Ask the Cat Behaviorist Cats Feline Behavior

Ask the Cat Behaviorist with Dr. Marci Koski: Aggression after Vet Visit, Biting Cats, and More



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Dr. Marci Koski is a licensed Feline Conduct and Coaching Skilled who acquired specialised and superior certificates in Feline Coaching and Conduct from the Animal Conduct Institute. Whereas Marci has been captivated with all animals and their welfare, cats have all the time had a particular place in her coronary heart. In truth, Marci can’t keep in mind a time when she’s been with out at the very least one cat in her life. She at present depends on her five-member help employees  to take care of the feline duties of her family.

Marci’s personal firm, Feline Conduct Options, focuses on maintaining cats in houses, and from being deserted to streets or shelters as the results of treatable conduct points. Marci believes that the variety of cats who’re deserted and/or euthanized in shelters may be drastically lowered if guardians higher perceive what drives their cats to sure behaviors, and discover ways to work with their cats to encourage applicable behaviors as an alternative of undesirable ones.

Do you could have a query for Dr. Marci?
Depart it in a remark, and she or he’ll reply it subsequent month!

Aggression after vet go to

I’ve four cats; three feminine (2 are litter mates, three years previous, and the opposite is about 9) and one male cat, Sandy, who’s Eight. Sandy has all the time been the “man of the home”, the dominant one out of all of them. three weeks in the past, I took Sandy to the vet to get groomed (he tends to get nasty so the vet’s workplace can deal with him higher). He has lots of Maine coon in him so his hair was extraordinarily lengthy and he acquired a lion minimize so granted, he did look rather a lot totally different. So once I received residence with him, I let him out of the crate and naturally everybody was hissing at him…I used to be not stunned as a result of he smelled just like the vet (which all of them HATE) and he seemed totally different so maybe they didn’t acknowledge him. I made a decision to separate everybody; placing the females in a separate space and holding Sandy separate in a single day to offer him time to wash himself and so forth. The subsequent day, I reunited everybody and there was nonetheless a little bit of hissing happening however not dangerous…they have been smelling one another and getting reacquainted so it appeared like all the things was okay though Callie who is generally very docile and terrified of her personal shadow was very upset by him. I went outdoors for about an hour and once I got here in to my horror, I discovered Sandy laying in his mattress bleeding from a number of locations…dangerous…blood soaked his mattress and so on. and Callie was blown up like a balloon wanting like satan cat, I swear! She had turn into EXTREMELY aggressive towards him and nonetheless is three weeks later. I stored them separate for a lot of days, making an attempt little at a time with supervision to have them collectively however Callie would all the time stalk him and now he’s so paranoid round the home that it breaks my coronary heart. All of his previous habits have modified and he doesn’t even act like the identical cat nowadays…he used to strut round like the large man on campus however now he’s all the time cowering or sitting up excessive so he can see Callie coming. The actually complicated half is that Callie was probably the most docile cat earlier than all of this and it surprises me how horrible she is towards him. I can perceive a number of days of this after coming from the vet however at three weeks now I’m very involved. I might actually respect any recommendation that you might have. Thanks a lot! – Karen Morgan

Hello Karen,

Oh, I’m so sorry that you simply’re having to handle these two kitties who used to get alongside nicely collectively. This isn’t altogether an unusual prevalence – cat goes to vet, comes again smelling bizarre, cats at residence act like they’ve by no means met him earlier than. That is “feline non-recognition,” and it occurs simply as you described. Cats rely closely on scent to inform who’s good friend from foe (this is perhaps as a lot, or extra, essential than visible recognition) and if somebody comes into their territory smelling overseas, it’s dangerous information for the “newcomer”.

At this level, retaining the 2 cats separate and dealing on a SLOW reintroduction is important. The altercation that Callie had with Sandy served to create a adverse affiliation between cats. Whereas we’re unable to find out how the battle began, I can inform you that Callie was (and continues) to in all probability act out of worry and territorial insecurity – NOT a want to only kick Sandy’s butt. In any case, to her, a brand new cat got here in and is now competing for her assets! She should defend what’s hers. And Sandy, who was assured, is now like “what the heck is occurring?” He’s now terrified of Callie and in addition dealing with some territorial insecurity.

