by Barry KuKe
Recently, a lady contacted me about her cat’s behavior. The poor lady was crying because her cat continues to bite and hurt her. She loves her cat and doesn’t want to return it to the shelter, but she can’t deal with this ongoing display of aggression. Many cats learn biting and scratching habits when they are a kitten. Most grow out of this phase, but some do not. If your cat bites or scratches you or others, try some of these suggestions.
- Say “NO” loudly or even scream. When cats play with another cat or dog, they respect the signals they get from the other animal when play is too hard or hurts. The other animal yelps or cries loudly. If you imitate this type of reaction, the cat should get the message.
- Give the cat a time out. You can physically pick the cat up and move to another part of the house or room. Some behavior experts suggest grabbing the cat by the scruff and moving them because this is similar to how a momma cat disciplines her kittens. You don’t want to hurt the cat, so support the cats’ body weight with your other hand.
- Know your cat’s warning signs. Some cats can be petted for hours and never complain, while others get overstimulated and tell you that they want you to stop by biting you. I had a cat once that was good for about 5-minutes, and then he would want the petting to stop. Fortunately, he would just walk away and not bite me, but some cats will bite when annoyed or overstimulated.
- Make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will likely have many questions about the type of behavior, circumstances of the behavior, the household environment, and your technique in correcting them. In some cases, they will ask to run bloodwork for specific conditions that can cause elevated aggression. If they can’t help eliminate the behavior, they may refer you to a behavior specialist.
- Redirect your cat’s bad habits by spending more time playing with an interactive toy. Cats get bored and need to be entertained, or they will act out. There are many toys available, including auto-lasers that point the laser in different areas automatically. You can also play with your cat using a feather toy or other manual toy to engage and distract.
- Some people have told us that once they added a second cat to the household, the biting stopped or was redirected to the new cat who could better defend itself than the human owner. The new cat teaches the original cat, and the bad behavior is minimized.
Many times, bad behavior is the result of a medical issue. The cat might have a UTI (urinary tract infection) that can be very uncomfortable for the cat, and thus they get cranky. Pay attention to your cats’ behavior. They are trying to tell you something and are not biting to hurt you most of the time. Communication is key.
Lastly, adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Out- reach Director for the Halifax Humane Society. You can reach Barry at 386. 274.4703, ext. 320, or BarryK@halifaxhumanesociety.org