Hello, two-legged cat lovers! It’s Lucinda, the literate cat, with the twentieth edition of this column, Cat Behavior Solutions. Today we will discuss the subject of the importance of socializing a cat when very young. Doing so will avoid problems later on in the cat’s life.
Our first letter today comes from a cat named Georgie. Let’s read what he has to say:
Georgie: Lucinda, I am very confused, and hope that you can straighten me out. When I was a very young kitten, my two-legged adopted me and took me home. Here, she gave me good food, warm, soft beds, and what I thought was love. However, things have changed.
At first, she played with me as if she were another kitten. I’d attack her hand, and we’d have a mock battle. It happened every morning. I loved our game, because it resembled a mock fight, and gave me good practice with biting and claw use.
However, once I grew older, her attitude changed. Now, when I try to play our old game, which was so much fun for me, she stops me and scolds me. If I don’t stop playing, she even hits me, so that I run and hide. Now, I don’t know whether to love her or to be afraid of her. What has happened?
What can I do to restore our former loving relationship?
Lucinda: Poor Georgie! It isn’t really your fault that this distancing has happened. It’s probably because you were taken from your mother too young, and she didn’t have a chance to finish your education. The missing piece goes by the name of “socialization.”
When a kitten grows up into an adult cat and then moves in with a two-legged, the kitten should have been taught early in life how to interact with two-leggeds. That explains socialization. When you are very small, even though your teeth and claws can be needle-sharp, they, too, are small and don’t do much damage.
However, as you grow up, your claws get longer and more like weapons, and your teeth, too, are longer and are very sharp. A two-legged, for all their size and strength, can become quite vulnerable to your attacks, even though done in play.
The two-legged’s skin is quite thin, and they have no fur to protect them. Therefore, when your teeth punch a hole through her skin, you can do damage. Your mouth and teeth carry something called “germs” that can enter the hole you’ve created with your bite.
It hurts your two-legged when you bite that hard, and those nasty germs could make her very ill. Therefore, she no longer wants you to play with her like you did as a kitten, because you can really do some damage.
She needs to teach you to change your behavior, but hitting you is not the way to do it. She could harm your important relationship. Perhaps now that you understand the reason behind the sudden change in her treatment, you can learn to stop the biting and scratching..
If you are able learn this important lesson, your close, loving relationship can be restored. It would be best if you mastered this practice for your own future well-being.
Our second letter comes from a Mr. James Callaway:
James: Lucinda, I hope you can explain my cat’s behavior, as I do not understand how to deal with it. My cat has been with me since he was a kitten, and now he’s become a problem.
I suppose the difficulty stems from my way of interacting with him when he was still a kitten. I would play with him the way he’d play with his siblings, letting my hand act the part of a surrogate sibling, and we’d tussle and have a mock fight.
However, now he has become a big cat, with sharp teeth and claws, and his play has become far too rough. I believe some cat experts call it “predatory aggression.” He thinks he can still treat me as if I’m another one of his litter-mates, but he hurts me with claws and teeth.
I don’t want to punish him, but I need to know how to stop this behavior. What can I do?
Lucinda: It is so good that you recognize how the problem originated. Now you will have to use a great deal of diligence to change his behavior. It looks as if he did not receive the necessary socialization training from his mother before he moved in with you.
A mother cat, if she has her kittens with her long enough, will teach them how to interact with the two-leggeds. A rule of thumb states that a kitten should be with his mother for 12 weeks. She will teach him that these beings are not big cats, but must be treated differently. However, it’s too late for that now, so here are some suggestions:
First, you might consider getting a second cat. It’s too bad you didn’t adopt two siblings, but cats can learn to accept each other if they have time together. If your cat had a companion cat, then your kitty could practice those predatory exercises with that cat.
To make sure his problem does not stem from malnutrition, make sure he has a healthy diet, with emphasis on wet food. If improving his diet does not help, these tactics may help. Anticipate your cat’s actions by observing his body language. If it looks like he’s ready to try an attack, walk away from the situation. Try to avoid these aggressive confrontations whenever possible.
Another thing you should do would involve giving him a target to focus on with those aggressive tendencies. It could be a catnip mouse on a string, or some other toy that diverts his attention from you and your body. Anything that you can put between you and the cat may prove helpful.
Any way to distract that behavior can help. He needs to have a good variety of toys that can serve as such a distraction. Make sure he has plenty of different toys. High shelves or a cat tree can interest him. Provide him with one or two good scratching posts. Try a food puzzle to occupy his kitty mind.
One thing you should not do in these situations is to punish your cat. He will not understand why you punish him, when he merely wants to play. Punishment can result in fear or mistrust.
Most important, be patient. His actions have been nurtured since kittenhood, and it will take him a while to learn to change them. Be sure to give him lots of love and positive attention, and let him know he’s still your special kitty. In time he will learn.
Sometimes as a cat grows older, these tendencies will become less evident. If you have treated him well and taught him with patience, he will respond in a positive way to the training.
These letters conclude our behavior solutions letter for this time. If you have questions or comments, please leave them in the appropriate section at the end of this post. Thank you for joining us today.