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Hello, I'm new. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.....it's long, but I want to be sure I give his background because I think it has a lot to do with his behaviour now.

I have a year-old, neutered male named Mammers. Mammers was one of many barn cats/strays we've got back home on our farm, but unlike most of the kittens our barn cats have, Mammers' mother kept him and his littermate away from our house, pretty much secluded underneath an old gas tank by our barn. Unless you snuck up on him, you really couldn't touch Mammers as a young kitten. Unfortunately, his littermate was killed and for quite a while it was Mammers almost totally alone, with the mother occasionally feeding him. I saw her play with him, but it was rare.

This fear/antisocial behaviour actually led to him starving himself, as he wouldn't join all of the other cats in being fed up at our house. He was very sickly when I took him in (I had to snatch him when he was sleeping under a tree!), and it took a good month or so to get him to eat without it coming up one end or out the other, so to speak. Mammers was so thin the bones were poking out of him, and the vet thought he was a couple months younger than he actually was due to his small size and weight.

I moved him into a small apartment with me, and I quickly became "Mommy". He sat on my lap for hours at a time, still too weak to really play but happy to be near me. He got healthy, and he now sleeps on my bed more nights than not, purring and cooing at me whenever I touch him, and we often have "conversations" with me talking to him and him making chirping noises back at me.

The problem:

Back home (the one with the barn), where my parents and sister live, are three indoor cats, a male and two females (all spayed/neutered). When I go home to visit for weekends or holidays, I bring Mammers with me.

He is absolutely vicious to those animals.

He will sleep with them, walk around, and is comfortable around them. However, his version of "playing" seems to consist of attacking them, biting them in the hindquarters, legs, belly, whatever will hurt. I think it must be playing because he does not appear to be angry or afraid while doing this, as he seems when the dog startles him (he'll hiss and swat and run away in that kind of situation).

It's as though his non-socialization as a kitten has led him to not knowing what it means when animals scream in pain due to his "playing". When he "plays" with me it is also very rough, full of biting. I have curbed this behaviour somewhat, as the vet told me to grab him by the scruff of the neck and "shake him hard" whenever he bit me. After a couple days of showing my dominance, his biting decreased dramatically (and I feel bad for the vet's office, as his behaviour cut up one assistant during his neutering and last I knew she still had a scar!).

I want him to stop biting me and, even more importantly, stop stalking and half-torturing our pets back home. He can coexist with them when he's in a peaceful mood, sleeping on the same furniture as they are, watching them play, and laying around with them. But as soon as he starts to get playful, it's almost immediately too rough for the other cats. As a result, trips home are very disruptive for them and according to my mother they act out and fight with each other for a couple days after Mammers is removed from the house.

I simply can't try and shake the cat every time he bites a pet back home, largely because trips home are usually associated with family get-togethers and I'm not around all the time. I feel horrible punishing him because I don't think he means to hurt me or the other animals; sometimes he'll be purring loudly as he's biting me. I am also the only one who can hold him, and if he is not held in a specific way he bites whoever is attempting very hard, including me at times.

Do you have any ideas? Is there anything I can do while at the apartment to make trips "home" any easier? Asserting my dominance over him helps when I do it on occasion, but how do you teach a cat how to play?
 

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The problem is that you can't just insert a strange cat into the situation at home. Cats are territorial and must be introduced gradually. Some cats need weeks of introduction before they can coexist peacefully. It isn't natural for Mammers to just come over to your parents house and get along. I would leave him at your place when you travel, or just restrict him to one room, that is not accessible by the other pets.
 

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Queen, as usual you took the words right out of my mouth!

Yes, absolutely, leave him home, or confine him to one room without contact with the other cats. Cats are extremely territorial. To take him out of his familiar territory and dump him in the middle of someone else's is bound to make him extra-defensive. They say the best defense is a good offense, and he's running a very good offense indeed! He must be exceptionally good-natured to tolerate this situation as well as he does!

I find it hard to believe a vet would recommend scruffing and "shaking hard" for a cat. You were very, very lucky that he chilled out. Cats do not respond well to "dominance" postures. (BTW, dogs don't either, and years of "alpha" training of dogs has led to an enormous increase in dog bites!) Most cats would become far *more* aggressive if subjected to abusive physical violence like that.

For more on why "punishment" does not work well with cats, see:
http://www.littlebigcat.com/index.php?a ... tbehavior1

Cheers,
Dr. Jean
 

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Mammers

Hiya Luftballoons,

I am by no means an expert, but I thought I could tell you about what's gone on here; which is somewhat similar to your situation.

