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Well, here's some background on our story - we adopted Sid back in May 2004 (he's 8 years old) and he's the sweetest most loving cat ever. My husband and I had just decided to get him a playmate so he won't be so lonely when I return to work.

Anyway, we got Shadow (8 years old as well) just this past Saturday and we have done really well with the introductions thus far - we have kept him in his own room, let them sniff each other through a baby safety gate and they haven't hissed, nor try to be aggressive with each other. Eating time is at the gates and so far so good with everything.

The problem is how the new cat, Shadow, is treating us. We figured out that he will bite us if we pet his belly, so we have stopped doing that. The thing is, why would he bite me for no reason? I was just sitting there on the couch and he came up to me, purred, tried to nudge his head on me, but then he bit me for no reason - and then he did the strangest thing, he flinched like he was waiting to be hit. I don't believe in hitting and I have not punished him, only telling him no, when he does bite me. I was wondering this -
1) Will this behavior continue?
2) Is this stress from moving into a new home with a resident cat?
3) Was he abused?

I tried getting a hold of the previous owner, but he won't return my calls. *SIGH*

Anyway, he's a long haired cat, so we brush him everyday, but I can seem to get close to his belly or his chest/neck. Am I doomed to a mean cat? :( Please help!
 

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I don't know about the flinching, but my cats will do similar things in regards to seeking attention. Usually they just nudge, but on occasion if they are really excited they will bite a little bit.
 

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Is he declawed? Were you touching any particular body part when he bit you? I'm wondering if you might have inadvertantly touched an overly sensitive ear or something. Assumpta has "no-fly" zones (belly, paws, hips) where she doesn't like to be touched...we can touch her (though when we do, we double-team her so that someone is in charge of keeping her from biting. Also, if the cat has any vision problems, you might have startled him by accident. Some cats will open their mouths slightly as they rub their cheek against your hand and unconsciously start to gnaw gently, I think that's not what you're describing, though. Had there been other animals around him that might have caused redirected aggression toward you? It's not always an immediate reaction, so he may just be upset by the resident cat and using you as a substitute (especially if he's a submissive or skittish cat in general).

Was it a snappy, sudden bite or a sort of leisurely, gentle bite? Assumpta is lightning-fast when she's defending herself, but also has a lazier, semi-affectionate bite that she uses when she is in extreme kittening mode (she'll knead on me for hours if I let her). It does sound as if the cat's been trained to not bite, like he knew he'd some something unacceptable (of course, if you pulled away sharply, that could also make him flinch). I think I know the look...flat ears, whiskers starting to pull back, eyes narrowed and apprehensive-looking. Assumpta used to do it a lot, still occasionally does when she gets a "no bites" reprimand when she thinks she's been perfectly justified in biting (like when a friend brought her new puppy to visit and Assumpta had a major case of redirected aggression...she was probably quite justified in biting, but I had to stop her bites long enough to remove her from the room to calm her down because NO one would leave her alone and she just kept getting more and more upset)

When we got Assumpta, I never knew WHAT was going to set her off, and she just did not understand "No." I finally ended up vocalizing to her like a cat...when she bit, I'd yowl, turn my back and ignore her for a few minutes. Eventually, I'd stop her in mid-bite (gently put my finger under her chin and raise her head to make eye contact), by saying "No bites" in a very serious manner and then turning my back on her. As time went on, I started putting the "no bites" closer and closer to when she'd first start biting, until eventually I could say "no bites" when I was approaching her to do something that she didn't like (she still needs occasional reminders, but I haven't had to physically stop her from biting in several years. Make it a consistent tone of voice, as animals depend a lot on tone to make behavioural connections. "No bites" is my strongest sound to her, and she knows that it means business (I also have "no paws," which is slightly less serious-sounding, and "Ex-CUSE me, please" (which is her signal to look at me innocently and then go back to whatever she was doing wrong).