The very first thing I would like you to work on is rebuilding a “group scent”. When kitties reside collectively there’s often one cat who serves as an “allogroomer”, and she or he goes round and grooms all the different kitties in order that all of them begin to odor the identical. You’ll should be the allogroomer in your kitties, so take a soft-bristled brush (one which will probably be good at absorbing scent, not one that may merely take away fur) and brush every cat on their cheeks and brow. Sticking to the top will seize these pleasant facial pheromones. This ought to be a pleasurable expertise, and also you don’t need to pressure the brushing, since that may create a damaging affiliation with scent. Attempt giving the kitties treats when you brush every individually, or petting them or scratching their cheeks/neck whereas brushing. If the cat doesn’t need to be brushed, depart it behind with some treats to create that constructive affiliation and check out once more later. You’ll then have a brush with everybody’s scent on it – hold brushing the kitties with it so that everybody shares a standard scent.

You need to be swapping Callie and Sandy round to totally different rooms in order that they will get train, social interactions with people and the opposite cats (offered that they get together with one another), and enrichment in different elements of the house. You’ll need to proceed with a sluggish introduction, utilizing a coated child gate to make use of as a barrier between the cats whereas feeding them on reverse sides of the gate throughout mealtimes. You’ll progressively improve visible publicity by pulling again the blanket overlaying the gate whereas they’re consuming – so long as they’re consuming and never growling or hissing, that’s nice! Attempt to finish these periods on a great observe, and brief however candy is simply superb. As soon as the kitties can eat in full view of one another with none hesitation or unfavourable response, you’ll need to have supervised interactions periods in one other room. Have the cats in reverse corners, and distract every of them with toys, meals puzzles, and so forth. – no matter it takes to maintain the cats distracted from one another whereas they’re having a superb time. These periods also needs to finish on a superb word – maintain them brief at first, then longer. The cats will see one another, and ultimately be allowed to smell one another, however do separate them on the first signal that somebody is uncomfortable or turning into aggressive. Maintain a sight blocker (flattened cardboard field or the lid of a storage bin) useful so to put it between the cats if there’s any direct staring or (hopefully not) an altercation.

For extra concerning the sluggish introduction course of, please learn this text about Cat-to-Cat Introductions by Jackson Galaxy by way of The Acutely aware Cat.

Cat pees on the mattress

Hello, I’ve a two yr previous male who has been neutered. He has been peeing in my mattress with me in it. I simply took him to the vet and he doesn’t have any medical issues. I’m not house very a lot since I’ve three jobs, however I attempt to love on him and his sister as a lot as I can when I’m residence. I would like my cats to sleep with me. Please assist me. – Shelly Brooks

Hello Shelly –

If it’s one factor that may come injury the connection between a cat and his individual, it’s peeing on the mattress. And truly, that’s precisely the other of what cats try to do with this conduct! When cats urinate on bedding, it’s a robust message. Your mattress is acutely related together with your scent, and it’s thought that when cats urinate on bedding they’re making an attempt to inter-mingle scents in an effort to self-soothe. Please relaxation assured understanding that your kitty just isn’t doing this out of revenge or spite or to be a jerk – cats simply don’t assume this manner! Your cat is probably going making an attempt to inform you that 1) one thing is incorrect and he doesn’t really feel nicely, 2) he’s careworn or anxious about one thing, or three) he’s confused or anxious concerning the relationship he has with you.

None of these are nice, however they are often resolved, and right here’s what you are able to do. First, please get your cat checked out by a vet to ensure he doesn’t have any sort of urinary or bladder difficulty that’s inflicting him ache or discomfort. It’s all the time greatest to have the ability to rule out medical points! Second, you possibly can scale back stress and bond together with your kitty, which can tackle gadgets 2 and three above. The easiest way to do that is thru interactive play! I do know that you simply’re very busy with three jobs, however please attempt to find time for this. As a result of your cat (cats, if each are the identical age) is simply two, he NEEDS bodily train and a chance to precise his feline instincts. And this implies searching! Regardless that you “love on” the kitties as a lot as attainable when residence, there isn’t a substitute for play periods. Please buy an interactive wand toy similar to Da Hen or Dezi and Roo’s fishing pole wand toy and a few numerous lures to connect to it and simulate a fake hunt. Take your kitty via the prey sequence: staring, stalking and chasing, pouncing and grabbing, after which performing a kill chew. He’ll trip between these levels, and when you assume he’s executed after a few minutes, assume once more! He’s simply gone again to the staring part – give him a 30 second relaxation or change the lure. Lures which are only resemble prey gadgets: birds, rodents (Da Rat is superior), snakes/lizards, and bugs. Give him no less than one 15-20 minute play session per day (two when you can match them in), and attempt to do particular person play periods in order that one cat doesn’t all the time performs whereas the opposite watches (this may also scale back competitors for the toy and keep away from confrontational conduct). You will notice constructive modifications in your cat quickly!

