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Help, he's biting!!

Got a new, young, furry love in your life? This is the place for you to ask all of your questions - big or small! Just remember that you are receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a vet or behaviorist! Most important is to remember to have fun with your new fur baby.

  
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Merlin

1192728
 
 
Purred: Sat Aug 13, '11 3:31am PST 
I have taken in this kitten. Planning on adopting it out as soon as it was ready. He came to me with a bad case of worms and a week after that he got sick. I had to put him on antibiotics. It was a total of about a month maybe a week or two more that he had been sick.

Because I have two other kittens that I have adopted who had not had any vaccines yet either I did not want to put them together because I knew he wasn't doing well. The dr suggested keeping him separate as well so I did. I didn't have a lot of space for him so I had him in a large bunny cage. Every time I came to the cage he greets me nicely so I thought everything was fine. But I took him out to play with him more then I usually do and realized he has a biting problem.

Now if I were keeping him I wouldn't be so freaked out but I need to find him a home, and I'm not sure if anyone would put up with his biting... I'm pretty sure anyone who takes him will return him the way he is acting now.

Now, I need advice. What should I do? I tried putting him with my kittens in hope they would teach him not to bite but that made my kittens mad at him. The dr didn't want them together yet but I needed to give it a shot.

I know it's my fault for not socializing him properly but I really didn't think it was going to be this bad.

Please does anyone have advice for me or for the new owners?
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Nerys

I'm a princess- and I know it.
 
 
Purred: Mon Aug 15, '11 9:08am PST 
The first thing is to determine why he's biting (sometimes it's not as obvious as you might think). A few questions...

- Any idea how old he is?

- You mentioned that he seemed friendly when you greeted him at the cage, and it was only when you pulled him out to play that the biting became apparent. Does he display any other aggressive or frightened behavior towards you (hissing, scratching, growling, trying to get away from you), or does he just seem to be playing too rough?

- I take it that he's actually biting the other kittens? Is he doing anything else aggressive towards them (attacking, hissing, etc), or is he just playing too aggressively? We have found that often our cats react differently towards humans vs. cats, and if he's only biting humans but not the other kittens, that could be an important clue.

- How did he meet the other kittens? Did you just set him down in the middle of them? How long were they together before you pulled him out? It may just be that they need a slower introduction and a bit more time to get used to each other. Maybe let them sniff each other through the bars of the bunny hutch. After that, when they meet in person, don't set the new guy right in the middle; set him down on the opposite side of the room, pull out a toy (like a feather wand or something) so the kittens aren't focused on each other, and make sure that the new guy has a safe place to run too if he gets scared--a cat that feels cornered may panic.

- When he bites you, is he nibbling at your fingertips, maybe turning his head to try and gnaw on them? If so, that may just be residual suckling behavior: We have a pair of kittens that we just weaned, and towards the end they would chew on the bottle nipple. When they're hungry, they'll sometimes do the same thing to our fingertips. It pinches a little, but they're obviously not trying to inflict pain. If this is what's going on, don't worry about it. Just make sure he's getting the right amount of food and take your fingers away when he tries to chew on them, and the behavior should disappear on its own.

- Is it possible he's teething? If so, you might ask your vet if there's anything you can do to help (do NOT give him anything like Orajel or alcohol on his gums, like some people do for human babies). I seem to recall our vet recommending that we get a wet washcloth, twist it up, and put it in the freezer or fridge for a little bit, and let a teething kitten chew on that. That was a LONG time ago, though, so I could be remembering that incorrectly.


If he is biting as part of play, then take heart: this is a common problem, and they can be trained out of it! Kittens are learning to hunt, and they don't instinctively know that some things are off-limits for biting. A couple suggestions:

- Don't play with him with your fingers. Ever. Whenever it's playtime, give him a toy, or use a wand, or even just dangle a piece of string (don't leave him alone with the string, though, else he might swallow it).

- When he bites, it's human instinct to jerk your hand away, but try to resist that. Instead, just let your hand go limp, and then take it away after the kitten lets go. This does two things: (1) It reinforces the idea that your hand is not prey. Jumping away is something prey would do. If your hand instead goes limp, the cat will often get confused and bored. (2) Personally, I find that it hurts a lot less if you let your hand go limp, heh: you don't have teeth scraping across your skin, and when a cat senses that their prey is trying to get away, their instinct is to bite down harder.

Also, here are a few other websites that might be helpful:
http://www.pets.ca/forum/showthread.php?threadid=181
http ://www.catsofaustralia.com/aggressive-kitten.htm


Try not to blame yourself too much smile I completely agree that it was a good idea to keep him separate from the other kittens until he was well. Yes, ideally more socialization is always better, but there are only so many hours in the day! Bless you for sticking with him--he owes his little life to you.
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Merlin

1192728
 
 
Purred: Fri Aug 19, '11 1:36am PST 
Wow, sorry I didn't see your response till now. I checked a few times and no response... Thank you so much for responding.

First he is approximately 12 weeks. It is sort of hard to tell. As he was sick when found he was small, and until he got over his bout of worms he did not grow a lot. So lets say he is somewhere between 12-16 weeks. Unfortunately I have not been able to upload any new pictures so it has been a few weeks since those last ones were taken.

