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Adopted an Adult - hissing, swatting, digging HELP

Kat Edge

Savannah Super Cat
I just adopted an adult Savannah who was too aggressive towards the family's child. I spent about a month and a half getting to know the family and learning about him, so some behavioral issues were expected.

He was dropped off about a day ago, and he will not stop hissing every time I walk past him, in his direction, away from him, etc. sometimes it's just hissing, other times he takes a full on swat at me. Sometimes I put my hand out and he'll lick it, but if I touch him, he will hiss, swat, and lightly grab my hand with his teeth. What should I do about this?! - so far, I don't walk away when he hisses (so he doesn't get any kind of reinforcement for hissing), I kind of walk towards him until he's the one that walks away (in case it's a dominant thing?). I don't get it, he'll go from hissing to wanting to play/sit by me on the bed (where I still can't pet him). Advice?!

Also, he digs at my apartment door at ungodly hours of the night. Super loud. Super annoying. Advice to reduce the behavior?
 

SV Dad

Savannah Super Cat
Kat, my advice is to be patient, show the cat respect, feed it, and if it is interested, play with it. The door digging, having a challenge with that myself.
This forum has many breeders and very experienced Savannah servants (as you will soon learn, who is the boss.) and also members of Savannah Rescue. Little early on a Sunday morning for them to be checking the forums, but they will be here eventually, and I am confident they can give you helpful advice.
It will be helpful to know what generation of Savannah, age, gender, and any specific behaviors you saw at the previous home.
I would not worry about the hissing, as any cat does not like a change of household, and at the beginning and will be very stressed.
 

Kat Edge

Savannah Super Cat
Kat, my advice is to be patient, show the cat respect, feed it, and if it is interested, play with it. The door digging, having a challenge with that myself.
This forum has many breeders and very experienced Savannah servants (as you will soon learn, who is the boss.) and also members of Savannah Rescue. Little early on a Sunday morning for them to be checking the forums, but they will be here eventually, and I am confident they can give you helpful advice.
It will be helpful to know what generation of Savannah, age, gender, and any specific behaviors you saw at the previous home.
I would not worry about the hissing, as any cat does not like a change of household, and at the beginning and will be very stressed.


Thank you so much for the info. I figured it'd be a waiting game. The only thing I've seen on other threads about the digging is to put a scat mat down or an SSS can (I'm not sure what these are, I'll probably google it haha)

A little more info about Ziggy. He's a 4 year old F2 (male). The behaviors at the other house were the following:

He'd chase their toddler and eat his toys. He loves eating towels and socks. The family said that one time Ziggy chased the babysitter around the house hissing at her. They said he's never bitten anyone. And that he would scratch on doors to try and open them (ie the digging on my door).
 

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WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
He is a beautiful cat. Did you put him into quarantine when you brought him home -- 2 weeks in a room of his own where you attempted personal interaction?

There's some info here that you may find useful. Click on the attachment of the first post. http://www.savannahcatchat.com/thre...ed-acclimating-your-new-sv-to-your-home.1959/

What I highly recommend is a consultation with Marilyn Krieger http://thecatcoach.com for an effective plan to help him acclimate to you and the household. She will help you determine if the behavior is because he is a bully, afraid, lacking confidence, or simply needing another animal companion and give you suggestions on how to moderate his behavior.

Please keep us posted on how it goes.
 

Brigitte Cowell

Moderator
Staff member
I think you need to think about all of this from the cat's point of view...he's scared and disoriented. He was happy in his previous home and all of a sudden his humans took him and dumped him in a strange place and left. No wonder he's scratching at the door trying to get out and find home again. He doesn't know they've rehomed him.

As Deb (Witchy Woman) said, even if Ziggy is now an only cat, putting him first in one quiet room is a good idea. Giving him time on his own to assimilate the sounds and smells of his new abode... it may have eased his transition some.

I agree with the idea of consulting with Marilyn the Cat Coach...she will be able to give you some tactics to help create your bond with Ziggy. You need to make friends. It may be finding a food treat he likes (freeze dried chicken treats are a good idea to start with) and maybe every time you walk by him you toss one of those near him. Then he associates you walking near him with a good thing (a yummy treat). The idea is to have him associate you with good things all round. Lots of play can be useful, find wand toys that really interest him...these are not left out for him therefore the only time he gets them is when YOU are there!

