Ask the Vet Archive

Your chance to ask Dr. Mindy Cohan, VMD, our resident pet health expert, what's on your mind!

Topic: feline aggression

Question from Sharon in Boothwyn:
I have a 3 year old, orange male cat. He is neutered and had his front claws removed. He will bite only me and for no reason. I will be sitting down and he will come over and either bite my foot or my arm and will not stop unless he either draws blood or I spray him with water. I have tried to distract him. I have tried picking him up and holding him. Nothing works. Help! I love my cat (he will let me pet him and sleeps with me) but i can't stand the biting.

Answer from Dr. Mindy Cohan:
Cats bite for a variety of reasons. Biting can be a protective mechanism if a cat is scared or in pain. Some cats redirect their aggression towards an owner. An example is a house cat which sees another cat outside and then pounces on your ankle. Over stimulation can also lead to an attack. In this instance, even a cat which seeks attention by climbing onto your lap can abruptly bite. When a cat is overstimulated, it will usually give warning signs. If you notice tail twitching, stiffening of the body, or ears pointed to the side or back, stop petting your cat. Do not fight or hit your cat which could lead to a more serious bite.

Play aggression is the most common cause of cat attacks and may be the basis for your problem. The fact that your cat is declawed suggests that he is kept indoors. Cats which are kept inside the house are safe from outdoor hazards, but they become easily bored. As a result, they often take out their pent up energy on the family. I suggest enriching your cat's life with a variety of games. Cats are by nature predatory, so games involving play mice or those which mimic birds (feathers on a string) are a great source of entertainment. My own cats can be preoccupied for long periods of time by feather toys and a laser pointer. Instead of picking your cat up when he shows aggression, take out an interactive toy and distract him. Spend at least 10-15 minutes each day playing with your cat to help minimize his playful bites.

Posted October 15, 2006

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Please have your pets spayed or neutered!