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Common Behavior Problems

Cats Who Bite or Scratch People

Unlike some dogs, cats usually don’t go out of their way to bite you. If you don’t try to pick them up or pet them, they’ll generally leave you alone.

The rare exception is the territorial cat. While cats are very territorial to each other, they seldom react this way to people. If you’ve been the target of a territorial cat, you know it’s a memorable experience. Territorial cats may chase, stalk, and threaten people as soon as they arrive, because to them, people are intruders who need to leave what your cat sees as his territory.

Many bites happen if you or someone else is forcing your attention on a cat who really isn’t interested. Trying to pick a cat up, or pet him before he is comfortable with you may cause your cat to react defensively and bite or scratch you.

Cats will also bite or scratch during play. We see this most often in young cats. People tell us they think their cats have suddenly turned mean. You can unintentionally trigger play motivated aggression or make it worse, if you encourage or allow your cat to think that parts of your body are play toys. Teach your cat to play with toys, not your hands, fingers, or feet. Never allow your child to tease your cat in any way.

Other cats will show “don’t pet me anymore behavior”. They’ll tolerate petting for a period of time, even seeming to enjoy it, and then suddenly bite your hand.

Redirected behavior is another common cause of cat aggression toward people. If your two cats are swatting at one another for example, and you try to intervene, one or both cats may redirect their anger to you.

Scratches and bites from cats can cause nasty infections, so the first step in working with your cat’s behavior is to try to prevent injuries by not putting your cat in situations where he is likely to bite. Things will go better if your cat can make the decision about how much contact he wants with you and others, rather than people forcing themselves on your cat.

Supervise and manage every encounter between your cat and children. Never allow children to try to pick up your cat without adult supervision. Teach your children to gently pick up your cat with one hand on his chest, behind his front legs, and the other hand support his rear end. If your cat’s legs are dangling free, he can easily use his claws to scratch you.

It’s also not a good idea to try to punish your cat for biting or scratching, as this can really increase his aggressive behavior.

Schedule a consultation with us so we can help you determine what’s motivating your cat’s behavior and what you can do about it.

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