Please help my cat is aggressive, is it too late?

by Michael and Leah
(Deerfield Beach, Florida)


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Dear Mr. Broad, I have read your blog on Aggressive behavior in A Cat and I am fearful that I may not have been correctly raising my cat. I have an 11 week old male Bengal kitten. I purchased him from my job which is at a Reptile and exotic pet store when he was 6 weeks old.

At first he was nervous and very needy for attention, I believe the issue arose when I began to play with him with my hands. I would let him scratch and bite my hands thinking it was playful.

I soon read that cats can get used to using hands as play things and began encouraging him to bite on the toy and his blanket. Although he would play with his toys he continued to bite and scratch hands and playfully chase our ankles. He would also arch his back and run around sideways growling.

When the biting and scratching became more intense, I made the mistake of taking advice to bop him on the nose lightly to discourage this behavior. I know now this is wrong. This worries me because he is getting increasingly aggressive and sometimes seems almost scared of us. He can be the sweetest cat sometimes, he sleeps with us a lot and seeks affection, but he can sometimes quickly turn and begin to bite. Which I discourage with a loud NO! now.

I hope I haven't traumatized him or hurt him, I work with animals and I would hate this to be true. His bites and scratches are becoming more and more painful and he is more likely to bite than to let you pet him. It hurts me to think I may have caused this behavior. I want to include as much information as possible to identify the problem.

We have left him alone for hours at a time on occasion. I don't tap him or physically reprimand him at all anymore. He wags his tail while biting and pulls your hand into his mouth. He is now "attacking" and then running away to hide. He also purrs while biting.

I am sorry for writing so much its just I am so fearful that it may be too late. I appreciate any guidance or advice you may have for me and thank you for your time,

Michael and Leah

Please help my cat is aggressive, is it too late? to Cat Aggression

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Please help my cat is aggressive, is it too late?

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Apr 11, 2012 bengal female NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi I have a bengal female who is 1.5 yrs old.. I got her from a breeder who retired her.. She dont like ppl she is very timmed and scared. I have had cats all my life and never had this problem.. Im a stay at home mom so the breeder felt I could work with her.. Im taking it slow giving her, her space not forcing anything on her. When I picked her up she was in a carrier she would come to the door and let you touch her nose..Now she crowls in her pen everytime I try to touch her.. I want so badly to calm her and to make her see I want whats best for her.. I hope there is hope I rescue and breed great danes and have done well with some that seemed to have lil hope.I know cats are so different Im hoping with lots of patience and Love she will come around.. Please Help... Thanks

Aug 06, 2010 Never too late
by: 4Legs

Hindsight is twenty-twenty vision as they say. The kitten was to young at six weeks to be taken from his littermates and from his family. Kittens need even longer than puppies do and a big part of the time pups spend with their siblings is embedding natural bite inhibition.

Same with kittens. When play gets too rough , game is over. When the pups or kittens get too rough with Mum, she gets up and walks away from them, so dinner is over too. They are learning a bit of control.

I am so glad you asked your question hee and reveived such greta adice. I definately agree - no more bopping. Get up and walk away, shut him in a spare room, stop giving him attention of any kind.

With love and patience, it is never too late for anything.

Jul 03, 2010 Whoaa
by: Leah


I'm Leah, Ryu's mommy. (:
First I would like to say thank you for all of the input and advice everyone has given. It has definitely helped a bit and Ryu is pretty sweet for the most part, he does have his wild moments which is quite understandable (He is a Bengal cat after all :p). Sometimes he does get a bit too feisty though, even without any encouragement. Typically when this happens I will just set him on the floor and not pay him mind when he starts to bite me to death, his teeth are veryy sharp. :X And if he persists with the hardcore biting I or Michael will stick him in the bathroom for no more than 2 minutes so he can calm down and stop attacking us. I do have a feeling it's Ryu's way of playing though, which is understandable but he does tend to get a bit rough.

I would like to say to Fran that I am a bit offended and you may be a bit misunderstood. I or Michael would NEVER intentionally harm Ryu physically or emotionally. Granted in the very beginning we were a bit blind in handling our baby and we were told many different tactics, some of which I do not agree with. I don't appreciate your harsh words or assumtions of us being ignorant or punishing Ryu. However, you are entitled to your own opinion.
I will just have you know that Ryu sleeps with us every night, follows myself and Michael everywhere he can (I do mean everywhere lol) and always greets us at the door when we come home, waits for me outside of the shower, and cuddles with us when we watch TV. All signs of a perfectly content kitty who loves his momma and poppa. (:

Also, thank you Finn Frode. We try to give our Ryu as much love and attention as possible. (:

Jun 30, 2010 Harsh comment
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Fran. Michael and Leah have made ammends for earlier mistakes and come here asking for our advice. You may disagree with the idea of letting a cat cool off, but except for that I think your comment is a bit too harsh. I'm sure Michael and Leah are perfectly capable cat keepers.