Be sure you additionally present enrichment actions on your cats when you’re gone. This will embrace offering meals puzzles in order that they will forage, battery-operated toys that flip off routinely, or maybe a catio that may permit them to securely expertise the sights, sounds, scents, and smells of the outside safely. The guide Past Squeaky Toys has some nice concepts for each cat and canine enrichment actions, so check out that. Have an excellent time enjoying together with your kitties, as this must be enjoyable for everybody!

“Love” Bites that harm

I’ve a 7yr previous male cat I’ve had since he was 6 mos previous, he’s all the time appreciated to lick my hair and in addition do “love bites” I can’t appear to detour him (he appears bewildered I don’t like this) I’ll maintain my hand up for him to lick or block him, he’s not being imply however has harm me and I can’t belief him round my face, HOW on the earth do I cease this conduct???? Thank You – Julie

Hello Julie,

Ahhh, love bites! On one aspect we’re tickled pink that our kitties love us a lot that they only can’t cease themselves, however on the opposite aspect, OUCH! And we definitely don’t need to get bitten to the purpose of blood being drawn, particularly on the face (properly, anyplace, actually.) Cat bites that draw blood are simply contaminated, so any time you get bit, undoubtedly regulate it – if the redness doesn’t disappear shortly (or grows in space) see a physician instantly. Love bites ought to be extra mild although, they usually don’t usually break the pores and skin, so I’m questioning if he’s obtained some petting sensitivity (or another type of aggression) as an alternative?

First issues first, although. Once you maintain your hand up for him to lick or to dam him, chances are you’ll be unintentionally reinforcing the licking/biting conduct by truly providing up a bit of you to make use of. When you permit him to lick (or nibble) your hand, you’re educating him that licking/nibbling conduct is okay. On this respect, it’s in all probability good to remove the grey space – you may need to train him that there are not any occasions or locations in your physique the place licking/nibbling is okay, particularly when you can’t belief him to be mild. How do you do that? It might take a bit little bit of time, however you’re going to need to 1) discover one thing which you can redirect him to when he begins making an attempt to lick you, and a couple of) reward him for that conduct. Ask your self when and the place he often tries to lick/nibble you – for those who’re on the sofa watching TV, it could be extra applicable so that you can redirect him by tossing a small toy to a different a part of the sofa or the room, partaking him with play utilizing a wand toy, or by giving him a snack in a meals puzzle (if it’s a quiet, calm exercise that he prefers). These are usually self-rewarding actions, however you may as well attempt shifting him to a different place and petting him, after which give him a small deal with reward if he stops making an attempt to lick or nibble. Alternatively, if it’s bedtime and he tries to snuggle and lick you when you’re going to sleep, attempt placing a small pillow between your face and your cat (it will function a block), after which giving him a small deal with to lure him to a unique place (which may even be its personal reward). Rewards don’t all the time need to be treats, both – you should use petting, sweet-talk, play…something your cat enjoys! And, if he does sneak in some licking or nibbling, do your greatest to tug your self away from that conduct and ignore it (whereas providing an alternate exercise) – when mama cat will get irritated with kittens treating her too roughly, mama cat walks away and the kittens study that the conduct will get them no consideration in order that they ultimately cease the conduct. Be like mama cat.

