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Biting !

Discussion in 'Savannah Cat Behavior' started by xumi's mom, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. xumi's mom

    xumi's mom Susan

    Messages:
    249
    I'd like to ask everyone about their experience with kittens who are biters, what methods have worked to abate it, and if nothing worked, did they grow out of it?

    Xumi is a 14 week old female F2. I got her when she was 11 weeks old. She was the only kitten from her Mom's first birthing, so she didn't learn bite inhibition. Also, I don't think Mom ever scruffed her (probably didn't have much need to), the result being that she HATES being scruffed.

    She is super hyper, bouncing off the walls, pouncing on shadows, racing through the house, etc. She has plenty of toys, and we play with her by using feather wands, throwing her favorite stuffed toy, Mr. Squirrel, or crumpled paper balls to chase down. We alternate these bursts of energy with quiet timeouts in the bedroom so she doesn't get overstimulated. She's not allowed free run of the house without being supervised, so when we go out for errands, she's in the bedroom, where she has her food and litterbox. I work during the day but my husband is home during the day, so she's not alone. There are no children and no other pets.

    She is very confident, and nothing startles her. She doesn't even flinch at loud noises. No, she's not deaf. So it has been challenging to teach her what NO means. Like staying off the counters for example. Although it's exhausting keeping her out of trouble, all her kitten antics are tolerable except for the biting. She bites HARD, breaking the skin.

    She's very motion oriented, and she especially has an obsession for hands. She can be playing with a toy, see us move our hands, and she'll drop the toy and attack the hand. She'll even attack hands she sees on TV! I have tried the passive approach of holding still, so as not to further trigger the prey response. I have tried saying NO firmly, setting her down, then ignoring her. I've tried timeouts in the bedroom. I've tried a bicycle horn, loud hand claps, and a very loud "NO", "OW", etc. I tried the bitter apple spray, which she doesn't like, but only gets the taste in her mouth after a bite. Everyting I try just ups the ante in her mind, and the next attack is even more aggressive. Scruffing her to the floor toally backfires - she retaliates in a very angry way, arched back, flat ears, jumping and attacking whatever is closest - arms, face, ankles (son of a bitch, that hurts!).

    Clearly, the negative reinforcement approach isn't working. I don't believe in hitting a cat to punish it. I did try blowing in her face, and it had the expected angry response.

    The positive approach involves clicker training, which I've started. But I can't get past the click=equals treat stage. I'm using a chopstick for the pointer, and of course that isn't anything except a moving toy to her at this point.

    I know she's at the age to be teething, and she's also not spayed yet (this will be done in 2 weeks), so I'm hoping this behavior will subside on it's own. But my fear is that if I don't establish an alpha role with her now, I'll never be able to.

    Thoughts? Advice? Before we bleed to death?
     
  2. Breheart

    Breheart Guest

    Since she is going for hands, one thing I have learned from my biting problems with Keljin is to put my finger in his mouth. He REALLY does not like this. So basically when he tries biting my hand, I will quickly shove my finger into his mouth decently far, but not to make him gag or anything, or to push down on his tongue. Afterwards he will release my hand and make a face of disgust at me, and ever since he has stopped biting me.

    I also coupled this with a high pitch yelp, to try to teach him bite inhibition. He is the same as you described with his fearlessness and not caring about noises or loud sounds. Something about that high pitch and sudden move of my hand though helped him understand the picture that he was hurting me, and that it would result in something unpleasant for him.

    Since the bitter apple didn't work I'm not sure if the finger down the mouth will help, hopefully it will feel awkward enough to make her stop, and then paired with the scream to get the picture. I hope this helps!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Kronos

    Kronos Guest

    Kronos was a biter too, although he never did it very hard luckily. I still reinforced the "no teeth on skin" rule. Every time his teeth touched skin, whether or not it hurt, I would SHRIEK in pain, a loud ouch! Most of the time Kronos would then stop what he was doing and look confused. I also like Bre did, sometimes shoved my finger further into his mouth and that made him want to spit my hand out, so its like the no-biting thing was his idea. Worked very well!