Jun 30, 2010 Ignorance is rife
by: Fran

Would you punish a young child?I hope not.
So why punish a young cat?
A kitten is like a child in that there is so much to learn about the world and just like children putting everything to their mouths,kittens learn by biting.
You encouraged him to bite,then you hit him for doing just that.
No wonder the poor creature is confused.
Now you shut him away and he doesn't know why.
You owe him time and lots of patience or better still another home with someone who knows a bit about cats.
Yes neutering will calm him down somewhat but you can't put an old head on young shoulders and you shouldn't try.
What is with you people who get a kitten and expect him to be an angel?Were you never naughty when you were young?
I can only hope you haven't ruined that little animal's life by your ignorance.
Too many people have animals but shouldn't be allowed to.
I once read someone's words that there should be a competence test to pass before having any animal in your power.
How very right that person was.

Jun 29, 2010 Thank you for your help.
by: Michael and Leah

I appreciate the responses and have been trying many different things all to no avail. Although most of your comments contradict one another, I have taken what I can from them. Funny enough I have the DaBird toy and its his favorite toy. He is still very aggressive and still has his sweet moments. I am going to neuter him in hopes that it will improve his behavior. The only disciplinary measure I take is to put him in the bathroom so he can calm down. We have gotten so used to this and are hoping that neutering him will improve our situation. Again, thank you all and take solace in the fact that he is my son and I love him how he is. 😀

Michael and Leah

May 10, 2010 on Bengals
by: kathy

I used to raise Bengals. I started holding them everyday and hugging them from the very first day they were born. I did this at least two or three times a day. I know you all know about my bad expierience with the Savannah Breed. We thought it would be cool to own one and I though I was an expierienced cat person. One little very aggresive Savannah kitten proved me wrong. We tried everything. We even had a large cage for her, for her own protection to make sure she was getting enough to eat. She clawed us, bit us, and them became cage aggresive. I tried playing with her with DaBird toy until she couldnt stand up. If she got it in her mouth watch out!!! Well needless to say she went back to the breeders and was traded for her exact full sister who is the sweetest thing on earth, unless she thinks someone is going to try and infringe on her treat pile in the morning. She still reminds us she is still a Savannah. The other kitten wouldnt even come close to take a treat out of my hand. She would growl and hiss and come out and swipe my hand. I think there is still hope for your little Bengal. Just be patient. Try the Dabird toy, which is a flying feathers attached to a wand like a fishing pole. You can make him jump and run and he will get tired eventually. Then maybe you can try to handle him. I know the frustration you are going through. I went through that with Kachina. She was so beautiful. But I couldnt even touch that golden beauty. If he gets too aggresive from feather toys try some without real fur or feathers. Thats how we started out this time with little Arora and she is OK.

May 02, 2010 Not too late if kind now
by: Angel

I agree with Ruth.Any punishment at all would be counter productive,including grabbing the kitten's scruff.
You are not the mother cat and the kitten knows that and is scared enough already of you.
The only way to win this kitten over now is by kindness,gentelness and distraction,just as you would with an abused child.
Cats should never ever ever be punished.Hurt that kitten in any way again and there will never be any love or trust between you.

May 02, 2010 What would Mother Cat do?
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

In addition to what has already been said I have one more idea that might work. Actually it's what the mother cat would do to stop violent play and biting.
When the cat starts biting your finger, grab it by the scruff of the neck. Not hard as a punishment, but gently with two or three fingers and just for a couple of seconds. Most cats relax completely at this, because they had to be still when their mother carried them around.
Then caress the cat gently on the head as the mother cat would lick it. All the time speak gently with soothing words ensure the cat you are not mad at it. If the biting continues, pause for 5-10 seconds before you continue the stroking.
Although this method plays on typical kitten reactions, I've used it succesfully even with an old cat that had gotten into the bad habit of biting.
Talking to your cat is actually a very important part of socializing. Doesn't matter if it feels silly, it' works wonders when bonding. 😉

