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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 24440
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience.
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My cat wont stop biting me. She grabs my leg and bites every

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My cat won't stop biting me. She grabs my leg and bites every day. This evening she grabbed the back of my leg and hissed. What should I do? I am ready to take to the pound.
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Can you tell me, please, whether her biting is restricted to your leg when you're walking or does she bite (and scratch?) you at other times? Thanks!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The biting is usually restricted to my leg when I am walking. She does not scratch me. At first it seemed she did this when wanting food, but tonight I was walking and she bit and hissed at me.

Thank you. This is a common misbehavior in kittens and young cats called play aggression. It's the most common type of aggressive behavior that cats exhibit toward their owners. Although the name implies a rather benign behavior, play aggression can result in a variety of injuries and needs to be controlled to reduce the danger posed to family members and other pets. Predatory-type play behavior directed toward family members as you're experiencing can be quite intense and may result in serious injuries if biting and clawing are done without appropriate inhibition. The behavior can be quite alarming and frightening for family members who may think they have a "mean" pet in the home. Owners often contribute to the problem by allowing kittens to bite hard at a gloved hand. Unless encouraged, the behavior tends to wane as the cat grows into adulthood.

Play aggression can be effectively managed by behavioral modification while cats are still young. The most important consideration is to provide and encourage plenty of exercise that involves acceptable chase and attach behavior. Toys that bounce, flutter or move in such a way that entices the cat to chase should be provided. Teasing and any interaction with the cat that encourages attacks directed toward the owner should be avoided. You mustn't use any type of physical punishment because other problems such as fear and defensive aggression are likely to develop. If an aversive stimulus is required to stop a play bout, the hissing noise made by releasing compressed air from a canister, a water gun or a citronella spray will generally work without being too disagreeable. For bolder cats, audible alarm devices (e.g. foghorns or battery-operated alarms) may be necessary. You'll need to learn to anticipate play attacks so they can be prevented by engaging Ginger with toys (i.e., reinforcing the appropriate response) or interrupted with interruptive stimuli (no reinforcement for inappropriate behavior). This is one of the few behaviors that might be corrected by adding another pet to the home. Adopting a young cat of the same size and temperament may immediately take care of the problem with little effort required on your part. Good luck and please be careful!
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