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Why can I do about cat behaviour

(31 Posts)
Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 18:03:56

What should my first steps be to address difficult behaviour in my cat?

Do I go to the vet? Or is there some sort of cat behaviourist / psychologist or do people just sort it out themselves?

I’ve had DCat since October. He is castrated and just over 1 year old. Most of the time he is OK but he keeps attacking my legs and ankles. Ears flat. Not happy. Sometimes he is purring but I know that’s a mixed signal.

When he does it he just keeps going and it’s really, really hard to get him off. It bloody hurts and I feel on edge all the time!

I have done a bit of reading and now try not to overreact, I sometimes lift my foot up while he is attacking my leg and just hold it in the air which sometimes makes him drop off (and then circle around for another go at my other leg). He doesn’t do it all the time but it’s really getting me down.

I had cats as a child and they never did anything like this. Playing and occasionally the odd scratch maybe but not this aggression.

I understand that it might be a stress response but I try to keep him out of the way of the kids, he has safe places he can retreat to, food, water and litter available at all times. No other animals at home.

He is doing it maybe 2-3 times a week at the moment and it’s really affecting how I feel about him as well as, if I’m honest, how relaxed I feel in my own home. It’s just horrible because he just keeps coming at me.

Prior to these episodes I have not usually interacted with him, I will be cooking or something and he will come in, we will make eye contact and off he goes!

He doesn’t love being stroked, likes it for a bit and then will grab your hand with both paws and try to bite it. It’s very hard to get him to let go.

I don’t want to send him away but with lockdown, home schooling, small children, working from home and everything else it’s starting to make me feel really down that I’m being attacked and clearly he isn’t happy about something!

Any suggestions would be very helpful! Is my first stop the vet?

Or a book I should read?
I want to make sure I react in the correct way and work out what’s going on.

Thank you!

(My responses might be a bit delayed because I’m juggling this with making pancakes and getting smallest DC to bed.)

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Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 18:04:31

Argh so annoying - didn’t proof read and even the title has lots of errors! Apologies!

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Prestel Tue 16-Feb-21 18:38:14

A check-up at the vets to make sure there are no underlying physical issues is always a good place to start, especially if there is a new change in behaviour. As you haven't had him very long, though, it does seem more likely that he is still settling in and is insecure in some way. That he acts this way after making eye contact is interesting, he may feel you are challenging him. You could try a slow blink when he stares at you to show friendliness. What's the history, is it possible he didn't receive much handling and socialization as a kitten?

Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 19:00:06

Thanks for your reply.

It isn’t new behaviour, he has been doing it since November but sometimes more and sometimes less. He has been to the vets a couple of times (after getting in a fight with another cat about 6 weeks ago) and was checked over - apart from the injury that we went alto see them about they didn’t find anything else wrong and they did check him over so nothing is wrong to our knowledge.

I don’t think there is anything physically wrong with him.

I do the slow blinking thing a lot because I am desperate for him to like me! I think he does but for some reason he still does this to me. Not every day, but often enough that it’s problematic. If we are sitting on the sofa in the evening though he will come and sit on my lap or right next to me, not DH. It’s weird.

OP’s posts: |
Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 19:02:31

Oh and sorry - re history, no idea. We got him from the RSPCA when he was about 9/10 months old. They said that he had been given up because the owners had to move house and their new property didn’t allow animals but who knows! I must admit, at the time I thought the RSPCA would know more but I guess they only know what they have been told by the previous owners.

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Prestel Tue 16-Feb-21 19:29:03

Ah, ok. Well that sounds good that he's fit and healthy. Sounds like he's just a very active cat with a lot of energy who maybe wasn't taught to redirect play away from hands and feet when he was younger. The following does sound more like he wants to play than is worried or insecure:

He doesn’t love being stroked, likes it for a bit and then will grab your hand with both paws and try to bite it

Sorry if this sounds obvious, but have you tried a fishing rod toy to encourage him to attack and beat up instead of you? Also, are you sure the attacks are random. Our boy was very bitey as a kitten, has mostly grown out of it but will still bite my toes if he thinks I've forgotten to put his supper out grin

All in all, I think there's enough signs of affection to not be too worried. He really hasn't been with you very long and it takes time to build a relationship with a cat. I'm confident you'll work it out.

ViperAtTheGatesOfDawn Tue 16-Feb-21 19:38:10

I have a bitey/clawing cat, but I knew that when I 'adopted' her, so I was prepared, which makes it easier I think as I knew what to expect.

The most effective thing has been consistency (an assertive 'no biting' every time she does it or is about to) and lots of alternatives to bite. Kong do some good cat chewing toys (the caterpillar is a favourite here), and also kicker toys. Fishing rods and lasers are a no go as she goes straight for the hand in charge and they're over-stimulating.