This worked because when she'd bite, she'd mostly lash out very fast, but wouldn't bite hard...just a gentle bite-and-hold, but boy, was she fast, so I had ample time to discontinue her bite. With a faster, bite-to-injure cat who draws blood, I'd probably concentrate on trying to anticipate the bite, avoid triggers, and interrupt the action of bitiing without pulling away fast (easier said than done, I know!).

Most cats dislike people touching their belly (which is completely natural), so I wouldn't really consider that a behavioural problem. I can seldom brush Assumpta's belly. I occasionally use a "Love Glove" on her tummy while she's standing, but this is a cat that you do NOT force onto her back or restrain (at least not if you want her to ever trust you...she turns into this little feline Linda Blair and does everything except spit pea soup). Shadow is still very new, and if you can identify the bite triggers (patting from a certain side of the head, touching ears, paws, belly, whatever), you can avoid doing these things and get rid of most of the bite issue. It may be stress, or a physically-oriented problem, or it may even be a case of negative-reinforcement training gone wrong. Or, it may just be part of his personality that will be hard to change at this stage of his life, which is why I suggested trying to find out the things that trigger bites and adjusting accordingly.
 

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It's great to hear replies - thanks for caring! *Hugs*

TAsunder - Yeah, he nudges and I will pet him and he will start purring. It does not seem like excitement when he bites me. More like a "I am pissed off with you" bite! 8O

Gudewife - Thanks for your long reply! Yeah, unfortunately, he is declawed (by the previous owner) However Sid is declawed as well (and I heard from his owner that he was declawed at age 4!!!! *GAH*) Anyway, I don't pet his belly or touch his paws as they seem to be trigger areas. I don't provoke him, I really try to be nice and learn about his personality.

I don't mean to be mean, but it's hard to "love" him when he's being mean like that. I know that made me sound like an awful person, I am really not....*Sigh* I like him a lot though and I want to try to show him that I am not trying to hurt him, but rather give him the best of everything.

Well, Shadow has more of the snappy, sudden bite - the really fast turn of the head and chomp. He has scraped a fair bunch of my skin off my hand and there is some blood. :( And yes, I don't flinch and don't try pull away fast. I am such a klutz that getting my blood drawn is a daily thing! *LOL* Anyway, I will let out a cat yowl and look him in the eye and say "No Bite" but I never hit. But he still flinches like I am about to hurt him - the saddest is when he does that scared mew in when he does it. *Sigh* You see, he would snuggle with me in bed, but he has not reached the kneading level yet.

One more question - I have noticed that he does not mark things in my house, whereas Sid (the resident cat) marks everything in sight! Who is the more dominant cat here? Is it normal to not mark anything? Including the humans?

Sorry, I know I can babble...I have ADHD, so it's hard to get to the point sometimes.
 

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You think YOU can babble??? :lol:

So this is a "quick snap and pull away" kind of bite? Okay, here's another idea: Try treating him as a "three stroke cat." When he nudges for attention, stroke him only three times (or twice, or whatever he'll tolerate without biting) and then ignore him for a while (sit on your hands if he keeps nudging you for attention). Some cats can be easily overstimulated by patting, but seem to end up begging for attention that their little cat-personality just can't handle. It may be that he just can't handle more than a couple of pats at a time.

I have an elderly declaw at the shelter who has overly sensitive whiskers. Dunno if it has anything to do with the declawing or not, but I figured I'd toss it out anyhow...maybe his whiskers are overly sensitive to touch and facial patting is too much contact there.

Was he in a multiple-pet or -children home before coming to you? It may be that he bites as a compensation for not having his claws, especially if he's had to live with other animals or kids who might have invaded his space. I'm not sure that there's a good tactic for dealing with that, though...it's not like you can give him back his claws. :(

You can try your "no bite" in a softer or less severe voice and see if that helps with his fear reaction. To protect your own hands, you could try using a canvas glove (I'd hold off on a grooming glove, as they can be really annoying to easily overstimulated cats)...if he's just grazing you when he bites, it should help protect your hand while you figure out what makes him tick.