As to the door digging, you can also try something like this...
http://www.officedepot.com/a/browse/chair-mats-and-floor-mats/N=5+501493/
The hard plastic is hard to dig up... you can cut the mat to fit your doorway...some also put it the other side up so that the little plastic things that grip the carpet stick up...
 

Rafiki

Site Supporter
My breeder told me about having to rehome F2's and how it is a slow process. They tend to form a very strong bond with their humans so this will take time and patience. I think that any adult cat would be rather hissy in this situation, much less a F2. Definitely quarantine him to help him adjust quicker. And while the treats dispensed as Brigitte suggested is a great idea, I would also focus on the cat toys. It seems that dogs bond quickly with food but cats bond thru play. Our wand toys are always put away when we aren't playing with the cats so bringing them out means crazy play time!
 

Patti

Admin
Staff member
Ziggy has only been in your home for one day - give him some time to acclimate. You are a stranger, your home is strange, the noises and smells are strange.... not surprising that he is hissy and a bit on edge.

I agree with not backing away from his hissing, but I would not try to become the dominant one in the relationship. His hissing is not trying to be dominant, and in fact not necessarily a warning. Savannahs hiss for many reasons. You should however try to avoid eye contact for now, and when you do look at him blink slowly and turn your head away. If he doesn't want to be touched, don't try to touch him, but play with him several times a day with a wand toy, or with a ball if he likes playing fetch. Don't leave food out 24/7 but feed him and take the food away if there is any leftover, so that he knows you are the one providing his food. Try to make all of your interactions positive.

I've never heard of a Savannah chasing someone around the house - sounds like the dynamics in his previous home were a bit skewed. You need to change those dynamics by showing him that he can trust you. You can do that by being patient with him, taking cues from him as far as how much to interact with him, and giving him time to get to know you. Once he learns to trust you I think you will find a loyal and loving companion.
 

Brigitte Cowell

Moderator
Staff member
Oh wow, I completely missed the "one day" thing! Definitely it is not unexpected that poor Ziggy is disoriented and hissy at first, he needs some space and time to acclimate. I agree with Patti that the hissing is not necessarily trying to be dominant but a worried cat warning you to give him space...

As to cats not liking food the same way as dogs, it completely depends on the individual cat. While most of my Savannahs are very uninterested in treats, I know of many rescued Savannahs that were won over by treats when they were not interested in play at that time.
 

Kat Edge

Savannah Super Cat
Ziggy has only been in your home for one day - give him some time to acclimate. You are a stranger, your home is strange, the noises and smells are strange.... not surprising that he is hissy and a bit on edge..

This is so helpful! (And so are all the above responses). Thank you everyone!

I definitely was not expecting him to be perfectly happy and comfortable the first day, in fact, I didn't expect him to want to play at all. I just wanted to make sure there wasn't something I should be doing differently or if this is something I should worry about.

He does come lay by me sometimes and will play with his wand with me (barely though). Other times, he just flips out and charges me hissing and swatting at my legs (scratching them). However, last night I had a few friends in my doorway waiting for me to leave, and Ziggy was being so kind with them! Bumping his head on their legs and letting them walk around him (without him hissing).

I have trained a husky before where being alpha, and establishing being alpha is fundamental to a successful relationship. I was wondering how much of that translates to working with Savannah's. What would you recommend I do when he hisses and charges at me? I feel like if I walk away, he will think hissing will always get me to walk away (ie classical conditioning). Sometimes I just sit on the ground and offer my hand, and sometimes he'll sniff it and feel better.

Thank you so much for the responses! Just as I started writing this, he came right next to where I'm sitting and has been sleeping at my feet for about 15 minutes! :) progress! I'm very willing to be patient and work with him for however long it takes; I don't want him to end up in a bad home that is unwilling to work with his behavioral issues. I also don't want to be making any big errors that may make him feel even more uncomfortable than he already is without my realizing it.

Thank you everyone!
 

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