You've made a good point. He doesn't seem to do it out of aggression at all. It is his way of playing he doesn't understand how to play without his teeth. Yes I did just plop him in the middle with my kittens but he wasn't what you'd call aggressive with them, just pouncing, chasing, and biting them... the other kittens were the ones that hissed because they didn't like being bitten.

So I try not to play with him with my hands. It is more the fact that the only thing moving is my hands. lol, I guess it would be instinct to go after anything that moves. I understand if he had a mother or other kittens/cats to play with he probably would have learnt how to play nicely by now but that isn't the case. As I hold him he will turn around to bite me. I don't see any anger, he just seems to think it's the thing to do.

I have had him with the other kittens twice now. Just to clarify, he sees the other kittens every day, they are about a foot apart sometimes (he is in the hallway, my kittens are in my room. so every time I leave my room my kittens hang out in the hallway). He used to be in the same room until he started growing an interest in what was going on around him and started acting sick. Unfortunately in the last few days I have heard him do the sneezing cough again twice, it is not nearly as bad as it was but I'm just hoping it doesn't get any worse. I know my kittens have now been exposed to it to an extent but I'd like to play on the safe side and keep them separate.

So the thought continues... how do I train him not to bite so hard?
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Merlin

1192728
 
 
Purred: Fri Aug 19, '11 1:43am PST 
Just wanted to note that I'll try the limp hand thing. And I am checking out the links you gave.

If you have any other advise I'd be super grateful! smile I want to find him a good home. but I don't want them to have problems with him biting, I'm afraid they may not want to keep him if that is the case...
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Pandora

go getter kitter
 
 
Purred: Fri Aug 19, '11 6:37am PST 
Get a wand or fishing pole toy, and play with it until he calms down a bit, before you try to pet him or put him in with the other kittens.
Keep several of these handy and any time he goes for hands or feet, pull away and give him a toy instead. Also, the other kittens will help him learn his limits, if you don't automatically separate them at every little hiss.
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Merlin

1192728
 
 
Purred: Fri Aug 19, '11 7:34am PST 
My kittens don't fight him. There is no fighting going on. Except for the fact that the foster kitten attack bites, my kittens sit there after and hiss, or give him the smacky paw. Otherwise they are fairly good with each other. Mine just prefer not to be bitten. I don't blame them, lol, he bites pretty hard...
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Ralphie & Randy

1201140
 
 
Purred: Fri Aug 19, '11 8:27am PST 
In addition to all the great suggestions above - plastic drinking straws! Both of our kittens started getting bitey when they were around 14-15 weeks. Ralphie was partial to cords and fingers, and Randy, who is currently right in the middle of bite-mode, likes to chew on ANYTHING he can find. But if he's chewing on something inappropriate, I just have to pick up a couple of straws (they're scattered all over the house right now) and roll them between my hands, and he RUNS to get them. Just make sure to check the straws and throw them away when they've been chewed on, because they'll get shredded if you're not careful. Also, both of mine like the heavy straws from Starbucks or Jamba Juice best, but the regular ones work fine too.
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Sterling Mithril

Jaws-I\'ll eat- anything!
 
 
Purred: Sat Aug 20, '11 11:18am PST 
I started out as a foster kitten with my mom too. But I bit so bad that I drew blood. I would bite mom's heels, or toes or fingers. My issue was, I WAS HUNGRY AT THE SHELTER and never had enough food! The shelter was feeding me this big dry kibble that I couldn't even get into my little mouth. That's why I was underweight in the first place and couldn't be put up for adoption and why mom took me home to foster me. I was always afraid there wasn't going to be enough food for me, and it took me awhile (couple of months at least) to grow out of it, and to not be afraid that there wasn't going to be any food. So I say, make sure your kitten has LOTS of food that he can EAT (get into his little mouth), and PLENTY OF TOYS. Please come and read my story, too. Mom ended up keeping me because she was afraid that if I bit someone at the shelter, they would kill me. I grew out of biting completely. So now I am a part of the family. I never went back to that shelter.rainbow
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Ralphie & Randy

1201140
 
 
Purred: Sat Aug 20, '11 12:08pm PST 
Sterling, you are PRETTY!

I should have clarified in my post that Ralphie also grew out of the biting. His issue seemed to be that he was teething and needed to chew. We found baby teeth not long after he started with the biting. I suspect that Randy is also working out his baby teeth, and I don't doubt he'll grow out of it too after his permanent teeth come in.
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Blaise

Whatcha Doing?
 
 
Purred: Sat Aug 20, '11 1:54pm PST 
He also may be getting a bit overexcited - and they bite when they get overstimulated - back off when he bites and let him calm down. He has been somewhat isolated and so it may not take much stimulation to get him overexcited. When he does get a hold of you don't jerk your hand away but yell really loudly and in an exaggerated manner "OWWWWWWWW" it will surprise him and he will stop and be confused and he will also not like the noise - keep it up and it will break him of this habit. Good luck and God bless!
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