Friday, April 11, 2008
how to tame a feral cat: what every cat lover needs to know for their own personal safety as well as the wild cat's
various motivators, such as:
* Misdirection of their hunting instinct
First of all, you need to identify what are the relevant triggers to this aggressive behaviour, and see what you can do to alleviate the situation.
Cats need to learn how to appreciate human company, and when this has not been tackled when a cat was young, there can be problems in adulthood. With fear related aggression, this happens in the presence of a real or perceived threat.
It may be that your mother's new cat had a previous traumatic experience with a female who resembles you in the past. In the early stages of this type of aggression, the affected cat will try and flee or hide. Gradually the cat will adopt an aggressive strategy. The response of the person involved is significant, and often an attempt to reassure the affected cat reinforces the fear. Punishing may also add to the cat's fear.
You have to think about what is triggering your mother's cat's aggression if this is the type of behaviour she is exhibiting. You can then gradually try and desensitise your mother's cat to the trigger.
For example, if you find that your mother's cat reacts when you enter a room, see if you can get your mother to reassure her cat when you stand outside the room, and reward calm behaviour. When your mother's cat remain calm, then gradually get closer. This desensitisation can take quite some time.
This is usually directed towards familiar people, and is often associated with situations where the cat does not get the reward it expects. This type of cat likes human company, but becomes noticeably aggressive in certain situations. In these cases it is best to think about the behaviour of the owner, and to avoid confrontational interactions. The owner may also, as may be the case with your mother's cat, inadvertently reward inappropriate behaviour.
The cat may see aggression as a way to get a treat or attention. It is better to reward appropriate behaviour, and to avoid aggressive confrontation.
This usually began as a form of play when the cat was a kitten, and involves aspects of stalking, chasing etc and is often directed towards targets that are showing rapid movement. In these cases it is better to re-direct the predation towards a suitable toy
Aggression associated with human interaction These cats are usually described as being friendly, yet unpredictable. Often the cat initiates contact with the person, and then will suddenly bite and attack. This is also called petting and biting syndrome.
This type of behaviour can be induced in most cats; what varies is when they change from accepting the attention to reacting in a hostile way. This change period is called their tolerance threshold.
One explanation of this behaviour is a link with the cat's past and there is a connection with a cat's early handling experience and the final tolerance threshold for human contact.
Cats that have been handled from an early age and are used to being nursed have a high threshold and rarely show aggression. Those that didn't have a lot of human contact early on and have been handled less often in adulthood will show an aggressive response within a few minutes of being picked up.
It's also been thought that there may be an association with these sudden attacks and a past unpleasant experience, such as someone stroking the cat gently before suddenly grabbing it and holding it down. As a result, the cat looks at a friendly hand as a possible threat and the fear of being grabbed overwhelms the need to be cuddled. This is why smacking her will have no effect, and can possibly make the situation worse.
Another theory is that it is rooted in mutual grooming behaviour between cats. A mother cat will spend a lot of her time grooming her kittens, and the human hand is thought to evoke memories of the mother's tongue. At first the cat views the petting like maternal grooming, but reach a point where they revert to being an adult cat and feel suddenly vulnerable and trapped. The cat then views the hand movement as a threatening paw from another cat.
Treatment involves raising this tolerance threshold. The process is very slow, so that a cat with this problem doesn't get overwhelmed. Start by fussing your mother's cat without even picking her up so that she will be free to back off if she feels threatened. Once she accepts this readily, you can start putting her on your lap. Stroke her gently, concentrating on the back and head, avoiding the stomach and the legs, as these are more sensitive. Make sure she can escape if she wants to. Gradually increase the time spent petting her, but never restrain her forcibly as this will reduce the tolerance threshold and undo all of the work you will have already done!
It might also be a good idea to take your mother¿s cat along to the vet's. Sometimes illness or pain can induce aggression, and your mother's cat may benefit from treatment tailored to a medical condition if this is the case. In addition, the vet may feel that a referral to a pet psychologist may be useful.
Posted by nancy at 11:21 AM