Let’s speak about love nips and biting for a fast sec. As I stated earlier than, love nips shouldn’t be tough sufficient to interrupt the pores and skin, however even love nips may be harmful in case your cat is nipping you within the incorrect place. If his bites are inflicting damage, decide when these are occurring – is it whenever you’re petting him, simply sitting there not doing something, or is he pacing round and making an attempt to get your consideration? Watch his physique language intently – in case you are petting him after which he turns round and bites, you could be lacking his extra delicate cues telling you that he’s had sufficient. Ears turning again, cessation of purring, physique weight shifting away from you, tail-twitching, and searching again at your hand are indications that perhaps you need to cease petting. And that’s high-quality – many cats favor brief strokes when petting (not a full physique swoop) for restricted period. Simply concentrate – cease your exercise or redirect, relying on what your kitty doing. Being proactive is the best way to go when behaviors have the potential to show unfavourable!

Cat bites cheek

Pricey Dr. Marci:

Our Ami is an cute almost-six-year-old furry ball of marvel who is sort of the character, however every morning once I greet him with hugs, he’ll attain for my face together with his paw (cute, proper?), give my cheek a candy little lick (kiss) after which, will attempt to nip at my cheek. As soon as, he truly bit me and drew blood. Is that this an indication of affection or aggression? I really like him to demise, however I can’t permit him to chew. What ought to I do? – Sharon

Hello Sharon,

Awww – it sounds such as you and Ami have a candy relationship! Morning rituals might be one thing each cats and people take pleasure in. However we undoubtedly don’t need these rituals to develop into harmful for both social gathering!

First see my response above to Julie about her cat who licks and provides her love-bites. This may increasingly assist your state of affairs, however I even have one other thought that you simply may need to think about.

As a result of I can’t *see* what your cat is doing (alongside together with his physique language), I can’t decide whether or not his conduct is affection or aggression. Reaching in your face with a paw and licking sounds cute and could also be affection, however it may be an indication that perhaps Ami is just not as into the morning ritual as you’re. The sequence of actions you described could possibly be learn a few alternative ways, so hear me out. Many cats don’t wish to be hugged (and a few do; Ami could also be one in every of them) – being held firmly and near a human and not using a option to get away may cause worry or irritation. The paw as much as your face could also be his first effort to say “hey, now – let’s simply take it straightforward, okay?” (i.e., speak to the paw!) after which, if that’s ignored, the lick to the cheek could also be saying “so, this makes me type of nervous and I simply needed to let you understand that” (lip-licking and yawning could be a signal of stress). It might even be a reminder to you that his tooth are proper there, and that if the hug continues, he might use them. And eventually, if his messages aren’t getting by way of, he might use his tooth as a final resort, leading to a nip.

That being stated, I would like you to re-evaluate how Ami could be experiencing the morning ritual. I really like the thought of a morning ritual, so perhaps you would change it so that you’re each comfortable and protected. What about, as an alternative of choosing him as much as hug him, approaching him and giving him some head pets (specializing in the cheeks, brow, and chin), then giving him a favourite deal with? For those who’re sitting down, see if he needs to return sit in your lap, or lay down subsequent to you. I hope that yow will discover a option to take pleasure in a morning routine that begins the day on the correct paw for each of you!

Neutered male cat is mounting feminine companion

I’ve requested this query a few occasions however, haven’t acquired a solution. First time greater than a yr in the past. Until it takes that lengthy. My male, 5 yr previous KACEY, is consistently licking my 7 yr previous feminine KIERAN. He additionally jumps on her and bites the again of her neck! She squeals, I yell, he jumps off. I lately purchased a CALMING COLLAR for him however, hasn’t made an enormous distinction. They’re SPAYED and NEUTERED. Is that this regular ‘feminine – male’ conduct? What can I do to make him cease?!? Please assist! Thanks! =^..^= – Elisha Abrellb

Hello Elisa,

Thanks for describing the actions of Kacey in the direction of Kieran. First off, do the cats get alongside nicely collectively, aside from when Kacey goes after Kieran? Licking usually signifies that there’s a pleasant relationship, though since he does it continually, I’m questioning if there’s a little bit of stress or nervousness by Kacey that he self-soothes by licking Kieran. Often over-grooming is completed to at least one’s self within the presence of stress or nervousness. Are there bald spots on Kieran, and may Kacey be directed away from Kieran with a toy or deal with? If the licking isn’t inflicting an issue or impacting the standard of life for both cat, you may simply need to control it and attempt to redirect once you discover extreme licking by Kacey.

