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Rescue cat hates me :-( How can I improve his bitey behaviour?

(15 Posts)
MeAndMySpoon Wed 05-Nov-14 14:59:37

We adopted a 3 yo ginger tom (neutered) back in June. We did everything properly - kept him in our quiet bedroom initially, then indoors for about 6 weeks. He loved being allowed to go outside (and kill stuff hmm). He's healthy, eats well (eats me out of house and home!) and the two DSs don't appear to worry him. DS1 is 6 and very respectful of him. DS2 is 3, has ASD and is pretty much oblivious of the cat, but when he does make contact it's gentle.

My main problem is that the cat, who initially was friendly, very affectionate and would crawl onto my lap at any opportunity for a love-in, has turned bitey and mean. sad It's mostly me he does this to, also DH, and he's only nipped DS1 while playing. Basically I now can't pick him up without him turning his teeth on me. If he's sitting calmly on the sofa and I stroke him, he bites me. If he's nuzzling my legs and I bend down to stroke him, he bites me. He doesn't stop once he gets started, does the full on bunny-kicking and if he's sufficiently worked up, once I've managed to detach him, he will pounce on me again and 'kill' my hand. Luckily he doesn't bring his claws into play - if he strikes you with his paw, he keeps his claws in.

He doesn't seem to be enjoying it, I don't think he's just 'playing'. He does enjoy chasing strings, etc, and we do that with him too.

He seems unrelaxed - still very jumpy even after several months in the house, with dilated pupils at the drop of a hat. I've sprayed Feliway round but probably not enough (how much is enough??).

I feel really sad - we wanted a lovely friendly family cat like ones we'd had before, a cat who'd sit on your lap and allow you to stroke them without trying to take your fingers off. DS1's sad because he's started to get the occasional nip now too, and I'm worried it'll escalate until the creature is biting us all. Then what? Clearly something's wrong.

MeMyselfAnd1 Wed 05-Nov-14 15:04:47

I'm watching your thread with interest. I have not met any single cast that doesn't turn nasty as soon as he feels relaxed around us.
I have been told that the cats may have assumed I was too kind to be mean and lost respect, I would like to know what I'm doing wrong (i'm keeping well away of them for the time being)

MeMyselfAnd1 Wed 05-Nov-14 15:05:31

Cast? Cat even!

gamerchick Wed 05-Nov-14 15:06:52

Have you taken him for a check up to check he's not in pain? He might have hurt himself and you don't know about it.

Aliennation Wed 05-Nov-14 15:22:29

Firstly i'd get him health checked to rule out a medical problem. Your vet can also give advice on the behaviour.
My rescue cat tried biting a few times during play, i give a firm no then walk away. It's all about reading your cats body language, i can tell when mine is excited so make sure i have some toys to hand.
The kong kickeroo toy is fab for cats that like to attack.
I'm not a fan of picking cats up, not many like it. If i want mine to get down from somewhere or stop doing something i clap my hands.
Try the feliway plug-in diffuser, it made a huge difference to my cat and she's much more relaxed.

DayLillie Wed 05-Nov-14 15:23:10

I don't know if it will help, but this is what my friend with an agressive cat has been doing:

Once a day, she sits down in a particular armchair with cat treats, calls the cat over and gives her a little bit. Strokes her a bit and if she is good she gets a bit more etc until the cat treat is gone. If she turns of her, then the treats get put away and the cat is ignored.

I do it (less successfully) when I feed her.

These days, she comes and rubs herself on me and I can give her ears a tickle to say hello, without losing my arm (but I don't over do it). She likes being talked to and will probably never be a lap cat, but she is a hell of a lot better!

DayLillie Wed 05-Nov-14 15:24:18

If she turns on her, not of

cozietoesie Wed 05-Nov-14 15:24:57

Do you know his history?

He sounds as if he's badly wanting love from you but is all nervy and over-stimulated at the same time. All wound up and nowhere to go. I'd stop initiating any physical contact for the time being. Let him make all the running and keep your hands to yourself - even when he's head butting you.

(Lots of talking to him is absolutely fine. Sustitute that for physical contact for the time being - and continue with remote playthings that don't seem to be connected to your hand. (Well not obviously.))

This lack of contact won't necessarily have to be maintained. Once you've re-established yourself as the calm centre of his world, you could start to bring in some increasing contact. I suspect that that's for another day though.

