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Yeshanu
02-05-2006, 08:48 PM
Just FYI, I've read the other thread about biting cats, and the problem I've come across isn't the same.

A friend owns a large (20 lbs plus), four-year-old, grey neutered male cat. He's a declawed, indoor cat. He's generally very sucky to my friend. He doesn't really take to outsiders, but when I'm there, he doesn't bother me if I don't bother him.

A couple of years ago, my friend got married, and of course now there's two of them living with the cat.

One day last year, for no apparent reason, the cat bit my friend's wife. She wasn't petting him or doing anything to annoy him. He broke skin, and the wound was bad enough that I had to take her to the hospital to have a doctor look at it.

Yesterday morning, my friend had guests for breakfast. A female guest was sitting on a barstool, talking, when the cat climbed up her and bit her on the face, again breaking skin. Again, no provocation.

My friend is really upset, and was talking about putting the cat down. They're going to be having a baby in a few months, and the fear of having the cat bite the baby is very real.

Does anyone have any insight, or suggestions as to how it might be overcome?

GHF65
02-06-2006, 05:19 PM
I'm by no means a certified cat expert, but having had cats most of my life (let's call it 48 years of cat ownership), usually several at a time, I can say that cats are extraordinarily territorial solitary hunters and don't give up their territories easily. It's vital that this cat be shown the error of his ways. Your friend needs to put the cat in a place away from people (a bathroom or other safe place where he can be sequestered but not in an abusive way) every time he behaves in an aggressive manner. If he sprays, threatens, hisses, or stalks anyone, that needs to be nipped in the bud as those are all precursor behaviors. I had a cat who was finally euthanized at 19 (due to failed kidneys, not sheer meanness) and never learned, no matter how hard we tried to convince him, that biting wasn't appropriate. He never broke the skin, but he was prone to suddenly flipping out and biting the hand that was petting him. Let that be a cautionary tale. We knew what we were doing, training-wise, and still couldn't keep him from biting. Nor could we break him (a neutered, declawed male) from marking every doorway, every window, every plant, and all of my daughter's possessions.

Your friend's cat is a dominant male who sees the wife and other guests as intruders and is doing his best to create a hierarchy with himself at the top of the heap. He will undoubtedly feel the same way about the baby. Under no circumstances should this cat be allowed to stay in the house with the baby. That's just my HO, but I would stake my reputation on it.

awatkins
02-06-2006, 08:16 PM
Aw, gee, Ruth, that sounds like a potentally dangerous situation for the baby--I'd be very afraid to allow that cat access to a baby, or any child.

I hate it for your friend, who probably loves the cat very much and is facing a tough decision. Maybe another home could be found for the kitty?

Cathy C
02-06-2006, 08:43 PM
I have to admit that I'm amazed that your friend has let it get this far. Pardon me for a moment while I :Wha: , at a 20+ pound declawed cat who could make it up to the face of a woman on a barstool without intervention...


I've had cats for years and this is definitely a territorial thing. My advice would be to take it to the cat's level. Closing it in a room will do nothing to modify the behavior. The cat needs to be made to know that your friend is the "big cat" in the house. This doesn't mean hitting or kicking the cat by any means. But it does mean physical contact and the risk of being bit again until the cat accepts its place as subservient. Usually, what I'll do is to place the cat on the floor and roll it on its side. The front and back legs are held together lightly with my fingers and then I'll bite the cat on the scruff of its neck and growl. You don't want to break skin of course, but making the cat flinch doesn't harm it physically or psychologically. Remain with your teeth in the fur for 30 seconds to a minute and ignore the struggles. Afterward, you ignore the cat completely for an hour or so and don't pet him. After about an hour you can allow him to approach and seek forgiveness from you. Doing this once a day for about a week should take care of the problem. I can usually get by with only doing it once or twice, but I have a really good cat growl. :)

But if she's unwilling to become the "dominant" cat, she should really consider finding him a new home before the baby arrives. Good luck!

Leva
02-07-2006, 06:16 AM
I've had cats my entire life, including taming ferals and working with rescues.

I've NEVER personally seen a cat act like this. Cats rarely "start" anything, though I've had a few that would certainly defend themselves. I've rarely even HEARD of any bonafide "aggressive" cats. It's just not normal cat behavior. Caveat: I've been training animals since I was a little kid and rarely have an animal who's confused about their standing in the pecking order, simply because establishing MY alpha-ness is second nature.

One immediate concern I have is, has this cat had its rabies shots? If this is new behavior, I would be VERY concerned about this and I would say it is time for a vet visit NOW. Cats get rabies easier than dogs. Do not rule this out because it's an "inside cat." The stakes are too high.

