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Why Does My Cat Bite?
How To Stop This Unwanted Behavior

Here, our Maine Coon community friends have come together here to solve Mike's cat biting behavior problems.

"Why Does My Cat Bite?"

why does my cat bite?Why Does My Cat Bite?
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by: Mike De Graaf in Rockford, MI:

When it's time for bed he hangs on his cat tree and will bite if you pull him off.

He is 10 months old, drew blood biting me twice so I flicked his nose hard, and he bit my wife once.

Has his own room at night and does not want to go there when its bed time.

Has a bed, window with view of front yard, queen size bed in room, food water and litter, cat toys, small tree, and light music playing till we get home, need info on what they think and how they act.

I hold 1 finger up and tell him no to biting, and he puts his ears down and bites me even when I am holding him.

He stays outside his bedroom door when we get home and does not want to come to us.

Reply:
Hi Mike,

You have your hands full with this boy! Well, I have a couple of thoughts.

It's common during rough play to get a little nip or gentle bite on the hand. But we're not talking about this type of biting.

First, you didn't mention if he's a Maine Coon (your questions are welcome if he's not!)

I ask because cat biting problems, the lack of affection when you get home, and aggressive behavior even when you are trying to cuddle him are not normal for the breed.

It sounds like he's vet checked and healthy, so we can rule out a medical condition.

If you got him from a breeder I would recommend that you contact your breeder and explain the bites and aggression issues that your boy is having.

Second, is he neutered? This is about the age when a male might try to establish his 'Alpha' role in the household. Biting and aggression are just one way.

Other pet owners struggle with spraying (marking their territory) around this time if their boy is un-neutered.

Sounds like you don't have other pets so this might explain why he's not spraying.

He's still at that age to begin showing dominance, perhaps through biting. If he's not neutered doing so now could solve your problems.

The lack of affection when you come home concerns me. Most Maine Coons will be very loving towards their pet parents. They miss them during the day and want lots of love in the evening.

As for going to bed at night, that's a time when he is yet again establishing his independence. (Much like a human child who doesn't want to go to bed!)

I would recommend making him an offer he can't refuse. How about offering a special food or treat only at this special time?

He'll likely come running to his room for that, and some cuddles, too.

Hope this helps,
All the best,
~Carrie

Reader Comments:

Don't punish!
by: Terry

Mike, don't punish by hitting his nose or any other part. That only makes him frightened, more aggressive and prone to bite.

Carry around a spray bottle and spray him with water if he gets wacky or bites. After a while, he will associate the water bottle (not YOU) with inappropriate behavior.

Trust me it works! And, Coonies need to be with their people A LOT.

He Wants To Be With You
by: Anonymous

Is there a reason why he is locked in a separate bedroom at night? I have two Maine Coons; the kitten is 10 months old, spayed and declawed and is extremely loving.

Some nights she sleeps on the bed, sometimes she doesn't.

My 5 year old male is neutered and declawed and he very seldom comes in to bed at night, or, if he does come in its only for a short time then he is off to another part of the house to sleep.

Your kitten wants to be with you, don't banish him to a room all alone when you are in the house. OH and don't flick his nose..that's not going to solve any aggression. Be firm and speak in slow low tones so he knows you mean business.

Be nice!
by: Anonymous

Hey that kitten seems to need more socialization! Show more love and affection and try not to react physically to cat biting behavior so as to not encourage him with the attention it brings.

Be more hands on with play and affection and he may learn to show some love back!

Felines do not have a boss
by: Anonymous

"I tried to lay him down gently and put my leg over him and talk to him and show him I am the boss. Do I just let him come to me when he wants petting? Am I not to pick him up when I want? Its my first Maine Coon, I don't know how they think.."

First and foremost, have you heard the saying "dogs drool, cats rule"? You don't dominate them. They run the house, you are there to wait on them, feed them, clean the litter box, play with them.

Love your feline friend, don't try to show him you are the boss because really you aren't.

Pet him when you want to, pick him up but don't try to force anything with him or he will just ignore you. Some are more independent than others, you happen to have gotten an independent one.

Maybe you should get a second kitty so he has a playmate. Why did you pull him out from under the Christmas tree? Cats love anything new and claim it as theirs.

If you want to be the big boss of the house, get a dog.


Why Does My Cat Bite? - Follow-up:
by: Mike De Graaf

My kitten is a Maine Coon from a breeder. I paid a lot for him, and his name is Toby, ten months old.

We had him declawed and fixed right away, has all shots, is the only pet we have and has never been outside.

