Hello Penny, I'm Dr. Deb and will do my best to help you.
When it comes to biting as you describe, there could be several different reasons for it: Play, fear, predatory, petting-induced, or attention seeking to mention a few.
It's not always easy to know exactly what the underlying motivation might be but it sounds like attention seeking or pet-induced or possibly play may be the reasons why Shelley bites you and others..
The behavior of a cat biting their owners (or others) while being petted is actually a fairly common syndrome. Some cats will only tolerate so much petting at one time which is what triggers the biting.
I know it may seem as if she may be sending mixed signals...that she really wants to be petted but some cats have limited tolerance for human physical contact. Often times these cats can become overly stimulated very easily which is what triggers the inappropriate behavior.
Rather than trying to punish this behavior in an attempt to stop it (which rarely if ever works so I'm glad that you haven't hit her), one approach should be to prevent it from happening in the first place, if at all possible. Trying to figure out what the triggers are and avoiding them will be important.
Clearly one trigger for her is petting. You could limit the number of pets at one time and end the session with a quiet "all done" and toss a toy (sparkle ball or mouse) or treat to remove her from your lap if that's where she happens to be. Distract her with laser lights or feathers if she persists in trying to jump back on your lap. Don't ever use your hands to play with her; always use toys where your hands are at a distance from her mouth.
In the worst cases, where cats refuses to take no for an answer, I suggest physically removing them to another room for a "time-out" so to speak so that they can calm down.
Many cats, especially if indoors, will improve with greater choice and activity in their daily lives....lots of interactive toys to play with on their own, videos of squirrels and birds to watch, lots of high perches/cat trees for them to sit on, etc.
You can use behavior modification techniques on cats but it takes much longer than it does with a dog. For example, if you want her to go to a specific area of a room, then throw something really tasty like Pounce or a small amount of chicken to that area and use a command such as "go" or whatever word you want to use.
Schedule training sessions every day and only use the yummy food during the sessions. It may take her a while to get the connection but eventually every time you say "go", she will move to that particular area of the room.
Then if she's well trained, when it looks like she may bite you, give the command to "go".
Other helpful tips:
- Give Shelley at least 2 sessions of play time every day. These sessions should last at least 15 minutes. Use toys (such as the fishing pole or a laser pointer) that keep her focus off from you.
- Start feeding her from a toy - like the Eggcersizer. This provides further enrichment by keeping her interested for some time.
- Reinforce Shelley's good behavior with small pieces of special treats (tiny pieces of lunch meat, hot dog or cheese).
- You can also try clicker training. There is a website that you can visit to learn more about it if you're interested. - www.clickertraining.com/cattraining
I hope this helps and provides options for you to try and change or modify this behavior. Deb