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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Always Hurt The One You Love

The first job I ever had was pet sitting for neighbors and friends. One of those friends had a male cat, that I had the pleasure of watching one week while they went on vacation. It was a frisky feline and friendly as could be. He would rub all over my legs and meow for attention every time I arrived and I was more than happy to oblige. This cat had a particular personality trait that I had never encountered before. Whenever I would sit down and get comfortable, he would climb on my lap. He would then purr and meow for my attention, and when he got it, he would jump up and bite me on the head! I was scared the first time it happened. I had never been attacked by any animal at that point, and I certainly didn't expect it from this loving cat on my lap. I wasn't hurt, but it was still a jarring experience. Unfortunately for the cat, for the remainder of the week, I didn't sit down and spend quality time with him. I did try a few other times to remain calm and allow the cat on my lap, but every time he eventually attacked my head and bit me.
Bite by pestbarn, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  pestbarn 
For more then a decade, I never had another encounter with a male cat. My family always kept female animals, and as luck would have it, none of my friends ever had a male cat. That all changed a few years ago, when we added a little male kitten to our family. I had completely forgotten about my experience as a pet sitter, until our male cat started behaving the same way. At first it was just a playful nip when we were rough housing, but it soon turned into an every day occurrence. He never bites hard, in fact he's never drawn blood or left a mark of any kind. That doesn't change the fact that he has sharp little teeth that hurt. I had just dismissed that one cat from the past as "having an attitude problem". But when our little kitten started biting, I made the connection and did a little research.

As it turns out, this is normal for male cats! What I interpreted as aggression, was actually the cat's way of telling me he loves me. How can this be? The kitty is actually biting the hand the feeds it! You would think this would be against any animal's instinct,  but this is not the case for the male cat. To understand why your male cat continually bites you, we have to understand how your cat reacts to others of it's own kind. In a male cat's world, biting and pain are synonymous with any interaction with the opposite sex. When mating, the male cat climbs on the back of the female and bites the back of her neck. This act is not to hold the female in place as it may appear, but to inflict pain. The female cat actually needs the pain to trigger her to ovulate. Her body uses this feeling as a guide to know when she has a strong fertile male ready to mate with her.

Now obviously, you and your cat are not trying to make little kittens, but he has no outlet for his affection. There are a few exceptions in some of the big cats, but as a whole, felines are solitary creatures. Males rarely allow another male in their presence, as they prefer to cover a large territory of real estate that encompasses many females. In a more domestic situation, when the cat is always around you and other animals, he just doesn't know how to express himself in a more polite manner. There are products that claim to help biting cats, such as Feliway Cat Pheromones. These products do in fact help, but they will never get your cat to stop. Many cat owners learn to live with the feline's habits. I feel a male cat biting is one of those things that you cannot make him stop doing. That's like asking him to stop loving you. The only way I've been able to train our little feisty fur ball, is to just stop giving him affection when he bites. He has learned over time that if he want's to continue to receive attention, he must control his urges. There are still nips now and again when he gets a little too excited, but he's become a much more nurturing cat. If you have a male cat that bites, the best prescription is a little patience and understanding to make you and your male cat happier!

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