He bit me so hard when I pulled him out from under the Christmas tree that I had to spend News Years Day at medical center.

My arm is swollen and very infected. He gives me attention and still rubs on me and eats treats from my hand. How long will he bite and try to be dominant?

I tried to lay him down gently and put my leg over him and talk to him and show him I am the boss. Do I just let him come to me when he wants petting? Am I not to pick him up when I want?

It's my first Maine Coon. I don't know how they think, and he is my first pet cat. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Mike.

Reply to update:
Hi Mike,

Well, now that I have some more info about Toby it is clear where your problems stem from. By the way, you've been getting some sound advice from the other Maine Coon lovers here.

First, what is not the problem:

He is not showing dominance. Since he's neutered, and the cause is elsewhere (which I'll get to) you can rule out dominant or alpha aggression issues.

So, first thing, no more behavior-modifying techniques. They somewhat remind me of what one might do with a dog, though many folks would disagree with your techniques, even for a dog.

The training you are trying to do is hurting and not helping. It's clear you love your kitty and are trying to do the right thing for him.

I would recommend you go out and get a behavior book, like this one from feline behavior expert Jackson Galaxy. There is a lot to learn for new cat owners.

You do not have to show Toby who's boss. Maine Coons are naturally loving, friendly and docile.

What you perceive as training, he perceives as an attack by a predator. He is confused about your role and his. He's not a member of the pack but more of an outsider trying to keep himself safe.

On to the problem (this may be uncomfortable to hear, but it is the info you requested on what Toby is thinking and why he's acting the way he is):

Not only does he think he's in danger (being flicked on the nose or pulled here or there or being laid on his back, however gently, is going to induce only fear) but now that he's under attack he doesn't have his primary means of defense: claws.

Herein lies your problem, and now that the deed is done I'm not sure exactly what the remedy is.

You see, all the info on declawing is geared toward educating folks against it and showing them the alternatives, like scratching posts.

It's a well known fact that declawed cats are prone to having litter box issues (which can arise years later) and to aggression issues through biting.

Having been declawed is the most common reason for aggressive cat behavior and biting problems.

See, Toby has lost a crucial part of his body. He would never have used his claws to scratch aggressively but now that they are missing, he is defenseless and in a sense, paranoid.

Cat declawing is now illegal in much of Europe and some parts of the US. It's viewed as mutilation, as it is a very painful procedure.

It leads to unwanted behavior problems, and joint problems later in life.

It is advocated against by most pet associations out there, and many vets won't perform it.

I would assume your breeder had you sign an agreement not to declaw Toby? Responsible, reputable breeders of all breeds would be heartbroken to see their kittens altered in this way.

The natural disposition of a Maine Coon is so docile. I have raised 2 children with my 2 Coonies and they had unlimited patience with all kinds of handling. There was never a bite (other than anlove

Felines need their claws for more than scratching, & there is more on our Cat Declawing page.

I say this not to make you feel guilty. You did what you thought you were supposed to do when getting a kitty.

What's done is done, and I know you love hime very much.

But this page will help many future readers who will learn from this example of how declawing can change the disposition of a Maine Coon.

Not all kitties react this way, of course. It's about being informed before it's too late.

So, Mike, on to you and Toby now. The good news is, I believe with some clear changes, you can get back on track.

Here are steps you can take to make things better:

• As we mentioned, no more behavior training. Positive human interaction should be the focus.

• Yes, you should just wait for him to come to you. Don't reach down and pick him up for a while, until he starts to trust you.

• Pay close attention to his body language. If you see subtle warning signs such as a twitching tail, it's a good idea to leave him alone.

• I do understand the need for sleep. It's a personal decision whether you want to have a kitten pouncing on you all night. For those of us that are on the go all day, we need our sleep!

It's great that you have the space for him to have his own room. Indoor cats need plenty of space to play, and appropriate toys - it sounds like you've got that covered.

So, at bedtime, how about tempting him with canned food or treats so he'll go to his room? Or even teasing him with a toy he'll chase right into his room? (then treats for a reward)

• You should reach the point where he will let you pick him up and he will not bite. He'll feel secure about it. Right now, he doesn't know what's about to happen to him and he's afraid.

• It would be great if you could get him to come up near or on your lap in the evening. If he could have a chance to bond, purr, and see that the only thing you have for him is a soft touch, he should come around. At that point, you might get a love bite when you play together - which is a sign of affection!

Well, these are my thoughts for now...

Let us know how things are going after a while!

~Carrie

Reader Comments:

Never De-claw
by: Anonymous

Declawing is very painful and a horrible thing to do to a creature! How would you like someone to amputate all your fingertips?