    You can also try feeding creamy treats off your fingers and encourage licking of the skin rather than biting.

    As far as the angry responses to scruffing and blowing in the face, I do wonder if this means she believes she is the boss of you? You can also try growling/hissing instead of the physical approach, she may understand that language a bit better. Also you can try squirting her in the face with water. I know she likes water, but she may not like the way a strong spray (not a mist) would feel like right in between her eyes.

    Good luck, and enjoy your kitten, take pics every day! They don't stay small for long.
     
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  4. Breheart

    Breheart Guest

    That idea was from Alisha originally when I encountered the problem :) seems to have worked well for both of us. I like that wording more, for a cat they seem to be more willing to do it if it seems like it was THEIR idea.
     
  5. admin

    admin Paige Staff Member

    Messages:
    12,095
    Here is what I have learned because Zuri is a very high energy F4...negative reinforcement usually doesn't work. Zuri used to jump up and nip me for attention as she really needed to play, play, play...so I learned to play with her 30 min in the morning - prolonged play where she could hunt and catch as she has a high prey drive...most savannahs do. And then 30 minutes at night - same prolonged play...and then I also play with her in the middle of the day.

    When she bites your fingers, Breanna and Alisha have good ideas. I was taught to just walk away, not talk to her and let her learn that her behavior would result in my not playing with her or paying attention to her. I always thought that placing her in a room for time out was good, but that is negative reinforcement.

    Zuri improved dramatically..no more nipping, etc. And she did not do that as a kitten..it started with puberty as she is intact...so her hormones were making her crazy ;-] Zuri also has her cat wheel to expend all that energy and I think she is wearing it out ;)

    I know marilyn, the Cat Coach is a member here, so maybe she will be able to help a bit more.
     
  6. The Cat Coach

    The Cat Coach Marilyn and Maulee Krieger

    Messages:
    52
    Hey there... thanks for the heads up Paige... yup, I can help. First of all, do not punish her for the behavior, she isn't being bad. Instead, modify how and when you play with her. When playing with the kitten use a pole type of toy, such as tone of the Necko fly toys. Use the Kittenator toy, not one of the insect or bird type of toys. Those will over-stimulate her. Play with her in a way that imitates the hunt. Drag the toy away from her, over vertical territory and scratchers, letting her catch it a couple of times so she doesn't get frustrated. When you want to stop playing, don't just stop, instead, slow the toy gradually down, imitating the hunt. Finally let her catch it, one last time and then immediately feed her something substantial and delicious. she will eat, groom and settle down... for a few minutes. Also, she needs multiple play sessions throughout the day. Make sure that she is played with in the mornings and evenings, since those are the times cats are naturally the most active.

    When she does bite, give her a time out... stop all interactions with her and leave the room... in other words, remove yourself. Time outs last maybe 15 seconds... that's all...

    I do not recommend pushing your finger into her mouth. Instead relax your hand, do not pull away. She will release her bite.
    Marilyn Krieger, CCBC
    www.thecatcoach.com



     
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  7. admin

    admin Paige Staff Member

    Messages:
    12,095
    Thanks, Marilyn! great advice as usual ;)
     
  8. Julie

    Julie Savannah Super Cat

    Messages:
    350
    Well anti bite nail polish on my toe nails helped, haha an bitter yuck.

    The other actualy was never a nibbler.
     
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  9. Brigitte Cowell

    Brigitte Cowell Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    5,414
    I hadn't thought of bitter nail polish on toenails...have to suggest that to hubby as he is the one that likes his toes to be bare in the house...I'm always in slippers or shoes!
     
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  10. Julie

    Julie Savannah Super Cat

    Messages:
    350
    I live in flip flops and no shoes and my one has a foot fetish he just wraps arounds and chews, till he gets a lick lol
     

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