There are a few the reason why Kacey could also be attacking Kieran that you simply may need to examine. First, inter-cat aggression could also be brought on by a well being standing change in both cat; not feeling properly may cause grumpiness (on the a part of Kacey), or end in a special odor (on the a part of Kieran). So, a vet check-up is all the time a good suggestion. Nevertheless, based mostly in your description of the assault (i.e., biting the again of her neck), I’d guess that there’s some sexual aggression occurring. That is one other factor to speak together with your vet about. Despite the fact that Kacey has been neutered, you may want his testosterone ranges checked – typically a testicle wasn’t discovered (e.g., it hadn’t descended on the time of surgical procedure) or some tissue might have been missed, which continued to supply testosterone. Alternatively, typically male cats are “super-masculinized” in a course of that occurs in utero whereby testosterone can work to activate sure areas of the fetus’ mind, which then end in male-typical behaviors within the grownup (even in cats which were neutered).

In both of those instances (incomplete neutering or super-masculinization), speak together with your vet. You will get Kacey’s testosterone degree checked to see if the neutering was full, and in that case, you could need to ask your vet concerning the male pheromone, adrostenone. There’s some proof that making use of this pheromone to a feminine cat’s rump will make her odor extra like a male cat, thus inflicting Kacey to have a response one thing like, “oh, pardon me sir, I didn’t understand that you simply weren’t feminine, as I had beforehand assumed. I’ll be on my method.” Your vet will be capable of give you extra details about the pheromone, and whether or not it is perhaps an applicable treatment to attempt.

In any other case, please attempt to distract and redirect Kacey once you see that he’s about to go after Kieran. Supply up a play session with a wand toy in order that he can relieve any stress or pent-up power that must be launched, or give him some treats in a meals puzzle. The earlier you’ll be able to redirect him to a enjoyable, stress-relieving exercise, the higher!

Giving equal consideration to 2 cats, and serving to outdoors stray cats

Good morning, Dr. Marci Koski, I’ve 2 issues. The primary one is my very own 2 youngsters. My Eight yr previous Ms. Mida, I need to attempt to play together with her with out Sir Tiger who’s three yrs previous for when I’m enjoying with Ms. Mida he comes and needs the eye. I give each probably the most consideration that I may give them. Sir Tiger likes to play however when I’m enjoying with each on the similar time I feel Tiger doesn’t prefer it.

My second drawback is that I’ve 2 strays that I feed. I had somebody make me 2 shelters for the winter they made it with 2 open sides for one within the different for them to exit in the event that they must be. I had loads of hay in them to maintain them heat however they wouldn’t go in it I took the hay out lately they usually nonetheless wont go in them is there one thing I’m overlooking. Thanks. – Darlene

Hello Darlene,

Thanks for writing about your cats, and the stray cats you take care of. I hope I may give you a few concepts!

First, it may be excellent to separate cats throughout play occasions since one cat will inevitably get the brief finish of the stick, so to talk. One cat will dominate the play session and the opposite will cling again, or making an attempt to share one toy may even trigger a scuffle over useful resource competitors. Can you set Sir Tiger in one other room when you play with Ms. Mida? Attempt giving Sir Tiger an excellent play session first (since he’s youthful and extra assertive with the toys), then give him a meal or a favourite snack in one other room (shut the door as soon as he’s consuming). It will assist him settle into the hunt-eat-groom-sleep cycle after which you possibly can play with Ms. Mida whereas Sir Tiger is occupied with meals within the different room. Alternatively, you may give him a battery-operated toy to play with within the different room, or a meals puzzle to maintain him occupied – have him affiliate being alone within the different room with one thing good, in order that he learns that enjoyable issues occur when he’s in there with the door closed. Give it a attempt!