One trick is when you stroke, as soon as you spot the change in mode, switch in a toy. I also had some success with distracting with treats but mine isn't very food motivated so it didn't last long before that didn't work as well.

nellly Tue 16-Feb-21 19:45:30

It sounds like mine when he's bored and understimulated!
He really wants to play, we have different cat toys and he loves going through a tunnel we got from home bargains. Do you have chasing type toys like the fish dangling off a stick

Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 20:34:37

Thanks all!

I guess it could be connected to wanting to play / being hungry. I have tried not to immediately jump to putting his food out or grabbing a toy because I don’t want to reward the behaviour. We do have fishing rod toys which he likes and which we do use. He also has a ball in a figure of 8 track that he loves chasing around. He also goes outside which I guess is stimulating to a degree. Maybe he wants more play and affection? It’s hard because the more he attacks me like this, the less I want to interact with him!

It often starts that he will come up and rub against my legs then attack me. (I forgot to
Mention that before).

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ViperAtTheGatesOfDawn Tue 16-Feb-21 20:39:59

I don't see it as rewarding, but as re-diverting. Cats are real habit formers so sometimes just breaking the habit does the job.

Also, he wants to bite or play with your legs or whatever, so that itself is rewarding to him anyway, you're aiming to get to a point where when he has an urge to bite he doesn't go straight for you, but instead goes straight for a toy. Make sure you have stuff dotted around in easy reach (my house is awash with cat toys!).

Dontfuckingsaycheese Tue 16-Feb-21 20:40:44

I had a cat who could be extremely vicious. He could be extremely affectionate - including sleeping in my bed with me - but I was covered in scratches. He would also do the stroke and attack thing. What worked for us was getting him a pal to take his frustrations out on. He never attacked him - they used to cuddle up together and it did calm him down a lot.

ViperAtTheGatesOfDawn Tue 16-Feb-21 20:42:34

I would also, unless he's on a restricted diet, have food available all the time - you could use a puzzle feeder to keep him busy and slow him down.

Besom Tue 16-Feb-21 21:00:31

He's still pretty young as well. My cat has just turned 2 and has calmed down a lot in the last few months, coming out of adolescence I suppose. If wants to play attack/ambush he usually only does it to the dog now which is better than our feet. I agree with trying to divert him with toys

AlfonsoTheTerrible Tue 16-Feb-21 21:17:37

I am reading this with interest because my rescue cat, who I got in November, does this.

The comment(s) about the cat being energetic and not learning to be too rough strike(s) me as being spot on. I am planning to get a kitten once kitten season starts as I think that this will help.

Peasbewithyou Tue 16-Feb-21 22:42:44

Ooh thank you all for your replies! This is all very interesting food for thought.

I had assumed getting another cat would only make things worse as I thought maybe it was a stress response... I guess I don’t want to get another one and then find it is worse but I will think about it!

He has dried food available all the time (or almost all the time) along with water and then he gets wet food 2 x a day. He is less keen on the dry food but will eat it if he is hungry.

We do have quite a few cat toys, I will look at getting a biting cat toy. So many human child toys around here too so will have to make sure he can find it.

I’ve just been sitting on the sofa and he was asleep in his cat tree thing. He woke up, came over, purring, lay down next to me and then started trying to catch my hand. When I moved it he was almost in a frenzy and it was really hard to detach him! His ears went all flat too which I know is a sign of stress / agitation! I felt like saying to him, “hey! I was just sitting here, minding me own business!”

That said, he hasn’t drawn blood on my hand / arm so I guess he wasn’t biting or scratching with full force?

It isn’t as bad as the leg attacking though - then he really goes for my knees!

I have come up to bed because after the day I’ve had I can’t face dealing with someone scratching and biting me! DH is playing with DCat with the favourite feather fishing rod toy which he seems to be enjoying.

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Prestel Wed 17-Feb-21 11:27:19

The trying to catch your hand definitely sounds like an attempt to play. Redirecting him to approved toys is the best response. Eventually you'll interpret his playful moods and be ready to distract him before he gets to the biting. If he likes chasing things, having something about you to throw, like a ping pong ball or a rolled up tissue, can be a good idea.
I'm not sure if the attacks on your legs are an attempt at play or something else. He'll be trying to communicate something, possibly some kind of unmet need. That he attacked you when you were cooking makes me wonder if he needed to pass through the kitchen to get to his cat flap and was anxious about going round you as you were moving around, or something like that. It might be that you'll never know for sure but hopefully these incidents will lessen as you all get to know each other better.
As for getting a kitten, I wouldn't recommend it if you want your life to be less stressful and cat focused in the near future! One thing I would say, though, is that once a cat gets to around two years old without living with another cat it can become very difficult to introduce another one so if you are hoping to become a multi-cat household at some point in the future it would be better to do so sooner rather than later. Only do it if you really want two, though, as I don't think it will help your boy particularly and could prove hard work. Cat's are generally very happy on their own.

