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Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:03 AM

New, big foster cat bites. With blood.

My blood, not his. He was scheduled to spend a few days on exhibit at a pet store. Nope. A woman with a 6-year-old child wants to adopt him. Nope. He's bit me 5 times--the last above the leather glove I started wearing when petting him.

In 20+ years of rescue, I've had unsocial fosters. I've had grown-up "only kittens," who never learned to pull their punches. But I've never had one that spontaneously attacks. He's not "playing rough;" he's attacking without warning. I'm going to take him to the vet to see if there's a medical issue, but I haven't noticed that he objects to being touched in any specific place, and I'm not up for more experimentation. He weighs 12 pounds and bruises as well as breaks the skin. He bites hard.

I'm going to tell the rescue that I'm not the person to rehabilitate him. And I don't want to reinforce this habit! The only solutions I can think of (feral colony, barn cat) break my heart, because he really wants to be loved. He just attacks mid-love. Not the way to build a lasting relationship.

Any compassionate (for him and me) suggestions?

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:07 AM

1. The vet check is a good idea and I respect you for feral rescue.

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Response to irisblue (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:12 AM

2. Thank you. Mine is a pet rescue, but we work for alternative solutions when they can't be pets.

I'm sure his behavior is not his fault, but I don't know how to help him change it. And I've had only one cat that went to be a barn cat. After living under my sink for 3 months, we figured he wasn't changing.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:17 AM

3. I think taking him to the vet is the right first choice.

Cats are all so different and it can be hard to figure out how to interact with some of them. My wife and I have gone through a lot of cats over the years. Some, feral, some semi-feral, but most very friendly. We recently moved this year and our new house came with a couple of stray neighborhood cats. My wife named one Cujo because he drew blood the first time I tried to pet him. My wife doesn't like him at all, but I learned to get along with him. I stopped petting him for a while, but I would squint my eyes at him and give him food. I would make sure not to make prolonged eye contact. After about a week or so he started rubbing up against my legs and I continued to feed him whenever he wanted. It's been more than six months and I can pet him now without any issues. I haven't tried to pick him up or anything because I think that's a really bad idea. None of our new neighbors know where he came from. He has had to fight other cats to protect his territory so he's a tough guy. One thing I did when he would latch onto me was say 'ow', not super loud, but loud enough to make sure he understood that I didn't like it. If I were you I would play the long game. Be aloof with this one and pretend like you are the cat whose playing hard to get. Don't pet him for a while, but do feed him and give him some happy squints. You never know what can happen. Cats can learn too. Good luck!

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Response to iscooterliberally (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 12:38 PM

10. Yes, say "ow" and move away from the cat

I adopted a cat from the shelter who was a biter, and I found that information online (where it's always reliable, right??) for cases where a cat had been taken away from its mother/litter mates too soon. The suggestion was to act like a litter mate, who would cry and move away/stop playing if bitten. It took a month or two but it did work, because he wants to be next to me. I'd say "Ow! Don't bite!" and move away. Now he puts his mouth on me and rolls his eyes over to look at me until I say "Don't bite!" and he lets go.

He is a weird cat.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:22 AM

4. I feel for both of you

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:24 AM

5. After ensuring there is not a medical issue (including a source of pain)...

the most success I've seen with aggressive feral cats is to give them time and distance--the no approach/minimal approach method. Put his food out in the same place. Care for him as you normally would. Sit with him frequently at some safe distance within the same room and while doing something that occupies your attention and lets him feel unthreatened. Talk to him a bit, but let him choose to be near you or not. Offer treats not by approaching but putting them some distance from you for him to seek or not. Avoid a lot of direct eye contact for a while.

In weeks or months, this kitty may well approach you but he has to do it and it has to be a slow process within the kitty's control. Any attempt to force the process or to speed it up will surely set you back for some time.

Many cats drop their fear response and become wonderful loving cats, albeit usually only with a single trusted person or two. But it takes a lot of patience.

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Response to hlthe2b (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 12:26 PM

8. I tried this for two years with one and failed. He was fine with other cats but bit people.

I was OK with him in the house because he and my other cat were best buddies and he didn't bother me. However, if I tried to catch him to take him to the vet, it was Nuclear War. Ended up with serious infection from the bites one time.

So, when I moved, I couldn't take him. If he got out in the apartment bldg and someone tried to catch him, there would be serious injuries.

I've fostered many cats and dogs over the years and within 3-12 months they were all socialized, except this one.

So I arranged for him to go to feral barn cat group.

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Response to SharonAnn (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 12:35 PM

9. Sounds like the best solution for that particular cat.

Like people, they are individuals and not all will ever "conform" to our expectations. Sounds like you gave him his best life possible.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:54 AM

6. If fixed, you could always adopt him our as

a barn cat. Bet he is a great mouser and that may be where learned that behavior.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 11:56 AM

7. I have one right now

that is not a feral, although I have had plenty of them and several with an issue like this. I never figured it out either. The way I was able to get through to them was much like those suggested by hlthe2b above. I would do exactly what hlthe2b said. AFTER the vet check, that is a great start.

