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My cat is 2 years old. We adopted her from a shelter 7

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Hi. My cat...

Hi. My cat is 2 years old. We adopted her from a shelter 7 months ago. She likes to cuddle with me and I have learned how she wants to be petted. But at least twice a week, she will attack me. When she's sitting next to me, she will start watching my hands, her eyes blacken, and if I don't move and distract her, she will strike out quickly and hit me. A couple of times she has bit me and drawn blood.

Veterinarian's Assistant: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help your cat. What is the cat's name?

Maxie.

Submitted: 7 months ago.Category: Cat Veterinary
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Answered in 22 hours by:
10/3/2017
Cat Veterinarian: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 7 months ago
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 33,760
Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Cat Veterinarian: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 7 months ago

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. There are two main consideration in such a cat. The first is prey behavior.

The clues for prey (predatory) aggression are your being bitten when your hands move (or you move any part of your body such as when walking). Predation is a highly motivated and instinctive behavior for cats. The prognosis for complete resolution of this kind of behavior is generally quite poor. The innate response of the cat is to stalk, chase, and attack, and there might be a killing bite (his drawing blood from you). When this behavior is directed toward family or other pets in the home it needs to be addressed.

The predatory instinct is very difficult to suppress so the best approach to management is to prevent her access to you in situations that prompted her behavior previously. To avoid your being "prey", we need to substitute appropriate prey objects for her. Considerable time playing "bird on a string/pole" and chasing laser light should refocus her attention away from you. She might be trained to fetch a ball or toy mouse. Chasing a ping-pong ball can occupy a cat such as she and you might find catnip-containing "chase toys" in the pet store that may lessen her dependence on you as prey. Unfortunately, there's no quick fix for inappropriate prey behavior but the above should be helpful for you to at least ameliorate the problem.

The second is petting aggression. Some cats have the disconcerting habit of accepting their owner's attention only to respond by biting when they have had enough. In general, these cats seem to enjoy social attention. They may actually seek attention by crying, rubbing against people, or jumping into their laps. However, they seem to have a certain threshold for the amount of physical attention they will tolerate. When they have no more tolerance for stroking, they bite and may run off. The observant owner may be able to tell when the bite is about to occur as the pet usually will show typical behaviors that may include fidgeting, tail twitching, tenseness, leaning away, ears flattened against the head, retraction of the lips, and hissing. The prognosis for correcting this type of behavior is fair to guarded, depending on the duration of the behavior, his threshold for physical interaction, and your patience. Young children are at a greater risk, as they don't "read" the postural signs that a bite is imminent. The crux of treatment is to identify the threshold of tolerance for the cat and to gradually condition it to accept more stroking while avoiding the risks of attack. To do this, you must first determine how long the cat can always be stroked before it attacks. Retraining sessions only take place when the cat is in the mood for affection. Petting should then take place for a short period of time and stop before the threshold is reached. The cat can then be given a food treat and placed on the floor before it shows any evidence of nervousness or aggression. The cat must not be held or confined in any way. It is better for it to jump down on its own rather than become aggressive. The sessions can gradually be lengthened as the cat learns to tolerate longer and longer stroking sessions in anticipation of a food reward (desensitization and counterconditioning). The owner should have frequent petting sessions with the pet in the lap or next to you on the sofa. Punishment (physical or yelling) should be avoided. This problem is avoided by early socialization (prior to 7 weeks of age), grooming and frequent handling of the young kitten - a moot point at this time.

This is a dangerous form of aggression and you must decide if the potential risks to your family are acceptable while you attempt to address his behavior. Cat bite wounds have sent too many of my owners to the ER. Please be very careful around her. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

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Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 33,760
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Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.

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