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When is the biting 'too much?'

jbr4gg
April 24th, 2007, 12:15 PM
Hi all,

I have one kitten, a 9mo. old NM named Odin. I've done as much research as I can about this issue and I just thought I'd post here to get everyone's insights as things aren't necessarily better.

My 'problem' with Odin is that he is a big biter. Now, I understand that biting is a normal part of play when a kitten gets overstimulated/excited, etc. however I usually get bit MORE when he's laying on the floor and I bend over to pet him or something. He bites then, at night if my hand happens to be above the covers or something, if I pick him up to carry him somewhere he sort of gnaws on my hand, etc. I figure that I can attribute about half of it to just him playing -- the things like chasing after my feet in the morning after I've been sleeping for 8hrs, etc., however the fact that he bites when he is petted with very little provocation (often it will be the case I pet him once and he switches into attack mode) does have me kind of concerned as far as wanting to do something to modify this behavior.

I don't want to paint the picture that he is some sort of a killer cat who will tear my hand and arms to shreads for no reason at all; in fact, he appears to enjoy attention very much, I just don't know if he knows how to 'appropriately' show us that he doesn't want to be petted -- and I'm not even sure it is the case that he doesn't want to be petted, if that makes any sense.

Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing (I've never had a cat before) but I thought I'd write this up and get all of your opinions/knowledge/etc. I love the little guy but to be frank sometimes this behavior can lose its novelty, I pretty much have to wear shoes around my apartment to avoid being attacked and my hands are never safe at any given moment :p . I guess my biggest thing is his personality is so adorable otherwise, I am concerned about 'breaking his spirit,' as lame as that may sound.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Lissa
April 24th, 2007, 02:57 PM
How bad is the biting? Does your kitty draw blood?

I think a lot can be put down to the sillyness of kittenhood so I don't think you have too much to worry about.
However, I agree that you should try and redirect his "attack mode behaviour" to things other than you. This means the instant he bites the fun stops - you can either continue to ignore him or get out a toy for him to chase/chew instead. An interactive toy like this would be great:
http://www.remmeer.com/noys-swizzle-bird-feather-cat-toy-p-60.html

I playfight with my cat all the time and she can get quite into it... I find that if I try and pet her when she's in full fight mode (even if its pretend) she will get testy and try to bite (not hard or anything but in those moments, she let's me know that it is NOT fuss time). :D So until your kitty matures, it might be best to only fuss Odin when he asks for it. To spare your hands but still get him use to being handled, you can use a brush/comb instead. A lot of cats do not enjoy being picked up so that may be something you have to stop completely.

Having said all this, if the biting is more serious than I think, you can use deterrants to make it unappealing for your cat to chew on you... There's a a "bittter apple" type spray for cats or you could use a spray bottle... It would definately be my last resort though. You should be able to prevent the biting by learning to read Odin's body language/moods so you know when to cuddle and when to back off and by ignoring (never encouraging) the biting and instead redirecting all his energy into toys!

Kittens have so much energy that most people will recommend you get 2 instead of 1... I personally don't think its necessary or even the best thing (depending on the kind of bond you want with your cat) and raised Minnow on her own... She learned to walk on-leash like a dog in any environment so she didn't have too much excess energy (which meant fewer play fighting moments with me!)...

tenderfoot
April 24th, 2007, 03:07 PM
I am not a cat expert, but I think it is too much when you have to ask 'when is it too much?'.

Yes, he is a kitten (teenager actually) and yes, kittens wrestle and bite each other. But just as with any animal that lives in your home it is up to you to teach him manners.

Some cats are very sensitive to touch or energy or certain parts of their body. Try to notice what really brings on the biting. Is it when you run your hand down his back and finally when you reach his hind legs? Is it when you have playful energy? Is it when he is lying on carpet and he gets static shocks as you pet him?