If the vet rules out rabies, and the person wants to work with the cat, I'd have a complete blood panel, urinalysis and physical done to check for anything that might be causing the behavior that's physical, like a hormone imbalance. Also, if the cat is in pain, this can manifest as stress behavior ... MAYBE causing an attack.

My personal .02 though is that mental illness happens in animals too. Never seen it in a cat, but I HAVE seen it in dogs and horses. A cat that is so aggressive that it attacks its owner or a stranger without any provocation probably isn't normal mentally. If a physical cause is ruled out, the owner might try behavior modification. However, I'd never trust the cat ... an animal that's not-quite-right in the head will be unpredictable despite any amount of training you want to do. I've got the scars to prove this theory. The owner may want to talk to the vet about "better living through chemistry" as well. Kitty prozac really does exist.

But quite honestly? And this is coming from a bonafide cat lover ... if they've got a cat who's proven to be dangerously aggressive, and there's going to be a baby in the house? I'd soundly err on the side of the baby's safety. If they can't fix the problem before the baby arrives, it's time for kitty to go. Baby comes first.

Leva

Fern
02-07-2006, 07:44 AM
Consider that if a cat that size can kill a rabbit what kind of damage could they do to an infant. If it weighs 20 or more pounds, it could conceivably outweigh a baby by 3 times. At least a rabbit can run from them. An infant is a sitting duck.
That cat would be so gone. . .no need for a "choice" of it staying or going, there isn't but one as far as I can see.

Leva
02-07-2006, 08:30 AM
One other thing that occurred to me, also, is what's going to happen when the baby becomes a grabby, clumsy toddler?

Even the best, friendliest, most patient cat in the world can be annoyed to the point of taking a swat at a toddler, after the umpteenth time the toddler grabs the cat's tail, hauls the cat around by the back legs, or hugs the cat too hard. And even the best-intentioned parents are not going to be able to prevent the occasional accidental mauling of Kitty by Junior. Toddlers are clumsy and the cat generally gets the worst end of it and such is life.

A normal cat? You'd get a hiss, a bit of growling, and maybe a slap or two upside Junior's head from the cat. The kid might get scratched at worse, will have a new respect for cats, and life goes on. No permanent damage.

How will *this* cat react the first time his tail is yanked?

Leva



Consider that if a cat that size can kill a rabbit what kind of damage could they do to an infant. If it weighs 20 or more pounds, it could conceivably outweigh a baby by 3 times. At least a rabbit can run from them. An infant is a sitting duck.
That cat would be so gone. . .no need for a "choice" of it staying or going, there isn't but one as far as I can see.

Yeshanu
02-09-2006, 07:52 PM
Thanks, all, for your replies. My friend has a few months to deal with the problem, until the baby arrives. I'll print this out for him.

I'm going to recommend that:

a) he find another home for the cat, no matter what.

And

b) he talks to his vet about the behaviour. I'm fairly certain the cat's rabies shots are up to date, and the first incidence of the biting behaviour didn't result in a case of rabies in the human (and it was long enough ago to tell...), so that isn't the problem. But I thought when I first heard the story that an animal behaviourist might be able to help, and perhaps medication as well.


One other thing that occurred to me, also, is what's going to happen when the baby becomes a grabby, clumsy toddler?

Even the best, friendliest, most patient cat in the world can be annoyed to the point of taking a swat at a toddler, after the umpteenth time the toddler grabs the cat's tail, hauls the cat around by the back legs, or hugs the cat too hard. And even the best-intentioned parents are not going to be able to prevent the occasional accidental mauling of Kitty by Junior. Toddlers are clumsy and the cat generally gets the worst end of it and such is life.

A normal cat? You'd get a hiss, a bit of growling, and maybe a slap or two upside Junior's head from the cat. The kid might get scratched at worse, will have a new respect for cats, and life goes on. No permanent damage.

How will *this* cat react the first time his tail is yanked?


This is a concern of mine, as well. I have a very docile, neutered male cat. I also have a twelve-year-old child of best friends with a small scar on her upper lip because one time my cat decided it had had enough of her... (She was three or four at the time.)

Tit for tat, there. My friends' cat is terrified of my seventeen year old daughter, because the first time she visited them after they got the cat (she was five) she yelled, "Kitty!" and headed straight for the poor little kitten.

People think cats and kids, or even worse, kittens and kids, are natural pairs. I know better...

Fern
02-09-2006, 08:29 PM
Another thing I might mention is a long time ago I read somewhere that babies/toddlers eyes are more moist and therefore "shiny", as opposed to adults eyes. The article cautioned about keeping little ones out of harm's way. . . if you think about them looking into a bird cage, or pulling up to a couch where a cat is lying. It puts their face/eyes on a level of "easy to reach" for a cat slap or bird peck. I know you said this one was declawed, but it still would be something to consider.