Finn Frode avatar

Apr 30, 2010 Time and patience
by: Ruth

You've made the mistake many more people make by playing with your bare hands with your kitten and you were given bad advice to punish your kitten too so he is now totally confused.You encouraged him to play rough but then you started punishing him for it.My blood runs cold at the number of people who 'advise' bopping kittens or cats on the nose as their noses are very senditive and what might be a light tap feels as it would to us like being punched hard on our noses. It really hurts and brings tears to our eyes.
Now you know how unkind it is please spread the word !
Aggression breeds aggression and because your kitten is now nervous of you, he is attacking or getting away from you before you can hurt him again.
Don't shout at him when he goes to bite you,not even a 'NO' Keep totally silent and either put a soft cat toy gently by his mouth or throw it for him.When he bites or chases the toy, praise him a lot.Buy him a tall strong scratching post and if he goes to scratch you or anywhere he shouldn't, again don't say a word, simply gently lift him to his scratching post and praise him when he uses it.
Try never to raise your voice when he is around, even in fun, you now have to make your kitten feel relaxed, safe and happy in his own home.
With time and patience you can undo the harm you've done but you will never regain his trust by any punishment at all.
You could also make him a kickable sized cat toy out of an old towel, kittens love them and use up lots of energy and aggression giving them a good going over.Don't forget to praise him when he plays with his toys.
I admire you for acknowlegding your mistakes and wanting to put things right.I hope your kitten soon calms down and begins to love and trust you again.
(Retired vet nurse with a bit of knowledge of cat psychology from a very wise vet)

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Apr 30, 2010 Bengal's
by: Merrily

One of the most important things you said in your post is that you aquired your kitten at six weeks old.
Most breeders keep their kittens with their mothers for 16 weeks, this gives the mother time to teach the kitten all she will need to know, and allows the kitten to be ready to meet the world.
Bengals being a hybred cat are very different from domestic cats, they are much more active, busy cats. They love to play and your hand quickly becomes something to bite and play with, however a grown Bengal cat can cause pain and injury by biting.
As Michael said, wand toys are very good, and work well with their wild instincts, especially toys with feathers, they also love to chase laser beams. Bengals do love to play. Spend some quiet time with your cat, speaking softly and petting him, and if he bites, stop and move your hand away. He will soon learn that if he bites he doesn't get petted, which of course he enjoys. Bengals are very smart cats.
Please never bop your cat, as this teaches him to react, which is not what you want.
If you change the way you are teaching him, he will change the way he is reacting, and should grow into a wonderful beautiful Bengal. Good Luck!

Apr 30, 2010 Michael and Leah
by: Michael

Thanks for visiting and submitting an article. I asked you to do this as you had previously emailed me. It was brave and good of you to ask for advice.

The first point is, "is he neutered?". I know my colleagues will ask that. Neutered cats are prone to be less aggressive (territorial aggression comes to mind).

I think that you have created a cat that has developed petting aggression and also become defensive due to stress with the addition of a third kind of cat aggression brought about by a desire to hunt that is not wholly satisfied.

In other words it is multifaceted, I think. The answer I believe is to go back to basics for a long time and hope that he unlearns what he has learned.

I note that you have stopped the bopping on the nose. Great. I always say, don't punish your cat and a bop on the nose for me is punishment. There are people who advocate this though. I disagree with them.

I would not play with hands but a tease. And plenty of play is a good substitute for hunting. Try and select the kind of play that replicates hunting, which is what he seems to want to do.

Bengal cats have a bit of wild in them and can be more prone to being aggressive and are more active. In the early days there must have been some aggressive Bengal cats at cat shows as the breed standard spells out the need for good temperament:

"Temperament must be unchallenging; any sign
of definite challenge shall disqualify...."

I will presume that your boy is well socialised. This might not be the case.

As the basics there should be:

-calm voices
-pleasant non-stressful environment
-stroking but your boy may find certain areas preferable
-good food accompanied by love and calm voices

The idea is that over time your boy will forget and relearn. But as stated Bengal cats are prone to be more aggressive and active. This should be taken into account.

Bengal cat behavior

It is largely commonsense, I feel. A general reduction in what he might feel is environmental stress will help.

One last point and a long shot. You may have understandably become a little wary of him, of petting him etc. He may pick up on this. If the humans are not calm then the cat won't be either.

Michael Avatar

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Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. Jane says:

    We adopted two unrelated kittens from a shelter. The younger one was definitely too young to leave his litter. Both had a biting habit. We cured this by stopping interaction and turning away to do another task whenever one of them would bite, accompanied by the phrase “when you bite we stop”. It has worked beautifully. Same thing for scratching.

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