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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I am not really sure how to put this all together, so I will seperate each of my concerns in hopes of making it easier.
-Cat: Norman; neutered male; 1 year old
-A few days ago I was playing with Norman by moving my hand around under the sheets and letting him pounce on it (I know realize this was not the best idea). All was fine, until he started staring at me with dilated pupils. I stopped and sat there and he bit my arm (I reacted and screamed a bit because it hurt) but then a few seconds later he went for my face and left me with scratches on my cheek.
-Last night, Norman was extra cuddly and extremely vocal throughout the night. This morning, I was standing in the corner using the printer and norman again got the same look (dilated eyes+staring)and bit my ankle twice. I walked to another room and he followed me and then bit me once again.
-Norman has a little brother named duke (approx. 7 months old; neutered male); sometimes when they are playing and norman is on top of Duke biting him, Duke screams/cries. At first I thought Norman was being too aggressive, but Duke will pounce on him right after.
-About a week ago, I noticed that one of the cats was missing the box. After cleaning this up, it has not happened again. This may not be related, but the timing seemed odd.

I will be taking Norman to the vet to rule out any health issue, but I am fairly convinced that it is behavioral. Is there anything that can cause these behaviours? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I am fairly new to the world of cats and only have 2 years of experience with owning/living with them. Thank you!!!

Gabby Lucas
 

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Well, my cat has been known to bite me on several occasions. He's been in my home for years, and I know that for him it doesn't take much to get him over excited. I have learned what to do and what not to do. I know his body language exquisitely well, can tell when he is reaching the point where he might bite, and I modify my moves or behavior accordingly. This has taken care of the problem.

Study your cat as much as possible so that you will know the warning signs. don't play with him with your hand, ever. don't push him over or play any kind of rough with him (just saying this, not saying you were doing it). Only pet him when he solicits it from you and watch him for that little ear twitch, whisker twitch or tail thump that signals he is getting too stimulated. If you study your cat you will learn these things.

In the case of my cat, he lost his mother at 4 weeks, and was taken from siblings at 5 weeks, and thereby missed vital socialization with other cats that would have taught him better behavior. In your cat's case, I don't know the history. But whatever it is, it can be dealt with by avoiding it, and making sure he gets enough of the right kind of exercise.

Be sure that, if you play with him with a string or flirt pole or something like that, you let him catch it regularly. Playing with those toys and never letting the cat catch it will only cause the cat to be frustrated and may increase his tendency to bite.
 

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Ruh roh. Those dilated pupils are the thing to watch for! With my cats, it means they want to play and if I get in the way, I become the toy. Or in cat-speak... they great hunters, me prey! Wand toys and cat-kickers are a great way for cats to burn off a lot of energy and saves you lots of bandaids. And it's very important for you not to over-react or scold him if he bites. Just stay calm and immediately redirect him with a toy, then give him praise and a treat when he's behaving appropriately. Jackson Galaxy has some good videos on Youtube about how to read cats body language and what to do about it. Good luck and let us know how things are going!
 

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Mosi's reason for Norman's biting is correct.....he missed out on the 3 months of socialization with his litter mates and mamacat where they learn body language, and control of their bite and claws. When you see his pupils dilate that's a signal of atttack and I suggest before he does, that you try and divert his attention......have in a pocket, a little ball of paper, a ping pong ball, or some little toy, and throw it away from you, then walk away. If he's already coming at you to attack stamp your food on the floor loudly on the floor and say "NO!", then throw your object of distraction (paper, whatever) and walk away to another room and close the door. He will gradually learn that attacking is no fun for him, but as others have said do play with him with a wand toy and give him a treat at the end of the play period. You'll need lots of patience to change his behavior. All the best, and it would be great to hear an update.
 

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If he's already coming at you to attack stamp your food on the floor loudly on the floor and say "NO!"
I always advise people away from things like stomping a foot or yelling at a cat. that is not the best approach, in my experience. All that does is frighten the cat away from you; the cat doesn't understand why, and you are perceived as giving mixed and confusing signals to the cat. Also, you will not always gauge correctly if the cat is "coming toward you to attack you" or not. And if that was not the cat's motive you have chased the cat away abruptly and loudly when the cat was trying to be friendly...........clearly a move which will only serve to damage the relationship.

Cats should never be yelled at or stamped at. I don't yell or stamp at any of my animals, ever. I don't want to be yelled at, so I don't do it to anyone else, however many legs they have. It's not necessary.

Simply learning what makes your cat get to that point and avoiding it while presenting a welcoming and safe place for the cat to be with you is a much better approach in my opinion. I have seen what can happen if a cat is yelled at, and it is not the way to develop a warm and trusting relationship with a cat.
 

