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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Aggressive feral cat

Hello from Canada;
We have been feeding a male feral cat for two Winters. Last Winter it came for food, but would flee at the sight of us through the window. It was not around during the Summer, but appeared again at the start of Winter.
It now trusts my wife, will come when called, & even lets her pet him. We have made up a box for him in the garage where he sleeps, the door ajar so he can come & go.
Unfortunately, sometimes when she brings out his food & water, he will, without warning, attack her ankles,biting & scratching badly enough to draw blood through her jeans. Why does he do this & how can it be prevented?
Thanks for any advice.

Best Wishes;

Diane & Dave
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 02:08 PM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Welcome. I have TNR'd (trap, neuter, released) many ferals and have tamed every single one I've TNR'd. They all became loveable housecats, too.

I think you need to determine if this cat thinks he is playing with your wife? ...though if he is drawing blood, I have to think it is much more serious than 'play'. If he is not playing, I suspect he is reacting aggressively/defensively to a smell on her? Do you have other cats or a dog that he smells on her clothing?

He needs some more socializing. His allowing your wife to pet him is a great start and maybe she can do more of it when he is in the mood for petting. This gets him used to being handled and reinforces rewards for good behavior. You may also consider getting him neutered, as that will help considerably with his aggressive behavior. In the mean-time, your wife can lightly spray a product called "bitter apple" on the legs of her jeans and when the kitty bites it, it will taste TERRIBLE and he may just decide to stop the biting behavior. A problem is the Bitter Apple will not deter any scratching with his claws.
I think what I would do, is always carry a small cup of water with me and pour it on him if he tried to attack my legs. Yes, he will run because it will startle him and he won't like the water on him, but even in very cold temps, he can shake and lick it off and he will dry quickly. I also am sure he will return for his food, since it is established that is where he eats and sleeps.

The water poured on him is just to deter the bad behavior. No bad behavior? No water and lots of food and petting. Bad behavior? Water poured on him and he will have to wait until he wants to come back in again for his food.
This may seem mean or cruel, but a cat scratching/biting people is very serious and needs to be stopped before he really injures someone.

Best of luck,
Heidi



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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Hello Heidi;

Thank you for your reply & advice. We have 4 other cats, so it could be that their scent brings on the attacks, however it's not a daily thing, even when Diane is wearing the same clothes. There is no question of him ''playing'', it's simple aggression. He is a big, strong cat, & has put our 2 neutered males in their place, There is an uneasy peace between them at the moment.
We will try spraying on the bitter apple to see if it helps. Don't want to pour water on him at the moment, as it is very cold ,with deep snow here. Also if he runs off, his wet food & water will quickly freeze solid.
I don't think he will ever evolve into an indoor cat, but with lots of food & a safe place to sleep, he's doing well. In the Spring we will try to get him into a livetrap & take him in to be neutered, although it will be very stressful for him. Thanks again & best wishes.

Dave & Diane
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 05:27 PM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Hm. Because his attacks are not always reliable (not that you WANT them reliable) can you think if he does the same thing, every time? Does he give any 'signals'?
Widening and dilated eyes? Tail lashing? Fur fluffed up? Ears back or sideways? Sniffing? Yowling or hissing? Or does he come up all smiles and purrs and then lashes out when she gets close enough?

If he is giving signals, just have her watch his body language VERY closely and retreat whenever he is exhibiting that behavior. If that means he does not get his food, too bad. It is the same thing: rewarding good behavior and negatively reinforcing bad behavior. She could try every 10min to feed him if he is being a butt-head, but always retreat without giving hm the food if he attacks. When he changes his attitude, then he can have the food.



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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Hello Heidi;

No signals before he attacks. We have had cats for over 40 years, & are familiar with the signs of feline displeasure...Tonight he was very friendly, wanted to be petted. He's a Jekyl & Hyde type cat!
He won't approach if I am there, perhaps in time he will come to trust me as he does Diane, but I have heard that some ferals are comfortable with just the person who first feeds them. I know for a fact that some cats seem not to like men.

Best Wishes;

Dave & Diane
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 07:25 PM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Dave, if I were you, I would have this cat neutered as soon as possible. I believe that will help considerably, and lengthen his life also. He'll need to a warm, quiet place for him to recover, so you will have to keep the garage door closed.

A cat bite can be serious, so the sooner you resolve this problem, the better. I think you'll find that he will calm down somewhat after he's neutered. It will take time for the hormones to calm down, and he might still scratch and bite, but I think the neutering will help. It's very kind of you to take care of this cat. I hope all works out well.