Nearly 2 years ago, we added a stray male to our 2 male cat household, making it 3. He was roughly 3 months old. We noticed right away that he was a biter, but in the beginning it was us that he bit. Once he got bigger (the other boys were about 5 years older) he began the same behavior you describe. His favorite "spot" was the back of the legs. I assumed it was play; he didn't appear to be malicious. However, I do think there was a bit of "fighting for dominance" going on too. Rascal would have none of it and immediately overpower him. The other one, Yeltsin, would cry and take a defensive pose rather than fight back and then it was on. Guess which one he continued to pick on! You got it, the defensive one.

They have since levelled off, and I sort of think it was a pecking order thing, but I'm not sure. Chester still bites us (and maybe the other cats now and then) but it's much less aggressively.

Having said that, I agree 100% with queen of the nile. I would simply leave him home where he's comfortable, secure and "in charge." If you can't bear to leave him home, you could restrict him to just one room for the duration of your stay. That would probably be okay, but I'm thinking that might be pretty stressful for him?

For the last 5 years we've left the two older cats home for a 4 1/2 day trip every fall and have yet to encounter any problems. Chester has had to be at the vet the two times we've gone since we got him, so this year it will be all three (and just as successful, I hope*). I put out plenty of food, water and extra litter pans. The only problem (if you can call it that) is that when we walk in, they look like deer caught in headlights, lol. I think they get so used to being home alone that it's alarming when the four humans walk in making noise. We actually look forward to their reaction to our return. We laugh every single time, and by the time we're done laughing, they're up in our laps and happy to see us.

Good Luck!

lops

*Note: I do have a neighbor that comes by to feed outside dogs, so this year I'll probably have her go in just to make sure that 3 can be left just as safely as 2.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your time :)

I can't just leave him at the apartment when I go home to visit, because it is often for days or a week at a time, at least once or twice a month (I'm a student and live very close to home), there is nobody to come and feed him, and it's been like this since before Christmastime.

The couple of times that I have left him here alone for just a day or so, he's obviously upset and stressed out when I come back; as far as keeping him confined to my bedroom at home for days/weeks per month when he's comfortable in the rest of the house, I think that would be pretty cruel.

It's not like I just pick him up and plop him there for a day or two out of the blue......he spends enough time there to be completely comfortable and familiar with the house, the other cats, and my family (he was very uncomfortable at first, but he seems to consider my parent's house his home now, too). He shares litter and food with the other cats with no problem, sleeps with them, snuggles with them, occasionally cleans them, etc. It's just when he wants to play that he gets rough.

Segregation or leaving him alone with nobody to feed him for a week....they just aren't options I have, nor would I want to implement them now after he's had so long to get used to the house, the litterpans, eating with the other animals, etc. He seems fully integrated and comfortable there, except for when he wants to play.....then he's just too rough.

While I think him biting me was maybe a sign of dominance-struggle as he'd do it both when playing and when angry, I hesitate to say the same of his behaviour with the other cats. We have three other cats:

Bo, a very calm-natured boy
Sushi, a friendly but easily angered female
Skeezer, a not-very-friendly female

He "plays" with all three cats equally. He and Bo can occasionally play for a while without it getting too rough, and when he starts to hurt Bo the other cat hides behind the drapes (lol). When he starts to hurt Sushi, she starts beating on Mammers and can really pummel him, but he doesn't seem to understand what that means and will still be trying to play while Sushi's ears are back and fur is up and while he's getting the crap beaten out of him. Skeezer wants nothing to do with Mammers, just like she wanted nothing to do with Bo when he came and just like she wants nothing to do with most people (lol).

There doesn't seem to be a pecking order that Mammers recognizes (Skeezer-Sushi-Bo); he's an equal opportunity offender. He'll "play" with the cat that runs away as much as he'll "play" with the cat that can beat the living daylights out of him if she wants to. That seems strange if he's trying to show his dominance, since he "plays" with the cat that is obviously dominant over him.

This behaviour HAS gotten a little bit better since he's been neutered, but I'd like to be able to show him how to play gently without hurting the other cats or me. I'd like to have more cats in the future, and while he seems to have little/no problem sharing food and litter and sleeping places, and will occasionally cuddle with and clean the other animals, he seems to have difficulty playing with other animals without hurting them. And that makes me very, very reluctant to introduce another kitten to the picture (in about a year's time I may be in a house of my own and therefore not always visiting home).
 