Oh - a firm reproof and time out for any bad biting behaviour which occurs under the new regime. About 20 minutes to half an hour usually does it.

cozietoesie Wed 05-Nov-14 15:40:26

PS - he doesn't hate you - you're probably his 'person'.

PigletJohn Wed 05-Nov-14 16:57:21

I would start by thinking of pain. He might for example have a bad back, tail or knee, with no visible injury.

MeAndMySpoon Wed 05-Nov-14 19:18:42

Damn computer ate my response. grrr

Thanks everyone, this is really, really helpful and I'll show DH this thread too. smile

Pain: he's been like this since about August and I did mention it to the vet then when he had his jabs. She suggested then that I try to let him initiate most contact (I do forget this, but even when I let him come to me, he will bite eventually), and that he seemed ok physically. I'll take him back though, get him checked over. He certainly doesn't act as if he's in pain, and I do have experience of a cat who was in pain. sad No limp, stiffness or awkward sitting. I suspect he's just very insecure here.

I did bump into her socially a few days ago and she suggested that since cats do a lot of their aggro among themselves with their paws, he might be responding to my stroking as an aggressive move on my part. sad So yes, I will try to leave him alone. It doesn't leave us with much though - feed him and leave him alone. sad

Background: all I know is he had his first three years (from kitten) in a flat in a city and never went out. He was with a family, including a baby. We picked him partly because he was used to children and in fact he's far more tolerant with small children than with adults! Very late in the adoption process, one of the women at the sanctuary said 'are you sure you want him? because you do know he came to us because he 'attacked' one of the children, don't you?' hmm No we didn't, because you didn't tell us that before, you mad old bat. (Sorry, but the women at this rescue place were decidedly Odd.) However, by then we were practically about to pick him up (I think this was the day before collection) and I didn't want to stop. I also thought 'it would be a rare cat who didn't react if cornered or leant on by a small child'. He wasn't remotely aggressive or bitey in the sanctuary - he was affectionate and friendly. In fact, I paid him several visits in his pen before deciding to go for it, and he basically spent this time on his back on my lap, dribbling with pleasure. grin And now he savages me.

He does come to me and creep onto my lap or chest and lie there wanting a cuddle, but less than he used to. And if I move, or stroke him, I get the teeth. sad When we first had him here, I used to sneak upstairs to our bedroom to keep him company and he'd just lie in the crook of my arm, very happy. I had no idea it could change so drastically! The first few nights, he was so starved of human contact he basically slept draped across my chest.

Ok, will get more Feliway (does anyone know a cheap supplier?? I got the last lot on ebay) and try the cat treat training.

cozietoesie Wed 05-Nov-14 19:36:42

.....It doesn't leave us with much though - feed him and leave him alone.....

It likely won't be permanent. You just have to re-adjust him, letting him make all the advances, hard though it will be. Neither would I be worried about exluding him for bad behaviour so if he has a fly bite, then a firm NO (on basic principle), pick him up, dump him outside the (inside) door, leave him for 20 minutes or so and then open the door to allow him back in if and when he comes. Don't call him back.

Soon/eventually, it should get to the point that a NO will be enough. (My own boys have always respected a NO on at most the third attempt at a sin but Siamese train very easily.)

Oh - don't worry about picking him up when you put him outside the - say - sitting room door. Most cats don't like being picked up much but if you do it quickly and firmly, he'll likely be so startled that he won't get a chance to bite before you close the door on him.

Give it a try for a few days anyway even though it's hard to remember. He won't dislike you for being firm - cats seem to have their own way of looking at things.

MeAndMySpoon Wed 05-Nov-14 19:41:19

Thanks Cozie. I was beginning to think I'd lost my cat touch! I've always lived with cats and they generally just 'like' me. It had never occurred to me not to pick a cat up though, because my previous cats were fine with that.

I think I need a profusion of post-its everywhere reminding me! My instinct is to say 'Hello Spooncat', go over and stroke his head. CHOMP.

(He is not really called Spooncat. That would be daft.)

TheBogQueen Wed 05-Nov-14 19:42:13

We've got two rescue cats. Tbh any affection is very much on their terms. One will run away the other will try to bite if we get too familiar. They have never sat on our laps but will sit next to us or behind us - they also like sitting at the kitchen table.

Fluffycloudland77 Wed 05-Nov-14 19:46:38

Mine was bitey tonight but I put him in the utility for half an hour and he's calm again now, different cat altogether.

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