Fear Aggression
by: Toni

Hi Mike,
If this is your first cat you probably have never heard of things like fear aggression.

Here's what you said you do to try to interact with kitty:

"I tried to lay him down gently and put my leg over him and talk to him and show him I am the boss. Do I just let him come to me when he wants petting? Am I not to pick him up when I want?"

In feline body language, you putting a leg over them to hold them in place as something very mean and hostile. It would never happen to them in the wild unless a large animal caught them and was about to kill them.

At this point, your kitty has already become fearful of you and is reacting by laying his ears back and biting you. He's telling you to stay away or face his wrath.

Flicking his nose, dragging him out of places that he "thinks" are shelter for him (under a tree, in a cupboard, etc), putting a leg over him to restrain him or using any other method of restraining him will only make his fear worse.

Sooooo, for now you are going to have to push a reset button and start all over again with your furry friend. =)

The best way to do that is to not pick him up or pet him unless he comes to you and jumps in your lap or rubs on your legs. If he rubs and purrs, lean down and pet him for a minute, then walk away. Don't let it get to the point that he lashes out at you (petting-induced aggression).

If you see his ears go back, walk away and ignore him.

If you keep doing that, he'll learn in a few weeks that you are a safe person and he'll start to trust you again.

At that point you'll see a BIG change. He'll be running to greet you at the door, hopping in your lap for naps and all those other good things we love about cats.

I have a new kitty too, and she has a LOT of fear aggression because of her former home. The humans who owned her kept making it all worse until it got to the point that they took her to a shelter.

I've been working with her for a few months now and she is finally becoming a very loving, sweet girl. So it works, I promise!

Oh and if you can manage it, let him sleep wherever he wants to at night. If he makes a lot of noise playing, you could try a long play session with him before bedtime, so that he'll be worn out and sleep through the night.

I use a 5 foot long piece of heavy twine and tie a piece of an old sock to the end of it. Then I drag it around the floor behind me and she goes crazy chasing it till she's out of breath and exhausted.

Good luck,
Toni

Re: Why Does My Cat Bite?
by: Mike

Thank you everyone for your helpful suggestions. Toby and I are doing better. We are starting over fresh. He is responding well.
Mike

Declawing is OK
by: Jacqueline

I have five cats all who are spayed/neutered and declawed. Three are Siamese and two are Maine Coons. They are all very loving, yes even the Siameses, and happy and well adjusted.

Don't let the comments about declawing make you feel badly.

You did what you felt was necessary for you both to have a long and happy life together.

If you look at shelters, 95% of the felines looking for new homes are adult cats with claws.

Not all cats will always use scratching posts. Believe me, I had one who was 16 years old when he died.

He used my sofa as a scratching post. Nothing I did would deter his actions and I'm sure any other owner would have sent him packing.

Since then, I have declawed my young cats when they were neutered/spayed and I am sure both surgeries are very painful.

My kitties are all very happy, no litter box issues, no aggression issues, they all still stretch and 'scratch' as they would with claws. They also sleep together, wash each other... and my dogs as well.

One final question: which would you rather have: your fingers cut off at the first knuckle which healed and live your life in a warm loving home with all the food and love you could want, or your entire fingers and put out at 2 years of age to fend for yourself in a world you don't know, hungry, scared, chased by wild animals, hit by a car, injured and left dying in a ditch or freezing to death?

I think I prefer the first scenario.

Reward
by: Judy UK

Hi Mike
You might try positive reinforcement. I.e. entice him away with a treat; reward him when he has complied.

No matter where he is, whether in his tree or anywhere else. Let him smell the treat with your hand closed, then call him to you a good few feet away. It's worked well with Buddy 99%.

Try to remain calm. Picture somewhere with pleasant, peaceful memories - it really works! All animals pick up on our energy. If you're angry you'll project it.

Good luck Mike
Judy

Re: Declawing
by: Ashley

I have always had cats (indoor cats only) and they have always been declawed. The first one lived for 23 years and was perfectly fine, friendly and never had problems. She was part Persian.

My last one was 17 1/2 years with diabetes for nearly 4 years (well-maintained) and had been declawed at 6 months and never had any adjustment issues - also half Persian. My new girl is almost a year old.

We adopted her from a shelter at 2 months old and the shelter had already had her spayed at 8 weeks old - THAT seems cruel and wrong if you ask me.

Even my vet said she wouldn't do that surgery on any kitten younger than 6 months.

This one we discovered is part Maine Coon - also had her declawed and there have been absolutely NO issues at all as some have tried to scare you with here.

She had no problem with the litter box after surgery (we did get paper litter for the time) and has had no issues since. She is very friendly and well-adjusted.

I believe declawing is a matter of personal preferences. Everyone has their reasons and mostly it's furniture.

I question those that claim their cats' personalities changed after declawing because that has not been my experience.

Maine Coons are highly active and playful. It's like having a two-year-old that never gets tired! Just have patience.

Re: Why does my cat bite?
Update by Mike

Toby has been very good. I would not trade him for anything. We have become very close.

He still marks his food dish area and every window he looks out of. I think that's cute.

He is happy without claws and neutered, he will never be outside, he has 2,700 square feet to call his own. I never knew how much a Maine Coon sheds. He needs brushing daily, that's for sure.

He doesn't bite anymore. When he is on his cat tree which is 7 feet high, that's his safe spot. Plus, he can get away from the grandkids there if they chase him too much.

Toby also eats his treats from my hand now, and loves his baths. He even turned on the bathroom faucet once after watching me. I caught him washing his hands, then getting a drink.

That is something he looks forward to, but I keep the door closed when I am gone. He runs fast and jumps very high. He can reach 40 inches now at 1 year old.

Every box that comes into the house he tries to fit in. He also sleeps on my bed for part of the night. He is a lot different from owning a dog, and much easier to maintain.

He is fun, and I am glad he is declawed, but I wouldn't do that if he were to go outside. All in all we are buddies now. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement.
Mike

Declawing
by: Anonymous

To all those saying they've never had biting behavior issues, so what? YOU got a cat, YOU knew that they came with claws. You have no right to get an animal and then surgically change it.

If you didn't want a pet with claws, you shouldn't have gotten a cat.

Oh no your poor furniture, boohoo I feel so bad for you, get over yourselves, put your animal first or don't have one, would you cut off your child's finger tips just because he kept finger painting on your walls?

If you declaw your pet for reasons other than medically necessary ones then you're cruel and do NOT love them no matter what you say.

Maine Coon cat biting
by: Dee

I got a rescue Maine Coon who was already declawed front and back.

The person who had him went into a nursing home and put him in rescue. I have had him about 5 months.

He is loving and sweet when he wants. I can pet him sometimes. Depends on HIS mood.

I would never declaw one and I really feel sorry for one who Is. But, I was glad to read about Toby because my kitty wants to bite a lot.

He has bit the blood out of me a few times and wants to bite almost anytime I want to pet him.

I am very cautious around him as I don't like to get bitten. Frankly, I have been disappointed as I got him for company.

Another factor is that the litter box has to be quite large and is very hard for me to clean it. I am 75 with problems.

I had no idea that the litter would be that much of a problem because of his size.

He has wonderful home with me and gets the best treatment, but don't know how long I can do this. Also, I'm afraid all the time when I pet him I am going to bitten again.




Why Does My Cat Bite?

by: Anonymous

My 10 year old female has always been one to bite. But she just bit my husband on the forehead and drew a lot of blood, he is very angry and ready to get rid of her.

I have 2 sick dogs in the house, both are in end stage disease, the cats don't come down stairs because my one dog wont let them, the only healthy dog any help.

Reply:
Hi,

Boy, you are in a tough situation. Sorry to hear about your dogs. That is difficult.

It sounds like all the animals in the house are under stress. And I can understand your husband being upset. Unprovoked biting is so frustrating.

I'm inclined to think your girl kitty is stressed. It's possible she's also sensing the illness in the house. Animals, out of natural instinct, will sometimes try to 'abandon' a sick member of the pack.

I think she doesn't want to be there in those circumstances. She's very likely one of many pets who prefer to be an 'only pet.'

Do you have any friends or family members who could take her in temporarily, while you tend to the sick dogs?

That way you could test whether her behavior changes. You could see if she became more happy and relaxed, which would reduce the chance of biting.

Is she declawed? If so, biting is her only recourse when she feels insecure.

Where she'd prefer to give a small swat as a warning to dogs, she now has to resort to biting which has much more potential for damage.

If she's not declawed, it's a behavior trait you can work with. You can do some cat behavior training to try to get her out of the biting tendency.

However, you must first deal with her high level of stress. She won't change her ways until her atmosphere changes.

All The Best,
~Carrie

Reader Comments:

Aggressive Bite
by: Anonymous

It could be that your kitty smells the scent on the dogs or some other scent.

When she bites, very lightly tap him/her above the nose and say 'no.'

Usually, the cat will eventually shy away from you when hearing the word 'no' and associating it to your hand being held close to the head (the cat's head).

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