Here are some shelters and organizations that offer low cost spaying and neutering. Hopefully, there's one near you:

http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html




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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-08-2009, 11:04 PM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Another question...

When he 'attacks' is it always unprovoked? Now, I know your wife isn't actually provoking him, but I am wanting to clarify if he is doing this because of a misdirected aggression without your wife having touched him first or if she has been petting him and he gets overstimulated and then attacks because he doesn't know how to say "stop that" politely.

I think if the problem is misdirected aggression (MDA), neutering will help considerably in curbing that response.
If the problem is overstimulation (OS), then with your wife's animal handling skills she can watch him and know when to stop petting him, before he gets overstimulated. The attention can gradually be increased, but the tolerance level is always dictated by the cat. Leave him wanting 'more' and eventually he will grow more accustomed to longer attention sessions, and with him ASKING for the attention, I feel she is less likely to get attacked because it is something he wants.

The difference between MDA and OS is a person can modify their behavior to change the cat's OS behavior, but if it is MDA the person cannot predict when it will occur and can only avoid it by assessing the cat's "mood" prior to approaching.
So, I'm hoping it is OS and his behavior can be changed.

=^..^= Have you named this kitty yet?
Best of luck!
Heidi



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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-09-2009, 11:18 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Hello Jeanie & Heidi;

Thanks for your replies. The cat attacks without being touched. We agree that it has to be neutered. The local Humane Society runs a spay/neuter program for ferals, & we have been in touch with them.
This will not be easy on the cat; first we have to get it in the livetrap, ( there is no way we will try to pick it up), then a long car ride to & from the clinic. Our garage is unheated, he sleeps in a well insulated box filled with blankets topped with an old wool sweater. We try to disturb him as little as possible, during the day, when it's not too cold he leaves to go roaming, returning in the evening to eat, drink & sleep.
The reason we are waiting for Spring to take him is his recovery time . We do need to open the garage doors to use the car during the day, & are afraid that the neutering experience will make him so fearful of us that he will run off into the cold, & not return. Bringing him into the house is not an option, given his disposition, & our 4 cats. A recipe for cat ****!
Diane has named him ''Feral'' he's a marbled tabby, about 15 pounds, all muscle, with 6 toes. Not sure of his age, but he's not old.
Thanks for your help, will let you know what happens.

Best Wishes;

Dave & Diane
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 12:36 AM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

Could you heat your garage the day he is recovering. I think he knows the garage location is his food source and wont disappear even after you release him. Kitten season is coming up soon. The sooner you TNR him the better. Youll laugh but I havent gotten to use my garage for a year and half. I run an air condition in there during the summer. Its one of those things I do for cats. While my car has baked in the Arizona desert sun! Not good for it but I love cats and this is my only option!

Start putting food in a trap to feed him each day. Wire it open so he gets use to going in. Have trap covered also and keep moving the food further and further back each day. Do this for several weeks. Male cats dont need a long recovery time. A day.
Feed him at a regular time so he will know to appear. Maybe start doing it early mornings so when you set the trap its only an hour or so he has to be in the trap before he is taken in for his neuter and shots. You might want him FIV/Felv tested which is an added expense but you would know if he is carrier and could infect other cats since he is your typical Tom. They might want to check for ear mites and give him a flea treatment while he is under if there are evidence of this.

This cat must smell your other cats. Plus there is something threatening ~ in his mind ~ so that is why he attacks.He sounds pretty feral. He can definitely be your outdoor feral but most likely he will be happy with limited contact and the luxary of being well cared feral which is more than most ferals can hope for.

Id be very careful. A true feral can do some serious harm to a human. Its his world, his cat logic, he is sending a message! Back off Im happy being a feral. Which is not a bad thing. He will just be a well loved and cared for one. thank you for your concern and effort towards this kitty. keep us posted
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-13-2009, 12:52 AM
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Re: Aggressive feral cat

I have some practical tips for you to use during his transport:

Lay a large plastic garbage bag on the flat surface in your car/suv where you will place the trap to transport him. Lay a folded and thick towel over this plastic and then set the trap on top of it to catch any 'spills' to protect your vehicle. Have a large towel or piece of fabric to cover the trap so the cat is in a 'cave' and can't see the world whooshing by. You may be able to bring him home in a regular cat carrier if you leave one with the s/n place. When you make the arrangements, ask if they would like you to leave a carrier or bring one with you when you go to pick him up or if they would prefer to use the trap he came in.

I would expect after neutering he could probably be tamed or at least become more relaxed and approachable. Good luck!
Heidi



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