JackieWeaverIsTheAuthority Wed 17-Feb-21 11:34:11

My boy cat does this but only with one of my sons. He doesn’t do it with anyone else. It’s definitely play, my son thinks it’s great fun and lets the cat go to town on his feet hmm despite it leaving scratches on him. The cat seems to know to only bite so hard and then stop. Our boy is now 7 and he’s still very kitten like, extremely playful so we have lots of toys for him. He tries to play with our older girl cat. Sometimes she will oblige but mostly she bats him away and growls so he has to make his fun in other ways.

Peasbewithyou Wed 17-Feb-21 22:35:23

Thank you!

@Prestel I was not planning on getting another cat so I think we will hold off with that!

I have spent the day trying really hard to be on it and distract, play, do the slow eye shut thing and ensure food is available. He hasn’t really gone for me today, just a playful attempt to get my slipper. It feels very different when it’s play that gets too rough compared to when he is really going for me again and again and I can’t get him to stop. But maybe this strategy will help alleviate the situation!

He did grab my hand when I tried to stroke him but it was clearly play (not in the mood for stroking thanks, I want to kill something sort of play), BUT he didn’t really use his claws. Just grabbed with his paws and claws were sheathed. Then of course he bit me but still encouraging!

I don’t really mind the play aggression because I get it. I know what he is doing and why so I can anticipate it and I know how to help redirect it. It’s the other “real” aggression that is hard!

@JackieWeaverIsTheAuthority interesting your cat only does it to one person too! Mine only seems to do it to me! Which is good as I don’t want him doing it to my 2 year old!

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JackieWeaverIsTheAuthority Wed 17-Feb-21 22:43:10

Oh when you mention your slipper- our boy absolutely loves my slippers. He rubs himself all over them and when they’re not on my feet he will play with them doing the bunny kick thing with his back legs. He sits on them and falls asleep with his head in them grin we reckon it’s the smell of feet that he likes. maybe your cat is a foot feline too? Try leaving your slippers on the floor and see if it lessens the leg attacks.

ViperAtTheGatesOfDawn Wed 17-Feb-21 23:07:44

Mine loves my sheepskin slippers, thankfully only when I'm not wearing them, they are covered in bite holes.

I'm glad you've seen some progress already Peas 🤞🏼

Megmargs Wed 17-Feb-21 23:17:37

Have a look at some Jackson Galaxy videos on YouTube. He’s a bit of an odd bod but really knows his stuff about cat behaviour and how to alleviate behavioural issues, he was also on a programme called “my cat from hell” where he worked with owners to change their cats’ behaviour. I don’t know if that’s on YouTube but worth a look?

silentpool Wed 17-Feb-21 23:28:29

I know your cat is older but when my cat did those kind of behaviours, I would grab his scruff, stop all interaction and say something, like Stop in a non aggressive but firm voice. I did this every time.

Shehasadiamondinthesky Wed 17-Feb-21 23:32:48

Ive had a couple of male cats like this before, one was an alpha male British longhair, did this to show dominance and stopped doing it when my husband left us because he was then the only male of the household and felt that now it was his territory, he had nobody to compete with and as he was the dominant male he didn't need to attack us any more.
I let the silly twat believe this for the rest of his fluffy life grin
Its usually hand reared cats who do this because they haven't had discipline from their mothers.
There are lots of videos on youtube about this - I like the kitten lady best.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ3QfRWRwok

Here's one of the dude being the king of all he surveys.

Dutypaid Wed 17-Feb-21 23:36:53

My cat does this when he is over-excited. It sounds like yours is trying to play. I wear slippers so mine is not as interested in my toes and that definitely results in fewer pounces.

JackieWeaverIsTheAuthority Thu 18-Feb-21 00:07:09

Shehasadiamondinthesky

Ive had a couple of male cats like this before, one was an alpha male British longhair, did this to show dominance and stopped doing it when my husband left us because he was then the only male of the household and felt that now it was his territory, he had nobody to compete with and as he was the dominant male he didn't need to attack us any more.
I let the silly twat believe this for the rest of his fluffy life grin
Its usually hand reared cats who do this because they haven't had discipline from their mothers.
There are lots of videos on youtube about this - I like the kitten lady best.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ3QfRWRwok

Here's one of the dude being the king of all he surveys.

That’s interesting. My son that our cat does it too is the oldest male and the only one who has been through puberty.

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