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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Biting Cat - Love Bites?

Dear Anita,
My newly adopted 10 month old cat bites me and won't let me pet him. When I try to show him affection, he just runs away. I feel disappointed because I wanted a snuggly cat. When he first arrived, I think I might have scared him by accidentally grabbing at him a little too roughly. He likes to play and will always greet me when I come home. He will rub his face against mine for a moment, but if I try to prolong it or initiate contact, he lightly bites me or runs away. Could this be his nature or do you think I ruined our relationship from the start? Can you train a cat to like being petted?
Lonely Lynne

Dear Lynne,
I doubt that you ruined the relationship from the start since your cat is happy to see you when you come home. He is telling you that he likes you when he rubs his face against yours. By running away, he is also telling you that he likes his space and doesn't want to be forced into being cuddly. On the other hand, maybe he is running away in an attempt to get you to play and chase him. He is still a very young cat with lots of energy.

Some cats simply do not like being petted or touched; others can be taught to accept and even enjoy handling. If his ways can be changed, here's a plan that has worked with most of my cat/owner clients with similar problems.

1. Completely ignore Kitty. Pretend he is invisible. Take care of his physical needs (food, water, litter box, etc) but do not talk to him, play with him or even look at him. When he greets you when you come home - ignore him - just walk by as if he wasn't there.

After anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks of this, he should be craving your attention and affection. He should be following you around, pestering and begging you for attention. Withhold your attention until he is craving it.

2. Begin to give him extremely small doses of affection. When he sits on your lap, stroke him 2 or 3 times, then get up and walk away. Gradually increase the amount of affection you give him, but always end the session with him wanting more. If you give him more than he needs or wants, then he will end the cuddle session on his terms (running away or biting to make you stop petting him). If you always leave him wanting more, then he will value it and look forward to it more.

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