Try to change your tactics and that might be enough. But if not then you have a right to tell him 'no' and walk away. The fun stops. You can go back in a few minutes and try again - this time move more slowly and get him used to your touch.

If he is biting when you pick him up - try to hang on and tell him 'no' in a firm tone. See if he can relax and then put him down. I don't want him to learn that biting gets him put down - then he learns biting works.

Try to use slower energy over all when interacting with him. We have 6 cats and one of them hates to be picked up - doesn't mean I stop picking her up when I need to, but it does mean I try to respect her feelings and work with her slowly. She is also the kind of cat who craves attention but then when she has had one too many strokes she wheels around to nail you. So there is a level of knowing your animal. I use lower energy with her and I know she isn't up for a full 10 minute body rub. She came from a horrible rescue situation so I don't blame her for having boundaries, but I won't tolerate her cranky attitude either. We have only ever shown her kindness and she needs to learn to trust us. The other cat we rescued at about the same time had similar issues and she has come along beautifully and doesn't get cranky at all anymore.

Your kitten is just young and full of himself. Even with cats you need to be the one setting the rules and boundaries of good behavior.

TeriM
April 24th, 2007, 03:34 PM
I agree with Tenderfoot. At nine months the kitten should definately be understanding the ground rules. I also have a rescue kitty that is somewhat "moody" and she has come a long way. The biggest progress was when she figured out that she doesn't always get to call the shots (ie. just because she growls or bites she doesn't get put down). In return I do try to respect her boundaries. I find that as soon as she gets nasty I just make a aaachhh type noise and that distracts her enough that I can then finish the interaction on a more positive note.

Good luck :) .

chico2
April 24th, 2007, 05:13 PM
I have had many cats and yes,the cat has to learn certain things are not ok,however,there are places many cats don't like to be touched and then it's our turn to learn.
Cats usually also do not like to be carried,maybe it's something about feeling confined.
Out of my 3 cats,only one likes a tummy-rub,they ALL like a massage from their heads to their tail:)
As for chasing your feet,I've never really had that problem,maybe a firm NO would help.
Also 2 cats will have fun together,maybe a companion would keep your kitty out of trouble,I always suggest having at least 2 cats:cat:

BMDLuver
April 24th, 2007, 07:15 PM
Is Odin by any chance declawed?

jbr4gg
April 24th, 2007, 09:26 PM
Thank you very much everyone for the replies so far, they are all pretty much what I'd read but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't overreacting or anything, and I really appreciate all of you taking the time to answer my question.

No BMDLuver, he's not declawed and to be honest I've never really considered it I guess. I've been pretty lucky and the only damaged he's caused has been on my arms, and thankfully I can keep his claws trimmed down and control that for the most part anyway.

Lissa -- yes, occasionally (very few times) he has managed to draw blood but I can never tell if it is his biting or his claws just needing cut. Generally this tends to occur when I have my arm dangling down off of the side of a chair and he launches himself towards my wrist and latches on, and I believe any deep cuts are generally caused by my jerking away. Usually it is just scratches that aren't hardly deep at all. I am considering the squirt bottle just as a last resort to handle the attacks on my feet when walking around before bed/when I wake up, but I'll make sure to use it sparingly and not drench him.

Tenderfoot and TeriM -- thanks. Honestly, I think that about 50% of this problem could probably just be resolved by me paying more attention to reading his behavior. However, in a few select instances it really does appear to be completely unprovoked. I'll try to be more receptive to what type of signals he is sending, but like I mentioned above it really seems to me like sometimes he'll just try and latch on for no reason, so I'll try to make sure if petting a certain area usually elicits that response. Off the top of my head, I'm fairly sure its the area around his hind legs.

Chico2 -- At some times I think I'd love another kitten. However, I'm concerned that this thinking is motivated by a simple desire to transfer Odin's energy to a playmate. Also, while I think from what I've seen from his brief exposure to my parent's terrier (although I am fairly convinced Rupert would eat Odin if he got a chance), he may even be receptive. I think unfortunately it ultimately comes down to concerns about space constraints and monetary issues. Are the chances still pretty good he'd be receptive to a friend at this age? Because like I mentioned, I've considered it for a while.

