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Patient approach can cure kitten's biting.

Dear vet

We have a 14-week-old male kitten and we are having a lot of problems with him biting our hands and feet. He will not even let us stroke him without attempting to bite us. The only time he will let us sit quietly with him is when he is asleep. What can we do?


Dear Anna

You are quite correct in thinking now about not encouraging your cat to behave aggressively, even though some people may think it's cute and harmless at this stage in a cat's life.

It may be that one factor in your cat's behaviour is a syndrome called petting and biting syndrome. Start by patiently stroking your cat without picking him up, so that he will be free to back off if he feels threatened. Once he readily accepts this, you can start putting him on your lap. Stroke him gently, concentrating on the back and head, avoiding the stomach and the legs, as these are more sensitive. Make sure he can escape if he wants to. Gradually increase the time spent petting, but never restrain him forcibly as this will reduce the tolerance threshold and undo all of the work you will have done.

Only have physical contact when your cat approaches you, not the other way round. Interactions initially should be very short and stop when there is any sign of aggression - such as tail twitching, ear flattening, stiffening of the shoulders and legs or dilated pupils.

Stroke your cat as I have described, but try to resist the temptation to pull your hands away if it starts to claw, as this can cause your cat to tighten the grip, and damage your skin. It is better to freeze, or to wear gardening gloves, or similar protection and thick long sleeves. Introduce these items of clothing gradually, so as not to arouse more tension.

Gradually increase contact time and use food rewards for good behaviour. Cats are rarely motivated by their usual food, so you have to make sure the treats are valued - something like prawns. At first rewards can be given without need for physical interaction, but as the programme progresses your cat should be rewarded as the direct contact time increases.

Castration may also reduce aggressive behaviour and it is important to see your vet and arrange the operation. It is quite simple, but there is a risk with any operation even though it is quite minimal in cases like this. The vet will discuss the procedure with you.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 19, 2004
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