My feral tries to gently bite me, why? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-05-2013, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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My feral tries to gently bite me, why?

A feral that I have been caring for now for over a year, she has become very sweet, and trusting of me. She would come near no human before I began working with her a year ago, and now she will even rub against my husbands leg, and my daughter, but is clear she does not want them petting her. But she won't run off when they walk in or out the door, so she has come a LONG way.

So anyway, I can now pet her, scratch her chin, I don't pick her up but I have gently "nudged" her around and she is ok with that. At times, I will be petting her and she is purring away, rubbing against my shoe like she loves to do, and she will either gently swipe at me with her paw, and on a few occasions, today being one, she will try to bite my leg. Never a hard bite, NEVER tries to break the skin, I will usually just end up with saliva on my leg though and I go in and wash it off. Any guess as to why she does this?

I have a couple of ideas, but I'm wondering what someone who is more of an expert with ferals thinks. One, I think maybe she is just too stimulated...LOL, because it's usually after I've been petting her a while and she is all purring loudly and super lovable, and then the gentle bite. Or my second thought was just that, she is a feral, she has come a long way, and she's sort of like a lion who can't fully be tamed and is unpredictable? And I respect that, that she is not like my indoor spoiled babies and that I can't expect her to have the same behavior that they do.

When she does this, I will give her a firm NO.....the first time I did it, I scared the crap out of her and she jumped about six feet away from me in a single leap, and I felt so bad, but since she has learned that if she tries to lift a paw at me, I say "uh-uh" and she stops. When she does this, I usually leave right away and go in, to kind of let her know that if she does this, I won't stay out with her. Not sure if that is the right thing to do either.

Just wondered if someone might have an idea of why she would be doing this. She has NEVER sunk her teeth into me or aggressively made any moves at me, just to be clear. Sometimes I just look at her, and I love her so much, my little Arwen, and I wish so much I could pick her up and hug her like my indoor kitties, but this is a different animal, and I don't see that happening, unfortunately.

Thank you for reading this!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 01:59 PM
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Lexi, my 9 yo (we think) former feral uses her mouth all the time on me. We took her in at about 1 year old. She warmed up to everyone slowly. She has several habits that are required as part of her daily routine. Every day she sits on the tiolet to watch the morning routine and receive her morning pet. If the bathroom door is locked or closed she will throw her body at it until it is opened. Every day she has to wash my hand. If you pull your hand before she is finisned, she pulls it back with opened claws. Every day there will be one time when she will gently chew that same hand. The skin is never broken but the routine is an essential part of her day.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 02:23 PM
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MowMow does this *ALL* the time and I've never been able to break him of it. The minute he goes to his happy zone (purring, drooling, and cuddling) while i pet him... he always bites at me. Hands, face, arms, legs, or anywhere else he can reach.

I don't think it has any thing to do with her being feral... MOw is the LEAST feral cat in the universe....

It's some weird affection biting thing... I hate it.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you both. Fanwoodguy, I think that Arwen is pretty set on her routine and does not like any changes to it. She is not inside, but she tends to do the same things every day. Thanks again for the input.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 06:40 PM
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Ragnar does the same thing when you are petting him . He will just wrap his paws around your hand and bite not hard and take off running . But he's so fast at biting that you don't expect it while you are petting him . In the beginning he would just sit there and keep biting you but since I say no loudly he has learned that I mean business and he takes off like a rocket . Kind of annoying at times because he scared the **** out of me at times .


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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 06:41 PM
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Oh and he's not a feral he was found outside at one month old and lived in a shelter for 6 months untill we took him in


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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 09:08 PM
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There's a very important distinction here between over-stimulation and affection.

Over-stimulation bites
Before the 'bite' you might be petting, ruffling fur, scratching the cat, ext. Watch their face if possible, because their eyes will dilate and their ears will go back (airplane ears). Their back might also ripple, and they'll stop purring and tthey'll reach out and chomp.
How hard depends on how strong their bite inhibition is, and how over stimulated they are. In general they will be lashing their tails and look agitated to some extent.

Love/affection bites
The cat is floppy and relaxed, their tail is up high and in its 'happy/welcoming' position. They will usually purr throughout. They will slowly reach out their head, may blink their eyes and will very gently place their teeth against your skin. They may gently apply a bit of pressure, enough to pull your skin a bit. They'll usually drool a lot.

These are very different behaviors, but they get mixed up a lot because both happen during petting. The difference is the body language; an over stimulated cat is tense, an affectionate cat is relaxed and floppy.

Personally I allow love bites, and I accept bites when I've over stimulated one of them as a warning. Tgeres a huge difference between allowing/encouraging and accepting though. You need to be comfortable reading your cats body language and trusting them.

If you aren't sure which you've got search 'cats grooming' or something like that on YouTube. Cats who are comfortable with each other often give love bites as a sign of affection during grooming.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 09:44 PM
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Yeah the problem is my trouble maker is relaxed eyes do not dialate and tail is relax and ears are fine also he's purring and just out of no where baam jumps and bites you an takes off . Really weird not sure Im guessing he's still too young only 7 months old and doesn't know the difference maybe


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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-06-2013, 09:50 PM
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She honestly sounds like a pretty tame kitty to me, or one that wouldn't take much to be able to move indoors. I think you'd be able to pick her up if you worked at it; try by sitting on the ground with your legs stretched out and when she seems relaxed beside you, move her on to you lap. The first few times, or maybe even for the first few months, she might not like it and will jump right off. I'd wear gloves just in case she does try and bite... but she'd likely get used to it.

Cats giving soft bites are an affection thing, but if you aren't comfortable with it just tell her no and leave and she'll learn pretty soon.

That's what I did with Jasper. Any hint of biting, I'd say "no!" and turn around and leave. Jasper went from very hard biting (scar inducing) and flying and attacking my legs cat that was also extremely food aggressive to a cat that just likes to roll around and play fetch. He still likes food, but no one is going to lose any body parts over it. The only thing he bites now is the dog... playfully. At first with the dog he would entirely fluff up. They seem to have some stalking games worked out now, right down to the takedown wrestling.

Blacky went from a cat that took me a year to pet, a few months get ok with sitting on my lap, and a few more months to feel ok in a house to a cat that sleeps on top of me on my bed every night... she gave me a few bites at first too, never as hard as Jasper, but it was a trust thing.


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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-07-2013, 12:23 AM
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Marlindh, your boy is just a baby still. His version doesn't fit either of those behaviors because he's playing a game, a naughty one. Use wand toys and laser pointers to drain his energy, and do your best not to react at all when he does pounce you; he's looking for a reaction, so if he doesn't get one its no fun. Make a point of starting games with him when he's being good, and never use your hands or feet to wrestle with him. Stuffed animals are great wrestle toys because you can hold the back while he kicks and chimps the front, and you won't get hurt.

Op, Carmel's got it right but I'd just ignore her for a minute or so. Jasper was a bit of an extreme case, since he had no bite inhibition and was happily chomping away and breaking Carmel's skin; your girl is older and has more self control. You shouldn't need to leave her entirely for her to het the message, but try to channel your inner teenage girl huff, cross your arms and look pointedly away from her for a minute or so. After that go back to interacting, but watch her body language closer so you learn her signals.

Carmel I'm so glad Jasper has come so far! It's a ton of work to work with a kitty like him, but its always so worth it, IMO.
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