Thanks again everyone!

jbr4gg
April 28th, 2007, 10:25 AM
Sorry to revive a thread that was mostly dying after a majority of my questions were answered, put a particularly painful episode of being attacked this morning made me want to come back and ask for some more advice concerning one facet of this behavior ;) .

I think I have a pretty good handle on the biting when we're playing, when I want to pet him and he isn't necessarily receptive, etc. Just like I had assumed, a fair amount of that seems to be caused by what I am doing, not necessarily Odin.

So, how about the other biting/attacking behavior? For example, this morning after I woke up, fed Odin, and took care of some other things, I sat down at the computer to check e-mails, etc. Odin (who had laid with me all morning, so I guess I would be surprised if he was feeling "deprived" or something) was walking through my legs and rubbing his face on them, etc. Then, out of no where, he squeals and latches on to my ankle with both his mouth and his claws -- hard. Much harder, I would say, than when we're playing and it simply gets "out of hand" -- generally then he seems to be using a fair degree of restraint. So, after I pry him off and take him to another part of the room, I go back to attempt to finish up what I'm doing -- but he simply comes back. And generally, this occurs most every morning, or any time that Odin happens to be around when I'm on the computer, so I've taken to wearing my slippers around all of the time or sitting with my legs crossed up on the computer chair. Unfortunately, being as I am a student, I spend a fair amount of time at the computer writing papers, corresponding with professors, classmates, etc. so this can tend to become somewhat annoying.

All this being said, I have a feeling that this, too is just "kittenish" behavior, however -- with him getting older so his teeth are bigger, claws are growing faster, and he's just generally stronger -- it is becoming more painful rather than less. Or am I wrong, and is this something that needs to be deterred?

Again, thanks again for all the answers I've recieved already; they were extremely helpful although I just felt (maybe naievely) that this type of behavior was maybe sort of a 'separate' issue.

Thanks!

tenderfoot
April 28th, 2007, 04:17 PM
This is just more of the same. He simply knows that you are concentrating on the computer and knows he has to work harder to get your attention.

Our teenage kittens (3 of them) battle quite hard and they have a ball.

All of our 6 cats leap onto the desk to demand my attention - incessantly! I even got them their own screen saver with fish in a tank swimming around - but NOOOOOOO! they would rather chase the curser when I am writing.

My point is...this is somewhat understandable on his part and can be dealt with.

You know he is going to do it so find a clear way to catch him before he does it and shoo him away. You are going to have to be clear and consistent for him to get the message. Catch the thought before it becomes teeth in your ankle. You have to be ready to defend your space in advance. He will get the message that that kind of play gets him nowhere.

Another idea would be to get him a great toy that only comes out when you are at the computer. They have some great interactive toys for him to play with - he can chase balls around a track or there is one that has a toy hanging from a stick that whirls arounds and makes noises.

Best idea? Get him another playful teenage cat as a buddy :cat: - lord knows there are plenty of them who need good homes. We are strong believers in multiple animals, and even solitary animals like cats can really enjoy a buddy. Nothing more enchanting than watching our cats interact, play, rough house and then groom each other and fall asleep in each others arms. :cloud9:

chico2
April 28th, 2007, 04:34 PM
Tenderfoot,wonderfully said,no need to add anything:thumbs up
One of my cats(Chico 9/10 yrs old)comes up om my desk,start tearing out all my papers if I am on the computer,usually a firm NO and putting him on my lap gets him to stop,since that's what he wanted in the first place:cat:
We always suggest a playmate,they have sooo much fun together,cats especially seems to do better with a little friend or two:cat:

mona_b
April 28th, 2007, 07:36 PM
I would have to say a playmate would be a good thing for him.

