First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior. - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

My wife and I adopted a 9 month old cat December 26th, 2008. I'm a first time cat owner, but my wife had a few when she was younger. I've been scouring the web trying to learn cat behavior so I don't accidentally annoy or anger Jasper and so I can try to serve him as best as I can as his owner.

The first few weeks were great. He was very loving, preferring to be in our laps and always purring and he just absolutely loved to be held! I thought we got really lucky. I expected lots of bad kitty behavior like unwarranted biting and scratching.

He is still that sweet, loving cat that we adopted... for the first 15 minutes that we walk into the house from work. After that, he's **** on wheels. We'll walk past him and he'll lunge and bite our legs. He loves playing rough with our hands, which I don't really mind, but from what I've read it is a bad habit for cats to get into. He has even bitten my wifes face a few times. In his defense, I do not think he was meaning to attack or hurt, but it did leave a mark.

We've tried a few things to curtail this behavior. One, grabbing the scruff of the neck and redirecting him. I don't know if this pisses him off or if he considers this "rough play" but he only comes back more aggressive. Two, spray bottle. This works, for the most part. If he's getting too aggressive with us sometimes all we have to do is put our hands on the bottle and he'll calm down. He'll even squint his eyes like he's preparing to get sprayed in the face. It's kind of cute, actually. Three, lots and lots of play. We bought him many toys, including a laser which he absolutely loves. This does help drain his energy.

I'm really at my wits end. I'm stuck, too, because we already love him so much that we cannot return him to the adoption place. We know we're in it for the long haul. We just can't cope being ambushed and bitten in our own home. It was cute at first, but after countless bloody shins, faces, and forearms, enough is enough.

Example from this morning of his bad behavior. Maybe someone can analyze it.

Woke up this morning with Jasper waiting by our door. He slept with us for the most part, but we had to put him out because he wanted to play and climb in our covers and bite our thighs and ankles. He greeted me with a meow so I petted him and then picked him up and took a walk around the living room. He purred and was rubbing his face on my neck.

It was time for me to get ready for work, so I drew up the window blinds so he could look outside and put him down. As I walk away, he runs in front of me. He's actually just trying to rub up against my legs, but he's tripping me up. I have to just carefully walk around him. I get ready without further interference. I give him some morning treats for being so cute.

I go in the bedroom to give my wife a kiss and he sneaks in like always. I walk out and call his name and he eventually comes. I reward him with petting and more treats. I grab my stuff and walk out.

Once I get outside I realize it's too cold not to have grabbed my coat, so I go in for it. He's still finishing up his snacks. I grab the coat and walk out and out of nowhere he blind sides me with a swift bite to the shins. He really dug in, too. Luckily I was wearing jeans. I yelled "Jasper, NO! Ow!" etc, etc. It didn't even phase him. He lunged at me a few more times and finally I had to grab a couch pillow and shoo him far away so I could escape out the front door.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

Wow, sorry for the incredibly long post guys. Here's a few pictures of Jasper to make up for it.



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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 10:51 AM
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

What a cutie!

If Jasper was 9 months when you got him, he is 11 months now, only just starting to get toward the end of the kitten stage. So he probably hasn't learned yet that it hurts when he bites your hands - you don't have the furry protection that his littermates did! I would completely stop letting him play with hands, and maybe start the play session during those 15 minutes of "sweet" when you get home, before he has usually started to go crazy - trying to pre-empt the aggressive play before it starts. And if he does bite, I would make the play session stop right then and there - walk away and ignore him for a while, without even trying to redirect. Help him see that biting does not get him more play or attention. On the flip side, I would try to reward "good" behavior (playing with a toy rather than a hand, sitting on your lap, etc.) consistenly with verbal praise, a treat, and/or a head-scritch, so he can get used to what you expect.

Hope some of that helps!
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 11:29 AM Thread Starter
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

Quote:
Originally Posted by weebeasties
What a cutie!

If Jasper was 9 months when you got him, he is 11 months now, only just starting to get toward the end of the kitten stage. So he probably hasn't learned yet that it hurts when he bites your hands - you don't have the furry protection that his littermates did! I would completely stop letting him play with hands, and maybe start the play session during those 15 minutes of "sweet" when you get home, before he has usually started to go crazy - trying to pre-empt the aggressive play before it starts. And if he does bite, I would make the play session stop right then and there - walk away and ignore him for a while, without even trying to redirect. Help him see that biting does not get him more play or attention. On the flip side, I would try to reward "good" behavior (playing with a toy rather than a hand, sitting on your lap, etc.) consistenly with verbal praise, a treat, and/or a head-scritch, so he can get used to what you expect.

Hope some of that helps!
Thanks for the post! I didn't realize he would exhibit some of his kitten behavior. That does relieve my mind a bit.

When he is in full blown crazy cat mode and will not calm down, what do you suggest? We've also tried putting him in time out. The thing is, he likes being everywhere we put him... Even his Pet Taxi, believe it or not!
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 11:38 AM
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

He's adorable

You should be thrilled that he loves being in his carrier - really wouldn't try to get himto associate that with punishment or you'll have a nightmare ever trying to get him in there to take him to the vet!

As weebeasties said - the most effective punishment for cats is often just ignoring them and walking away. If he learns that certain behaviour doesn't get him any attention then hopefully he'll stop doing it.

Good luck


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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 12:15 PM
 
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

my cat used to have a play aggression problem. when she bit me if i grabbed her and try to pull her off she'd bite harder. I guess she is just being an animal. I found blowing on her nose works really well! it doesn't hurt her but she hates it so she'll let go and run away.
she used to bite my legs too, so I got a water sprayer for plants and I'd spray her with it. she learned pretty fast that if she bites my legs she gets wet.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 01:45 PM
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

Just seconding the good advice you are getting from everyone! Your kitty might have missed some lessons from his siblings and mother in early kittenhood regarding how to bite playfully, how to respond when your playmate (feline or human) is communicating 'this is fun' or 'ouch that hurts'. This is very common among kitties that are adopted early. Preempt him by offering interactive toys, things that sparkle, roll, jingle, etc. Soon your kitty will learn to have fun the way that works for you, as well as the way he knows, and you'll have an ever better bond with him. He sounds like a bright, charming fellow and you've got a great start...

Fran
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

Thanks everyone for the wonderful advice.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 10:07 PM
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

Excellent cat behavior authors are:

Pam Johnson-Bennett
Wendy Christensen
Dr. Larry Lachman
Dr. Bruce Fogle
John C. Wright
Roger Tabor

all recommended
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 11:47 PM
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Re: First time cat owner. Need some help reading behavior.

The good news is that your kitty will most likely grow out of this. Our Elfie used to attack us like that. If we'd crawl on the ground he'd actually go for our necks, trying to bit and cling. We could wave our hands from a standing position and he would leap into the air in an attempt to cling onto our arms! That behavior continued until he was about 2, and then he started to mellow out. Now he's almost 13, and he's as gentle and mellow as can be.
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