Train FurKeeps Q&A: Why is my cat so mean?

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In January, Petfinder held a live Q&A on Facebook with pet trainers Andrea Arden and Mychelle Blake. We’ve been posting some of our favorite questions and answers here on the blog. Read all our Train FurKeeps Q&A blog posts here.



Q: My best friend has a 2-year-old Siamese who is trouble. He bites your head while you’re sleeping, tries to claw at your face when you hold him, claws up your back to try to get your ponytail. He even throws himself headfirst at the bedroom door if you shut him out to sleep. What can she do?! -Katy L.

A: The first thing to do in any aggression case is to have your veterinarian examine the cat to make sure nothing medical is causing the issue. You may also want to consult with a veterinary behaviorist. You can find one through the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior website.

If the cat has an aversion to handling, you will need to work on desensitizing him to the things that cause him to bite. Here’s how:

  • Pinpoint his aggression triggers. Avoid holding the cat when it will lead to aggression and look for all the things that trigger the biting.
  • Associate handling with rewards. Work on slowly pairing stressful activities with something really high-value to him, such as some cut-up tuna or turkey, or playtime with a toy.
  • Never punish him. This will likely make the problem worse.
  • Tire him out! Increase the amount of appropriate playtime he gets during the day to build up his exercise.
  • Show him that toys are for play — not hands. Use toys that keep him at a distance from you, such as a wand with a stringed toy on it. You want him to be focused on going after the toy rather than your hands!
  • Reward good behavior; ignore bad. Always praise and reward him for appropriate behaviors and remove attention from him when he acts inappropriately.

Mychelle Blake, CDBC
Pet trainer and deputy director, APDT
Las Vegas

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Previous entries:

Help! My puppy won’t use the pee pads!

How can I get my cat to bury his poop in the litter box?

How do I stop my dog’s submissive urination?

How do I stop my cat from jumping on the table?

How do I stop my dog from jumping?

How do I stop my kitten from biting?

How do I stop my dog from chasing my cat?

You might also like:

Article: Resolving Feline Aggression: Part 1

Article: Resolving Feline Aggression: Part 2

Article: Resolving Feline Aggression: Part 3

Article: How to Stop Kitten Biting