but she's way mellower. I also make sure that I talk to her a lot, and acknowledge that she doesn't like it and that I'm listening. I swear it seems that she really wants to hear that I respect how she feels! I wonder if it's possible when I talk that way that she is responding to the shift in my intention - what I mean is that I'm not just focused on my own frustration?

It's the back feet that bug her most. I am sure I don't always choose exactly the right time to attempt the trimming i.e. she's too awake and into something else, or too sleepy and into something else....

Sake's story reminds me of some I read about in some wonderful cat behavior books in our library, especially Cat Confidential by Vicky Halls, and Pam Johnson-Bennetts' books. It seems like getting some help deciding on a systematic approach would be all that's needed, and it is hard to begin something like that on your own without the help of an outside observer, sometimes, even if it's only one or two consults.

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