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Cat bites and scratches


Savannah Super Cat
Our Napoleon is social - always comes to the rooms we're in, sleeps on our beds - but whenever I go to pet him, he tries to bite me. We were under the impression that Savannah cats were quite huggable, but we can't pick him up without him trying to bite/scratch us. He is only 5 months old. He does not seem to mind the kids so much, but as the Mom, it is kind of important for me to be able to handle the cat. I think he is afraid of me for some reason, is there hope to change this or is opportunity to bond already past?


Site Supporter

I am sure you will get several responses. But, my experience when I brought home my 9 month old F6 was that he would jump accross the room when he was startled. Often launching off my lap and leaving claw marks. Now, at 2 years he is a total love bucket. But it took a lot of time.

So, I would suggest that don't pick him up and let him come to you. Also, make sure that Napoleon knows your the source of food. My understanding of Savannahs is they are very loyal, but huggable, not so much.
Hope this is of help,

Per Lausund

Staff member
This has been discussed before, but is worth repeating: biting is using weapons and force to get what he wants. Do not accept, gentle disapproval (blow on him) is recommended. And do not let him tell you what to do (by biting and scratching).


Staff member
Interesting, is he like this with other adults or is it just you? Do you know if he had to be on medication before coming to you? I have had cats in the past who, because they were 'forced' to take antibiotics for several weeks became 'head shy', meaning if I tried to pet their head they would spook and run away. I found that if I stroked them from the shoulders down they were just fine.

In the case of Napoleon I would not force handling - many Savannahs are just not hands on and prefer to show affection on their terms such as head butting and following you around. On the other hand, it is important that you not let him get away with biting - as Per said you can blow on him or you can yelp to let him know he is hurting you. You will also need to be able to trim his nails, particularly if there are children around. I would try to go slow, start with the stroking and just handling the paws without trimming. Have the children do this as well if he lets them. If he lets them pick him up, have them carry him around several times a day (never forcing the issue) and see what happens if they try to pass him off to you. I think it may take a lot of patience and persistence without insisting on getting your way, but there is still a god chance that he will come around.


Savannah Super Cat
He seems to be more nervous of my husband and me than the children. One of my daughters is fearless and she has best luck picking him up. The others are a bit nervous and I am sure Napoleon can likely sense that. I tried yelping before - no luck so will try blowing on him. Last time I could not help but yell ouch and drop him.... So he is dodging me. But when he is tired he will slepp on my lap sometimes - but I guess after today's incident I will have to start from scratch again. It just seems odd that when I pet him he drops to his side and tries to bite but not so with others. Maybe he is just afraid of me. It seems we have bad timing - he walks in as I am blowing my nose and he is alarmed - one day I came out of bThroom with a big towel on my head and he freaked!! Thanks for advice I will try blowing on him. I have also been clicker training him and he seems to be picking up on it pretty fast !

SV Dad

Savannah Super Cat
I have a two year old F3. Had him since 10 weeks. He really doesn't like to be picked up and hugged. You can pet him. You can pick him up and place him on a couch and pet him. He will play with you for hours on end. Hugging just isn't his thing. Yet, he will head butt you and will brush up against you and want to be petted. Sleeps right next to me. Wants to be the center of attention of all the cats.
My son has an F3 what likes to swat at people when they pass by. Maybe even an attempt to nip. Doesn't do it much anymore at 3 years. Just has this attitude about him, yet he has strongly bonded to my son and his wife.
Patti has an excellent point about a previous female possibly providing medication, and affection on their terms.
Years ago I adopted a 9 month old tabby. Loved my boys, loved my wife. Stayed away from me and feared me for 4 to 5 months. I was pretty sure a human adult male had abused this cat. When possible I would play with him and give him treats. I would let him see me interact with the other cats in the house. Slowly he would let me touch him, then pet him. In about 9 months, I was his go to guy for just about everything. This cat had learned absolute faith in me, to the point the he would jump up to my shoulder (any time I came near, let me tell you how surprising that could be!) to be carried around the house.
Hang in there. Feed him. Give him some catnip occasionally. Give him treats. Very good chance he will learn to adore you. The clue is he is very social. Consider the overall temperment. Savannahs all have quirks. This might be his.