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It depends.....you do have to know your cat well. There are some cats that are so dominant, determined, focused, and eager to attack that you cannot distract them, and it's part of their personality. Some cats and other animals if bred too closely related do have mental problems, such as a sweet personality and then uncontrolled vicious attacks. I have experienced and seen it with a rare dog breed where the bitch was bred to one of her sons because breeder could not find an unrelated stud. The result was disastrous as 3 out of 4 of the offspring had bipolar brain problems and two were returned to the breeder and one was euthanized.by its owner's vet. As a cat breeder of 20 yrs. I had one litter that was an accidental breeding, where the female got impregnated by her brother by accident. Out of three kittens born, two were OK, but one male would attack viciously one moment when it was five months old and then next moment he would be friendly and purring. So it's possible that Norman was overbred by one of it's parents or siblings if parents were stray or wild cats. Whether there is treatment for a cat with this type of mental defect, I do not know. But "Gabby" should consult with her vet.
 
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I agree with the above. While true mental disorders are not common among dogs and cats in general, they certainly can be produced by poor or indiscriminate breeding, and this is something to keep in mind.

(Not saying, of course, that you are a poor or indiscriminate breeder, catloverami!
Mistakes can a do happen even to people who know what they are doing.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hello!! I desperately need advice, suggestions, honestly whatever you have to offer. My cat Norman has had some behavioral problems. He is 1. He can be extremely cuddly and sweet, but once in a while he snaps. He can be extremely aggressive towards our other cat duke (9 months old). I understand cats playing can be extremely rough, but this is beyond that. Norman will have duke pinned down on his back and bite his neck while duke screams. The second duke is able to get away he tries and hides but norman will go after him and either attack him or continue to stalk him. Now keep in mind they do get along sometimes and engage in behaviors that suggest they have bonded. More recently this aggression has been directed towards me as well. Each time norman has been aggressive with me he is aggressive with duke first. The first time his eyes were dilated with his ears back and he pounced at my ankles and I had to pull him off but he didn’t leave any significant marks. The second time he went for my face but only left a small scratch. This morning, he was being extremely aggressive with duke so I separated them. I have done this before without any issues and have already tried distractions such as toys and loud noises (not loud enough to scare). The only thing that works is separating them. So back to this morning, I picked up norman and placed him on the couch to separate them. I sat on the other end and turned my back to him to grab something. Next thing I know he is latched onto my head and I am screaming in pain. I have scratches on my face, neck, and back. One of the scratches on my face was so deep it required stitches and I have bite punctures in my scalp. I took him to the vet hoping this could be explained by something medically such as a redirection of pain. Everything was normal and the vet even tested neurological function. We are currently going to start him on prozac and have gabapentin for when he is showing aggressive behavior, but the vet told me not to get my hopes up too much with the medication solving the issues. Norman was abandoned by his mom and had to be bottle vet. According to the vet, the majority of cats who are bottle fed are fine. But the majority of cats he’s seen with these issues have been bottle fed and although he doesn’t understand the psychology of it, he believes it predisposes them to erratic tendencies. He told me that I need to keep my safety in mind along with my other cat dukes. As he explained if norman is being aggressive with duke majority of the time, he most likely is being injured as well but it may not be noticeable due to his long fur. He told me he really hopes the medication helps, but to know that if I need to euthanize him for my safety I am not a bad person….

I am at a loss. I have absolutely no idea what to do. I love my norman dearly and he’s my baby. I will be trying the medication and praying it works, but my fear is what if it doesn’t…where does that leave me? I love this little boy to death, but what do I do when I plan on starting a family in the future. And is it fair to my other cat? Can he even be happy with all this pent up anger? Please help. Thank you.
 

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So sorry you are in this situation and having this really terrible problem. I feel for you!

By the sounds of it, Norman has been damaged psychologically by not having had his mother and possibly not his litter mates either from far too young an age. This is not common but it happens. He may have not had enough attention at all in his early life until he was rescued and started bottle feeding, and he didn't get the vital socialization and affection that all animals need when they are babies. Human babies and puppies, horses and other animals who don't receive this very early attention sometimes will turn out to have severe psychological problems as well.

If this is the case, you will not be able to keep this cat and have a peaceful household or be fair to your other cat. Your vet is right...no doubt your other cat is getting injured and certainly is having to live in a terrifying environment, which is also very damaging to him psychologically. And you certainly cannot have children in a home where a cat like this lives.

I hate to say it, but if the medication doesn't make a huge difference, you may be faced with giving up this cat. It's possible that another person who doesn't have other cats could be found to take him and work with him. but if he is truly damaged psychologically there may be no hope for him to have a happy home with anyone.
 

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You could try contacting a Cat Behaviorist and see if they can help you. Some of the major animal shelters have one on staff or you could google one in your area.