The one I have belongs to the neighbor across the road. She does not really do much for all the cats over there and this one wandered over several times, this time it looks like he has no intention going back. He came into the room I let ferals use when I try to tame them or just feed them and that was 4 days ago. I have to call her but I doubt she knows he is gone. Anyway......sorry for the side.......I think you are absolutely right that it might be for some reason you are not the right person for this cat. This happened to me with one and I could never figure him out. I never thought of that possibility, how could one not come around like the others? Sadly after 5 years of feeding, loving at a distance and occasionally getting to pet him he disappeared. I am hoping he was TNR'd and tamed and adopted. At least I tell myself that.

Good luck. I hope it works out well for all of you and thanks for doing what you are doing.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 02:35 PM

11. If there's no medical issue, it's often "PIA" or "Petting Induced Aggression"

LOTS of cats (in my experience, the majority!) have it to one degree or another. It's how they handle it that varies. Some will simply hiss to warn you, some will squirm free and leave, some will "nip" or try to turn it into a 'grab and kick' play session. I have had one "serious CHOMPer".

What it amounts to is sensory overload that domestic cats haven't yet evolved an ability to tolerate or respond sociably to.

Thresholds vary from cat to cat. I learned the hard way that one of my kittehs PIA response activated within 60 seconds of petting-scritching. My lovebun boy seemed to have been born without a PIA response at all.

Those two kittehs were equally loving, appreciative of their human servant, and possessive of their home and their social milieu, they just had way different responses.

Low-PIA threshold cats will reach sensory overload quickly, ferals and unsocialized kittehs will respond to the sensation with their "threat" response, which can be attack.

It's a long and painstaking process of training the human and the cat to recognize the threshold level and balance between changing/stopping the stimulus, and evolving a more socially acceptable response, though it can be done. Take time, observe closely, use treats.

Offer pets, observing closely- do kitteh's pupils dilate or contract? Do ears change position? Muscles tense? Guard hairs start to rise? Stop the pets immediately. Make soft soothing noise, above all do NOT make eye contact.

(Lots of people are unaware that eye contact is THE threat source for kittehs, they are visual hunters, a prolonged stare is how they prepare to kill. Eye contact and worse- SUSTAINED eye contact says to them "I'm thinking about killing you". This is why the "love blink" is such a key indicator of trust and affection from your kitteh, as well as the "Close my eyes while you pet" etc. It's them telling you "I trust you not to attack me, I'm willing to take my eyes off you." )

Wait for kitteh to show visible sign of relaxation- looking away, muscles relaxing, guard hairs going down, etc. Provide treat. Bring session to an end by leaving.

Rinse and repeat. Reinforce good response from kitteh, like kitteh leaving, or even kitteh providing a warning hiss, rather than going straight to CHOMP.

Provide pets whenever kitteh asks, but very short. Keep your offers of pets to times when kitteh is otherwise relaxed in your presence.

It takes a lot of time and attention, and if you can't do that, another foster may be able to. Helps to find one who knows the issue and the goal and is willing to put in the long, patient effort.

helpfully,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #11)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 09:56 PM

13. My kitty that was lost last fall had that

He wanted very much to be around people but would not tolerate petting or brushing. He'd attack viciously with teeth and claws and drew blood most times. He learned to come when called, cuddle up with us, would follow us around, and was very attached to us - but we could never pet him.

I believe he was a feral kitten. I adopted him from the animal shelter at about four weeks and tried to socialize him. He just would not allow us to pet him. He did mellow a bit as he got older but never really liked petting. Scritching was out of the question.

He lived with us until he was seventeen and a half and was a happy kitty - we just had to love him on his terms.

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #11)

Sat Feb 15, 2020, 01:41 PM

14. I think this might be it. I've been avoiding his eyes and just petting him a few strokes at a time.

He did bite my hand yesterday when I went a little longer, but not hard, and I was wearing a leather glove.

I've always looked deep in my cats' eyes. I guess they've been saying "I love you, so I won't kill you. Now."

I've certainly had other cats hiss, swat, or leave when they've had enough. This guy is confusing because he's always rubbing my legs, nudging me with his head, chirping and purring, staying close--and then CHOMP, no warning.

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Wed Feb 12, 2020, 03:00 PM

12. Has he been put into a large dog cage? I've found this helpful. I call it facing your fears (the cat

He can chill out in his safe space, observe that no other cats have a problem with you. You can brush him with a long handled toilet or back brush. Don't leave food in the cage. Having breakfast and dinner will help him associate you with something goog. Good luck! I've fostered about 500 felines and 2 refused to come around, so your guy may be along the line of the 2!

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Response to catrose (Original post)

Sat Feb 15, 2020, 01:48 PM

15. Thanks all. You have some good suggestions, which I am trying.

He goes to the vet next Wednesday. And his potential adopter still wants him, miracle of miracles. Fingers crossed for his best life.

My murderous kitty

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