Second, it’s nice that you simply’re caring for the strays which have come to depend on you for meals. It’s good that the shelters have each an entrance and exit in case the cats want to flee from a predator. Make it possible for the doorway/exit is not more than 6-Eight inches vast in order that the predators keep out! Additionally, you’ll need to use STRAW as an alternative of hay within the shelter – hay will get moldy, however straw will stand up to the weather and keep dry. Placement of the shelter might be an important factor, although. You’ll need to make it possible for it isn’t in an uncovered location (like the center of your yard) – as an alternative, tuck in subsequent to one thing the place it may be extra shielded from the weather, and go un-noticed by predators or different cats. Use impartial colours, and stick with it off the bottom by a number of inches (you’ll be able to put bricks or wooden beneath the shelter). If you wish to get some extra pointers, take a look at The Acutely aware Cat’s article Winter Climate Tricks to Assist Group Cats.

Poorly socialized kitten bites

Hello – I’ve a 6 month previous kitten referred to as Fortunate and would really like some recommendation. Beforehand I had Felix for 18 years and he was very loving. Fortunate nevertheless is sort of aggressive. He got here from a farm and I used to be informed he was Eight weeks previous, however my vet thinks he was 6 weeks or much less. It was apparent from the start that he had by no means been dealt with and was initially terrified of individuals. He’s a lot better now and not afraid of us. The issue is that he retains biting, a few of it fairly savage. He doesn’t purr, won’t sit on our knees and we can’t stroke him as his little paw comes up able to swipe at us. I had him neutered, however this has made no distinction and I plugged in a Feliway, which has made him a bit extra relaxed, and enabled us to get an previous stroke in till the biting begins. I’ve been giving him treats out of my hand to attempt to have extra contact and in his means I feel he’s completely happy, we now have a great deal of toys and a cat tree and he performs all day. So what I want to ask is how can we make him extra loving and approachable. – Sally Collingwood

Hello Sally – this can be a nice query! It sounds such as you’ve carried out a whole lot of good issues – getting him neutered, utilizing treats to construct constructive associations with you, and offering him with a number of toys and alternatives to play. That’s nice – the truth that he’s not afraid of you is a large accomplishment, so be proud at how far you’ve got all come.

However you do have some challenges. Based mostly on Fortunate’s historical past, it looks like he might have missed out on being dealt with by people throughout his essential socialization interval, which occurs between the ages of two and seven weeks previous. So it’s comprehensible that he was fearful and nonetheless doesn’t absolutely belief individuals. Nevertheless, he’s nonetheless pretty younger and with endurance and persistence, it’s possible that he’ll make progress together with his degree of belief and permit you to pet him and work together extra simply. Additionally, he’s nonetheless a kitten, and kittens are sometimes rambunctious and troublesome to decelerate when they’re awake! Cats regularly mellow with age ?

Whereas Fortunate’s primary character shouldn’t be more likely to change a lot, there are issues that he can nonetheless study, as I discussed above. He might by no means be a cuddly cat who enjoys being picked up and snuggled (for instance). I’ve 4 cats and NONE of them wish to be held, and solely two of them will come and sit on my lap for petting. It’s as much as us to simply accept our cats as they’re – every is totally different (identical to individuals) and we’ve got to respect their limits. Giving them decisions and respecting these decisions will assist them construct belief with us, and because the relationship develops, you’ll find out how every cat expresses their love for you (typically in delicate methods).

Right here’s what you possibly can work on now. Hold enjoying with him, however use an extended wand toy (my favourite is Da Chook) – that may hold him lively and away out of your arms. The extra you possibly can distance your self bodily throughout play time, the much less possible he can be to chew you when he needs play. Relating to petting, reap the benefits of these sleepy occasions after meals (put on him out with a play session – the hunt – then give him is meal, then await him to groom, then get sleepy). If he’s close to you, let him sniff your hand, then give him a deal with and let him make the subsequent transfer. If he’s actually nervous about being petted, you possibly can all the time use an extended smooth paintbrush to stroke his brow and cheeks (most cats take pleasure in these areas being touched, so think about these areas first) and provides him treats as rewards. Don’t attempt to contact him when he’s truly sleeping as a result of which may startle him and can end in enjoyable for nobody! Current him with toys and treats that you understand he enjoys, and let him come to you for interactions. Much less is usually extra with shy and fearful kitties, so even in case you are solely capable of pet him a few times (hold strokes brief and once more, think about the top) earlier than the session ends, that shall be progress. Attempt to all the time finish on a very good word – brief and candy builds constructive associations and belief!

I’m pleased that Fortunate has affected person and loving guardians – give him time and he’ll make progress.

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