Meanwhile, you could get several cat-kickers and large chew toys to give to Norman as soon as you see signs of aggression, especially dilated pupils which often signals an attack, and toss it to him immediately to redirect him. Once cats are already in hunter mode it's hard to stop them, so make sure you have several regularly scheduled play sessions with both cats throughout the day so they can burn off excess energy. Give them their meals or treats afterwards so they feel like they've caught their prey.

Separate Norman if he become he too aggressive towards Duke, but give him something else to do. Cats don't understand time-outs and it can create more anxiety leading to other behavior problems. A cat puzzle with treats, an interactive electronic toy, or a turbo cat-scratcher with ball could help him calm down. And make sure you reward him with treats and praise when he IS behaving appropriately so he learns the do's and don'ts of being a cat.

Personally, I wouldn't even consider euthanasia at this point. Meds may help, but will work best with a solid behavior program. It's a lot of work, but better than having to rehome Norman or Duke. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for this. I was honestly shaken up in the moment but euthanasia is not an option until we have literally have exhausted all possible resources. We are planning on trimming his nails regular and if that doesn’t work we will be utilizing nail caps so that when he does scratch, his nails aren’t sharp enough to slice open skin. I’ve been looking into cat behaviorists nearby and the options seem to be extremely limited, but I am willing to drive far if that’s what it takes and that is our next step. Because ideally, I would like him to not be on any medication, but until we can see a behaviorist I feel that it’s our only option. We also will be separating them at night and alternating who sleeps in the bedroom with us so they can be supervised at all times. I plan on giving the prozac a fair chance (about a month) and if there is no change I am going to further look into finding a cats only practice or at the very least a vet that isn’t so quick to suggest euthanasia. He truly is the sweetest boy and is extremely loving, he just has these rare moments where he is aggressive. But he is not a bad cat. It was super disheartening as our vet discovered he has gingivitis as well during our visit and even though he doesn’t believe the soreness caused the behavior, he didn’t suggest a dental cleaning or anything to help norman’s teeth. It seemed as if he was set on the fact that norman would eventually need to be euthanized.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This is my biggest fear. That he will never truly be happy. Although, it’s so hard for me to think that. 99% of the time he is the sweetest and most loving cat and seems truly happy to receive affection and just be in our presence. He gets super excited when we come home, talk to him, and pet him (his tail is up and curled at the top). He loves to sleep at my feet, knead on my stomach, rub his face all over me, etc. He gets extremely excited when I wake up in the morning and the second my alarm goes off he sprints to the bedroom and jumps on my chest and meows and rubs on me to make sure i’m getting up. Him and his brother will have these wonderful play sessions where they are rough but there is no stalking, hiding, growling, screaming, etc. They will even groom each other and cuddle up next to one another. They have no aggression towards food and will switch plates often while eating to see if the others tastes better (LOL). But then out of nowhere he will have these rare bouts of aggression where it is taken out on myself and duke. My fiancée has never been the target of this aggression, which seems odd to me but could be explained by the fact that he is not home nearly as much as I am. If Norman was aggressive more and/or wasn’t such a sweetheart, this wouldn’t be as conflicting. I plan on exhausting every resource possible before thoroughly considering euthanasia. But it is still such a hard position to be in when I am so attached to him. He’s my child. I’ve only ever considered euthanasia an option when an animal is suffering with a terminal illness.
 

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I think everything you're doing for Norman is a very good idea, and I would definitely find a new Vet. Kate had gingivitis and I asked her Vet about it every year, but he said it wasn't bad and never mentioned a cleaning. Cats hide pain so I didn't realize she had a problem until her breath smelled funny. So I took her to a new Vet and it was so advanced she had to have 13 teeth removed. I still growl when I think about it! I'd suggest you either find a Vet in your area who does dental cleanings and X-rays, or go to a cat dentist, though specialists are quite expensive and can be hard to find. And even though I cringed at the thought of Kate losing all those teeth, cats do perfectly fine without them, and she was much happier and energetic once she was pain free.

I've mentioned this before but really need to stress something. Sophie was very much like Norman in the sense that she was really sweet 90% of the time, but would attack my hands and face when she got in a mood. I believe it was her way of playing but she didn't understand boundaries. She couldn't be distracted with any of her toys, so I got a dozen big chew toys and placed them around the house and even carried one in my pocket, and when she got a bit crazed, I'd grab one, wave in front of her, then toss it near her, and she'd take out her aggression on that instead of me. Her favorites are the Yeoww banana, cat-kickers, and a big tightly-knit carrot which I found in the dog toy section. It finally stopped her from biting me when she wanted to play.

When she got too aggressive with Kate, I didn't say anything, just stood up and got between them, and blocked her with my legs from getting at Kate. She would eventually give up and walk away. It's not something to do if it's an outright cat-fight, but worked for overly-aggressive play. And remember to reward them both with treats or praise when they are behaving appropriately. Catch them being good!
 
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