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Discussion Starter #6



The little demon in question.....they're kitten pictures but he looks just about exactly the same, only a little bigger. He's such a sweet cat sometimes.....I really hope to fix this because him not seeing the cats just isn't an option I have.

*edited to add* As far as the vet's assistant recommending that I shake the cat (the words were something like "shake the crap out of it until it's eyes roll around in its head"!) I also thought that was really strange but after only one day of doing it his biting behaviour with me was reduced by about 75%.....so even though I hate doing it, it seems to work with him and he doesn't seem to hold a grudge with me afterwards. I try to only do it when he's being very aggressive with me, though, and I don't shake him really hard (I hold the scruff of his neck and his body so that it isn't painful).

This situation is frustrating to me because he's such a sweet loving kitty except for when he's playing.
 

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Mammers

Hiya Luftballoon,

First of all, I want to say that he is absolutely gorgeous!!

Since reading your second post, I have a clearer picture of what you're dealing with and how you feel about it. Let me start by saying I didn't mean to criticize you or anything; I was just telling you what I've gone through and what has worked for me in regard to leaving cats home alone. I apologize if anything that I said sounded like a criticism! I say that so specifically because criticism can really sour one in regard to forums, and they're just too valuable a resource for that.

Since leaving him home (at the apartment) and restricting his space at your folks' house are not options you feel comfortable with, I guess my best advice would be to let the cats work it out. I would intervene if he really gets rowdy when and if I could. It sounds as if he's adjusted well to the second household. That brings me back to the theory that he may be trying to find his spot in the "pecking order." Chester was at about the exact same age when he started the aggressive behavior. It has never escalated to an all-out catfight.

Oddly enough, this afternoon (after bragging in my post about things levelling off, lol) Chester once again went after Yeltsin. Yeltsin was napping on the bed, and Chester (who probably weighs half again as much as Yeltsin) jumped on his back, straddled him and went to biting. Luckily I was right there and heard Yeltsin yowl in pain. I grabbed Chester's tail (not painfully, just to distract him) and he came undone! That must have been the last thing he expected, because he jumped off of Yeltsin, hissed like the hounds of "you know where" were after him and took off for parts unknown, hahaha. :lol:

If what Mammer is doing is indeed similar to what Chester is doing, there's hope! While he hasn't quit completely, the frequency of the ambushes have lessened. He's nearly 2 now, so maybe it's an age (youth) related thing in certain cats. Now that I think about it, Rascal and Yeltsin may have done the same thing at about 1 year of age. Rascal came out on top then, and he's still on top with Chester. The funny part of that is that Rascal is by far the smallest, leanest cat.

Anyway, best of luck! Hope it all settles down for you soon.

lops
 

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Thanks for the additional advice! And please, don't worry.....it takes a lot to offend me, I just wanted to clarify the situation and was not (and am not) offended in the slightest by anything said here :)

Mammers started this behaviour at around 6 months of age, when he was first introduced into the other home as until then it wasn't something I'd really noticed (he'd had nobody to play with other than me, and I assumed the nibbling was just because I was Mommy). He's about a year old now, and while it's gotten progressively better it's still problematic. I hope that it will get better as he ages; as it stands right now, the other cats are older and not as spazzy. The house is rather large, too, so he runs around and gets all worked up, wheras at the apartment he sleeps a lot more.

I might try playing with him more at the apartment in the days prior to a visit to try and avoid him having lots of pent up energy....do you think that might help?
 

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Mammers

Hi again!

Well, as I said, I'm sure no expert, but hmmmm... I wouldn't think it could hurt anything; might serve to use up some of his energy and spunk. In the same vein, you might consider playing with him while you're up there. Take him into your room and wear him out with play! :lol:

I've seen posts in here about being very careful not to play with cats with your hands- always have a toy between you and him; which sounds like very wise advice to me... considering I've made the mistake of using my hand. ;)

Enjoy the play time! I'm sure he will!

lops
 

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We had a similar problem with neutered males when a female came around our house more often this summer. We were told to get larger toys, like prey. (instead of the little mice and soft balls he normally plays with) The best thing we found is a sausage shaped tube, soft with catnip inside. He grabs it, bites, rabbit punches, rolls around with it, and just has a blast! If it looks/sounds like he's going for his brother, we interject the new toy instead, and that satisfys him.

It's scary to think a vet tech told you to shake a cat like that. They can suffer brain damage same as shaken infants.
 
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