I have a biter also.But when he bites at times,he locks on and doesn't let go.He's not as bad as he used to be.We adopted him at 8 weeks.Two weeks later is when I figured out he was deaf.He was born this way.After coming on here and getting help,LR,chico and others suggested a playmate for Casper.Well we adopted a sister for him.Casper was 6 months and Winnie 8 weeks.They are the best of buddies.Casper is 3 1/2 and Winnie 3...Casper still gets into his attack mode.But it's less frequent and Winnie puts him in his place.And it's cute watching them together.

With Casper I watch the signs.He is very loveable.But when he plops on his back after petting him,I stop.Cause I know what happens next.He will go into attack mode and grab my hand,bite and lock down on it.And remember,this is a deaf cat,so saying no means squat to him.

jbr4gg
May 1st, 2007, 09:02 PM
First of all, thanks again for the answers!

Since a playmate was so highly recommended and I had also been kicking around the idea of rescuing another kitten for months, I decided to go ahead and do that! I found one from the humane society that I'll be able to pick up Friday after finals are done.

Now, that being said, since I'm a complete newbie -- is there anything I should be aware of with respect to introducing them to each other? She's fairly young, about 7wks old, and she's also an "orphan kitten."

Thanks again, everyone :)

jb

mona_b
May 2nd, 2007, 11:58 AM
Congrats on your new furbaby.

Well this is what I did when Winnie came home.

I kept Winnie in the carrier and let Casper come around and sniff around her.Then I put Winnie in the bed room and let her check the room out.I had her litter box,food,water and toys in there.I had the door closed,this way Casper could smell under the door.

After a day or two I switched them.I put Casper in the bedroom and Winnie in the living room.This way they picked up on each others scent.At night Winnie was with me in the bedroom,and Casper still had run of the house.We did the back and forth for about a week.I would still bring Winnie out in the carrier so Casper could somewhat intereact with her.

When it was time for them to meet face to face,I had Winnie in my hand and the ex had Casper.I was a bit nervous for a while.Casper seemed ok.He chased Winnie under the couch.But he couldn't get under it.LOL

They would play around.But because Casper is deaf,he couldn't hear her cry if he was to rough.So we stopped the play for a while.Anytime we went out we put Winnie in the bedroom.I still didn't trust Casper yet.It wasn't long before they became great friends.Every cat is different,so it will take some time and patience.

So I hope this helped.

Oh and pics are a must...:D

Here are a couple of pics of them napping together.This was some time ago.

LM1313
May 2nd, 2007, 01:37 PM
Oh, wow, I would recommended an older kitten to be able to withstand rough play. With a seven week old kitten, keep in mind that you will also have to teach her not to bite and claw you because she will not have learned bite inhibition from her mom and siblings yet. My kitty boys were about seven weeks old when I got them and my hands were full of tiny claw marks, ;)


With my kittens I dramatically shouted "OW!!" when they clawed or bit me and then turned around and refused to play with them for one minute. It worked great, they're about a year and a half old now and don't bite/claw at all (except each other, ha ha.) Don't let a young kitten get away with something because it's cute unless it will still be cute when she's a fifteen pound cat trying to climb up your bare leg (that one got a GENUINE "OW!!") or pounce on your hand.

chico2
May 2nd, 2007, 04:42 PM
JBR,I think Mona saide it very well,I did pretty well the same,when I got Vinnie,except I had two mature cats.
The first while I kept Vinnie in a room by himself at night,with litterbox,food and water.
We have french doors,so they could watch each other,it did not take long before they all got along and a pleasure to watch.
I was home all day,so I could supervise them,if things got rough.
I would not leave them alone together the first little while,if you are working..not until you know they like each other.
I don't know if you are getting a girl or boy,but I would suggest another boy,IMO it's easier that way.
I have 3 males..Good Luck!! You are doing the right thing and don't panic if they are hissing and growling,they all do at first.
Here are a couple of my guys:cat: