Why Does My Cat Bite?
by Danielle F
(San Diego, CA)
Female Maine Coon ~ won't let me groom her and can be aggressive"Why Does My Cat Bite?"
- I have a 18 month old female Maine Coon that I got from a breeder.
I've had a male Maine Coon in the past and know they are social, lovable and friendly. Gemma is not.
She is a full time indoor cat due to coyotes. I always had a cat that was indoor/outdoor so Gemma is my first to be indoors all the time.
The only time I can try and groom her is by giving her treats and that lasts maybe 2 minutes. She will let me pet her to a certain extent and come by for rubs, but if I try and pet her and she doesn't want it, I stop and walk away.
Gemma will sometimes proceed and attack my leg with a bite and clawing. When she does bite she doesn't draw blood and it doesn't hurt. My husband and I tried clipping her nails and she won't let us do that either.
Today I took her to a groomer and got a call 30 minutes later that they couldn't groom her. The groomer was able to cut her nails and get a couple mats out but once she tried to get one out by her private parts, Gemma was not having it and the groomer could't continue.
Gemma got in super defense mode with her ears back, growling and hissing. I am desperate to get any advice. It's as if she always thinks she has to be in defense mode and I don't understand why.
I saw on this website about a calming diffuser so I bought it and hope that it helps. I also have been trying everything from a claw withdraw spray, tape, foil and treats to not have her scratch the furniture but she continues.
I even bought a huge scratch tower and try and reward her every time she uses it. I am stumped and will do or try anything to calm her down and change her temperament to relax (if thats even possible).
Any help would be greatly appreciated!Reply:
It sounds like you are really going through it with Gemma! I can tell how much you love her and just want the best for her. Cat biting and aggressive behavior, especially in Maine Coons, is sometimes a little bit of a mystery to solve. I am sorry she doesn't have the affectionate Maine Coon temperament that these cats are bred for, and they you should expect.
It looks like we are looking at three things here. Gemma's behavior is not what you'd refer to as friendly and affectionate, she is scratching furniture, and hates to be groomed. These may be three separate issues.
A few things come to mind. Hopefully we can explore what's going on and give you some more ideas.
First, of course, is ruling out a medical condition. I am sure Gemma is up to date on her vet visits and well taken care of. But in addition to medical advice, your vet can analyze Gemma's body language, listen to your descriptions of behavioral problems, and often put two and two together in a way that cat owners haven't thought of.
Veterinarians have seen it all kinds of behavioral issues! There may be an underlying reason for the unwanted behavior. It could be any number of good reasons, from a urinary tract infection to a painful hidden mat pulling on the skin. Cats are masters at hiding their physical discomfort, but if there are any medical causes, they can show up as unhappy behavior.
18 months is still young! Young cats this age definitely have a lot of spunk. Is there any chance that when she pops out of nowhere and attacks your leg, it may be her version of rough play, or aggressive play? You mention that her cat bites don't draw blood and don't hurt. That's great. Many Coonies do "cat love bites" - this normal behavior is a little nip, which is a type of play.
Is it possible she is doing this type of biting? We've always enjoyed these gentle nibbles as part of frisky playtime. These gentle bites are a cat’s way of saying "I win! But I love you and I won't hurt you." It's a sign of affection and actually a positive behavior!
If it's not a true playful love bite, it could just be her way of saying "I'm done with this petting session, please" - the good news is that she is using gentle biting behavior, making sure not to hurt you.
Gemma is at an age where young adult cats assert their dominance as family members. Even females and 'only cats' may try out for the alpha kitty role in the household. The scratching of furniture can be part of this. Think of it as a teenage rebellious phase.
It's great that you have a good scratching tower and you are going through the process of directing her toward it, using scratching deterrents in other areas, and rewarding her for using her scratcher! You are doing everything right, and I don't see any reason for this consistent cat behavior training to fail. Have faith that in time she'll scratch in the proper place!
I'm glad you are using the pheromone calming diffuser. If she's having anxiety, it should help. I'm also sure she has plenty of interactive toys. Sometimes playing together with a variety of toys is the best way to teach a cat the joys of human interaction. Indoor cats can and do lead very happy lives inside the home. Cat toys and cat furniture provide great mental stimulation.
Based on what you've written, with the exception of hating grooming, it's hard to tell if she's just playing rough or is displaying aggressive cat behavior. You mentioned that when she doesn't want pets, you walk away. Does she display petting-induced aggression or aggressive behavior? Does she give you warning signs such as growling, hissing or a twitching tail?
If she does occasionally come to you for rubs, and likes only a small amount of petting at a time, it sounds like she may just be not as affectionate as one might expect. She may prefer to be around her people, but not necessarily purring on a lap. As someone who loves an affectionate lap cat, I know that may be disappointing.
I am also wondering how long you've had Gemma. If you recently got her from a breeder, that may explain her lack of affection as well. She could be in the middle of a big adjustment. If she is relatively new to you, did she spend a lot of time in a separate area for the female cats in the cattery? She might not be well socialized yet.
The last issue is her hatred of grooming. This is not highly unusual! Many cats, even Maine Coons, detest being brushed, nails trimmed and mats being removed. For whatever reason, whether physical or psychological, they just hate it. It's a good thing you went to a professional groomer.
In some cases, cats have to be creatively restrained for grooming. Other cat parents opt for an occasional lion cut rather than have constant grooming battles. I'm not suggesting that! But, it's not as rare as you may think to have a cat that refuses to be groomed.
It also brings me back to wondering about her socialization situation. When it comes to being held and clipped or groomed, she doesn't sound like she trusts her humans. If she's a newer addition to the family, I hope she comes around in time. If you got her quite young, this may be the way she is when it comes to grooming. You have the right idea with using treats as a positive reinforcement!
It sounds like grooming may never be Gemma's thing, and grooming is her trigger for when she can display aggressive behavior. You are being patient and doing everything right, especially by not forcing the grooming issue, and taking her to a groomer.
I hope in time she comes around when it comes to affection and realizes what a loving home she has! I look forward to reading what others have to say in the comments, as well.Top of Why Does My Cat Bite?