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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 19707
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Having a little trouble with my five and a half month old male

Customer Question

Having a little trouble with my five and a half month old male Ragdoll cat. He likes to mouth fingers and arms, especially my mums for some reason. A lot of it seems to start after a play session, but it is also happening early in the morning. He is beginning to try and get me up out of bed by gnawing on my arms, fingers and head. It's not aggressive as such, but it is painful sometimes! Is it just a stage? Btw, he was castrated yesterday. Wondered if this would help, but he did it again this morning. Many thanks.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today. I do apologize that your question was not answered before. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online, read about your wee one’s situation, and wanted to help.

This is a very common situation in young cats. Essentially your lad doesn't understand that he cannot play (or seek mental stimulation) with you like he would another kitten. It is a stage (since this is their prime play and teething age), but your approach to it now will dictate what he thinks is acceptable through life. Therefore, you do need to address this now and not let it continue. And while you have had him neutered, this isn't going to impact this type of behavior (and won't impact any territorial/hormonal behaviors until all the testosterone is out of his system in a few weeks' time).

In regards ***** ***** I am glad to see that you do have play sessions (which you should have a few small ones through the day) and are giving "time outs" when he starts this behavior. Further to this, you need to make sure that everyone in the house is being absolutely consistent. Anyone lapses and lets him nibble, chew on their hands even at play time, and they will be undoing the good work you are doing and confusing the "no mouthing" message you are trying to get across to him.

Further to "time outs" (and remember that he has to stay or go back to time out if he resumes the behavior on release), do try to redirect his behavior. To do so, you can carry toys with you to toss away from you to redirect his mouthing attention. Try to get him to focus on chasing the toys instead of attacking you.

As well, just to note, you are on the right track with the toys in the house because we do want to make sure that her environment is as enriched as possible. We do want to make sure to have a variety of toys that requite a variety of responses from your cat (ie toys to chase, stalk, pounce, and move around). That said, make sure that you don't have them all out at the same time. Instead, consider keeping them on a rota, so he will have that 'new toy' excitement even if you aren't continually buying toys. You can also give your cat new objects to explore (ie cardboard boxes, perches, paper bags).

Since we tend to see these issues in young exclusively indoor sole cats, you may want to consider (depending on your house set up) building an outdoor enclosure (w/ boxes, shelves and perches -examples). If you can provide a more complex environment for your cat, this will provide a lot of mental stimulation opportunities to hunt insects and chase leaves, your cat will be less motivated to seek negative attention from you.

Besides environmental enrichment, you may wish to consider adopting another cat as a playmate. If you do, choose a young, playful cat like your current cat. Though this will take introducing them properly, and this will depend on how he feels about other felines. But sometimes a playmate of his own species can give an active playful cat someone more keen to play bite/wrestle games.

Finally, in regards ***** ***** morning attacks, you need to close the bedroom door and prevent his entering the room all together. Until you have successfully redirected play and gotten the nibbling to subside when you are conscious, you cannot let him have access to you when you are "vulnerable". Especially as you cannot help but react when he does this in the morning, thus giving him what he is seeking, and inadvertently training him to continue this behavior. So, at the moment, we need to address the behavior during waking hours and preventing him access to people in the wee hours to ensure that we do not undermine our work be our involuntary reaction when sleeping.

Overall, you are on the right track with what is not an easy situation of adjusting feline perceptions. Still it is good that you are working on it now, rather then when it is a proper established habit. So, keep working at it, make those tweaks I have suggested above and persevere. If you can continue to approach his need for mental stimulation in a positive manner, you will be able to discourage his behaviour by getting him refocused on more 'people friendly' pursuits. Therefore, you can use 'time outs' if he does attack at the moment, but more importantly we need that environmental enrichment and redirection to teach him what is acceptable and with that over time this should settle and you both will be happier together.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )

Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 19707
Experience: General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
Dr. B. and other Vet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you! I shall persevere! Steve H
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
You are very welcome,

That is the best course of action, Steve. It is always a case of consistency and perseverance to get our message across to our kitties since they cannot just understand English.

Take care,
Dr. B.

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