Strange Feral Cat Behavior?

Strange Feral Cat Behavior?

When I moved to my home over a year ago, there were a lot of “stray” cats here. I later discovered that one was truly a homeless cat. The others were just roaming through my yard and had homes. I named him Charlie. It took many months (almost a year) to get to the point where I could pet him.

He was so needy for attention. I began putting food and water out for him daily. He has attacked my leg if I stopped petting him too soon. I stopped petting him, but am still putting out food and water. I’ve also provided a shelter for him in the winter months.

Is his behavior “normal” for a feral cat?


Hi Leslie…thanks for the submission and the question.

I am going to presume that when you ask whether Charlie’s behavior is normal, you are referring to the fact that he attacks your leg if you stop petting him too soon.

Firstly, well done for doing the right thing for this cat, who seems to have been feral or close to it. I love these stories of gentleness and compassion. They feel right to me. Many people simply want rid of them by any means. I have a cat companion called Charlie too.

I am guessing that rather than “attack” you he nips you reasonably gently (by his standards). There may be two possible reasons.

1. If I am correct in my assessment then his bite or “attack” is a not an untypical reaction by domestic cats to being stroked or petted in a way that the cat likes but which is a bit near the limit of acceptability. It is probably a transition from petting to playing that has taken place. And play for a cat is a form of hunting and that includes using the teeth and claws.

Cats tend to have a limits as to how far we can go with them in petting them and for a cat that is familiar with you and who has lived with you for a long time the limit will be higher.

2. Charlie simply enjoys it (he is needy you say) and doesn’t want you to stop. To make you continue he nips you or grabs you with his claws. If this is true is a a nice close relationship that you have. Perhaps you should keep going until you feel he can accept it being stopped.

In conclusion, I think Charlie’s response could be a play instinct, the reaction coming after you have just stopped (a response in other words) or a demand for more or something in between the two.

The fact that he doesn’t “attack” when you start supports my thoughts.

Cat behavior is the same whether the cat is (a) feral (b) domestic or (c) wild, or at least it is the same at a fundamental level. The wildcat lurks just beneath the domestic cat’s behavior/character.

I will bow to a better answer if someone is available to provide one.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Strange Feral Cat Behavior to Feral Cats

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Strange Feral Cat Behavior?

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Oct 15, 2010 Feral Cat biting
by: Maryann

I too have a feral cat that I discovered sleeping in my yard, due to the fact that my house was vacant for about 2 years or so. We call him “Blacky”. At first he was shooed away by us as we thought he was a domestic cat that had liked to use our yard as his litterbox, but we have come to know him as being feral and everyone in our neighborhood feeds him. He lets me pet him but only on the head and meows for food. But he also will bite my hand and try to pull the flesh off of it. He then licks my hand in affection and we leave it at that. I once had a feral cat as a pet and he was so unsocialized that our vet recommended putting him down, and that’s why I let Blacky alone, he knows that he will always find affection and food at my place, but I won’t have him inside as a pet.

Dec 07, 2009 Charlie
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorra

I agree with Michael. I think Charlie enjoys the attention of you petting him and doesn’t want you to stop until he says so.You’ll notice the signs, his tail will start swishing and he may start staring at your petting hand.Maybe you can then distract him with a few cat treats you have ready in your pocket?
You are obviously a very kind person as he is trusting you like he does.It’s very difficult taming an adult feral cat.

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