He can't reason, though. He'll never really "get" that you're trying to help him, so all you can really do is earn whatever trust he can give at his pace. I know how hard it is to deal with a cat that goes from sweetness to hostile in a millisecond. Assumpta was younger (about 2-3 then) and not declawed, so she had a lot going for her in that respect. Maybe if you thought of him more as a cranky old uncle than as a little kid, it would help you deal with his sudden behaviour shifts (I figure cats can't reason and we can, so it's sometimes easier for us to adjust our expectations than for the cat to adjust his personality).

When you say "marking," do you mean rubbing up against stuff with his cheek? (I am thinking about sensitive whiskers again here). Cats tend to be more territorial than pack-dominant, so it's interesting that he doesn't seem to be claiming any space for himself (though if he's confined, he'd have less of a need to mark territory than if there was another cat sharing his space, so that may explain it).
 

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Gudewife - :D I think we can agree that we both can babble! :p

Well, he would tolerate petting on the top of his head and along his back forever....he purrs louder and louder. And when I stop, he would nudge. I usually would keep talking to him, but quit petting - testing phase on my part. He would then jump off the couch and go to his hiding place in our closet.

You brought up a good question - he came from a home with a big dog and 3 younger children (a tot and 2 babies). The reason for his surrender was cause there was a family change and they were moving. Anything to do with it you think? My husband and I thought it might be from kids being rough with him or something.

As far as the marking is concerned, we do let him roam now and visit the rest of the house in segments with the other cat. The will sniff each other and then he would carry on his merry way to explore and sniff everything. He just doesn't mark anything. My resident cat is a "crazy marker" - he has been from day 1 and he will mark anything (and he has!) :D Any ideas why there is no marking on his part? He doesn't seem to be claiming anything. Oh yeah, if this helps, they do share toys... funny!
 

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So, he comes up to you, nudges for a pat, and then bites, right? But likes to be patted on top of his head and back? It sounds an awful lot like you're inadvertantly touching him somewhere that he doesn't like. Ears, whiskers, eyelids, mouth, something may be a physically sore spot...has he had a vet/dental exam yet? Just keep looking for patterns...like, does it happen after he's been out roaming the house? Has he recently seen the other cat? Does it happen when you touch his ears, or his whiskers? Before or after eating?

He may well have had his space invaded at his old home, and I'd wager that if he ever snapped at the kids, he was punished in some way. Best way to deal with that is to allow the cat all the personal space he wants on his schedule...he may eventually come to you to share his space. :)

Not sure why he doesn't rub stuff...maybe he's not real territorial, or still trying to figure the place out...or maybe it hurts to rub for some reason (which might dovetail with the biting explanation above). If you can rule out physical pain triggers, it sounds like something that will just take time, patience, and lots of space to figure out.
 

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Gudewife - Well, I have succeded to find out all his touchy spots and I don't touch them. I guess I have gotten used to the fact that he is a head and back only cat! *LOL* I have another cat that I could "cat-handle" all over..... sounds horrid! :D No, I tried touching his mouth, eyes, whiskers, ears and he doesn't flinch nor bite...so I really have no idea why he is not marking things. He had a vet exam yesterday and the vet said he is good - except for a little kitty cold that he had from the shelter, which is clearing up as we speak.

He and the resident cat are cool enough to share the same couch for a short period of time and even nap with me together! I let them have together time for an hour or 2 a day....gradually prolonging the time though. I let them do their own thing - when they want space and I let them come to me....but the resident cat is extremely clingy, so I always have an observer.

They have started to sniff each other more and there hasn't been any hissing. So, I can say that it's going good so far???? :?: Thanks for all the feedback, it helps to talk to someone about this other than my husband, whom I swear thinks I am the "crazy cat lady" *LOL*
 
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