Service Cats: Hands Are Not Toys

Meowllo and welcome to another Service Cat Monday. We ‘purreciate ya’ll bearin’ with us last week. We’ve got a great post fur ya’ today. Let me get the business stuff outta the way, and we’ll get to it. The followin’ post will be written in human English fur reader and translator ease. Our Service Cat Monday posts aren’t intended to be an all inclusive Trainin’ Manual but rather Tips, Tricks and Techniques used/developed by mommy thru her many years of animal trainin’, cats in purrticular. Ifin you have any questions or topics you would like us to cover, purrlease let us know in the comments section or send us an email. When asking behavioral questions, purrlease be as specific as pawssible. And, ifin you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, you can ketch up by clickin’ the links at the end of this post. Always remember, Training is all ‘bout Repetition and Rewards.

 

 Dezi laying in cat tree in new harness

 

 

Our question today comes from awnty Juliea and her new kitty Patzy, described as a calico/tortie mix. Now, they don’t have a blog of their own so we don’t know a lot about Patzy; just what awnty Juliea has said in comments on our posts. Patzy was adopted after awnty Juliea lost her beloved kitty Izzy. Her question refers to Patzy as a “new wild kitty” who is about 1 year old. She was adopted from their local animal shelter, so we doubt Patzy is truly wild/feral, but rather YOUNG and Kittenish. Having lived with a mature kitty, mommy says you’d be amazed at how much one forgets about kittenhood. Now, the question is, “Patzy is a loving kitty who enjoys being with me, but, she plays really rough, which I (Juliea) attribute to her calico/tortie side. I would like for her to recognize love pats as well as play pats.” She also asks about adding a “Buddy Cat” for Patzy. We’ll address the “Buddy Cat” in another post. Today we want to focus on appropriate petting. We’d also like to remind people that a cat’s color pattern or breed DOES NOT mean they are naturally Aggressive. So, Patzy’s behavior has nothing to do with her being a calico/tortie mix. 

 

 Dezi gets loving while laying on the arm of the chair

 

 

The Petting question is a great one. More than once mommy has seen people playing with their cats improperly and then wondering why kitty bites/scratches their hands or feet. We’ve heard numerous stories about those kitties that attack their owners feet while they sleep. Our immediate response is: HANDS ARE NOT TOYS!!! FEET ARE NOT TOYS!!!  The only thing hands and feet should be associated with is LOVE and Exams!!! What may be cute from a 6 week old fluff ball, isn’t so adorable from an adult 10 pound cat. It’s never too late to Train/Re-Train a behavior, but it’s always best to start with the appropriate expected behavior.

 

 Dezi gets her chin scratched while wearing her new tiger harness

Mmmmmm Me luvs a good chin scritch.

 

 

Never, Not Ever, No Way, No How should one ever use their hands as toys!!! A kitty who has learned that hands are toys, are the same kitties that bite VETs, company, children and certainly their owners. This is totally inappropriate behavior. Before bringing a new kitty or any pet for that matter home, you should already have in mind what behaviors you’re willing to allow and which behaviors won’t be tolerated. Keep in mind that some behaviors are are innate and can’t be changed. A cat needs to scratch; even a declawed cat will use a scratching post. (Please, Do NOT declaw your cat. There are other options available.) This is a behavior you can’t change. However, you can make sure kitty scratches appropriate areas with a minimal amount of Training. 

 

 Raena lays in mommy's lap and gets loving

 

 

 

So, you’ve adopted a kitty that already sees hands as toys, how do you stop that behavior and Train kitty to a more appropriate behavior? Redirection is key. When the first sign of aggression appears, immediately remove your hand, say “NO” in a firm but gentle voice, and offer kitty an appropriate toy to bite or chew on. If kitty is laying beside you or in your lap, throw the toy away from you so that kitty must chase it, and totally ignore kitty until the aggression has subsided. Do Not reward kitty’s inappropriate behavior with treats or soothing words. Even when kitty goes for the toy instead of your hand, keep silent. There’ll be plenty of time for love and rewards later.

 

 Raena lays in mommy's lap and enjoys some loving

 

 

Let’s talk a bit about how to PET your cat. Some kitties really like what mommy calls the “Long Pet”. The “Long Pet” has the hand moving down a kitties back from the head to the tail and can include tail scritches. But, the reality is, that most cats get overstimulated and often start nipping at the hand. Remember, the head and face of kitty is welcoming and calm, the tail and hind end of kitty is used to express aggression and ownership. Click here to read about the importance of kitty’s scent glands and what each means. Almost all cats love a good chin scratching, behind the ears and around the face. Petting kitty’s head, chin, neck and upper back around the shoulder blades rarely cause over stimulation. Do Not Rub against the natural direction of kitty’s fur. Do Not “ruffle” kitty’s fur, instead commit to the pet and gently stroke kitty’s head down to the shoulder blades. At the first sign that kitty is going to bite, Remove your hand, Redirect kitty’s attention and Ignore kitty. Before you know it, kitty will enjoy receiving pets as much as you enjoy giving them.

 

 Raena getting mommy love while laying in her lap

 

 

As for the late night, early morning foot attacks, ignore kitty. Do Not encourage kitty’s attacks by moving your feet and toes. You might want to keep a few of kitty’s favorite toys on the night table to employ Redirection. Like the toilet paper rolls, this isn’t something you will have to do for the life time of kitty, only until kitty learns. Each cat learns at a different pace. You must remember to be Consistent. Training Never Stops or takes a vacation. However, once kitty has learned that hands and feet are not toys, there will be little need for continued Redirection. While teaching kitty that hands equal love, it’s a good idea to occasionally run your hands all over kitty’s body the way a VET would during an exam. This will help make kitty calmer during an already stressful situation. And as always, remember, Training is all about Repetition and Rewards. And, Hands and Feet Are NOT toys.

  

Well, we hope this has helped. Ifin ya’ have any questions about this post or any other topic, please leave it in the comments section of this post or send us an email to lexi.dezi@yahoo.com. Ifin you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, you can ketch up by clickin’ the links below.

 

Till the next time…………………………………………..Be Blest!!!

 

Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses

 

Deztinee and RaenaBelle  

 

Service Cats  

What to Look For      Training Foundations      Train Kitty To Massage

Smelling Disease      Do You Need One      Who Bears the Cost

Housing Laws & Exceptions      Accommodations & Common Sense

When the Handler Dies      Proper Training Methods Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

Easiest Task to Train      Getting Kitty Ready for an Outing

Discipline: Stop Countersurfing Kitty      Internal Disputes

Calling Emergency Help      Just What Is Kitty Capable of

Shad: Original Service Cat      Harness, Vest, Leash or Stroller

Dezi, the Wheelchair & Chest      Round and Round We Go

Tumble & Fall Response      Raena Calls for Help

The Rest of the Story     Raena & the Wheelchair Pt. 1 Pt. 2 Pt. 3 Pt. 4

When to Train      Explaining Rewards & Kitty’s Feelings

Stop Kitty’s Begging     Calling For Help Options Pt. 1

Medicating Kitty

Training the Pig Headed, Stallion Strong, Submissive Pup & Conniving Cat

Cats Love Training & Social Media Downfalls

Reintegrating the Scared or Bullied Cat      There’s No Bully Cat Breed

Going for a Walk When in a Wheelchair     Calming the Tiger Pt.1 Pt. 2 Pt. 3

Surviving A Remodel      Taming A Feral Cat

Designer Cats & Scent      DNA Doesn’t Change      Fighting or Posturing

Clicker Training & Operant Conditioning      Wheelchair Training

Basic Training Continues      Managing Without A Wheelchair

Are Spray Bottles Effective

Service Cats: Calming the Tiger in Your Aggressive Cat Pt. 1

Welcome to another Service Cat Monday. We’re runnin’ way late today, but we’re here. We’ll be honest and tell ya’ we’ve been lookin’ furward to tacklin’ today’s topic, with a little excitement and a lot of trepidation. Trepidation, you ask? Cats get such a bad rap in society, that we hate to focus on any feline negative. BUT, ifin those negative issues aren’t dealt with, then peeps won’t know how wonderful and special all us kitties can be. So, let’s get the business outta the way and get on with today’s posty. The followin’ will be written in human English fur translator and reader ease. Our Service Cat Monday posts aren’t meant to be a step by step Trainin’ manual, as Trainin’ is all ‘bout Repetition and Rewards. We believe in a Pawsitive Reinfurcement Trainin’ Method. The tips, tricks and techniques we talk ‘bout are/have been used/developed by mommy thru her many years of trainin’ animals, cats in purrticular. Ifin ya’ have any questions, suggestions, or comments, purrlease leave them in the comment section or send us an email to: lexi.dezi@yahoo.com, or use the form on our Contact Us page. It’s completely purrivate; nopawdy sees it but us. And, purrlease try to be as specific as pawssible ifin you’re askin’ a question ‘bout behavior. Ifin you’ve missed any of the posty’s in this series, you can ketch up by clickin’ the links below.

 

 Dezi laying in cat tree in new harness

 

The topic today is all about Feline Aggression. Our dear sweet awnty Ellen of 15 and Meowing asked, Is there any hope of Re-integrating sweet Jinx into the family? When out with the other kitties, he automatically goes for the kill; straight for the other kitty’s throats and the fur flies. And, our dear friend Timmy and his dad, our pawsum uncle Pete asked how to deal with the sudden onset of aggression without provocation. And lastly, our sweet friend Valentine asked about littermates who have never gotten along and try to avoid each other as much as possible. And we’re sure there are many more of you out there facing some sort of aggression issue in your house. First, we’d like to remind you to read our Prep post There’s No Bully Cat Breed. This post helps explain the origins of the house cat and what motivates your furry purrer.

 

 Angry Tiger emoji

 

These three questions, altho dealing with aggression, are completely different. However, anytime there are behavioral issues/abnormalities with your kitty, the first thing you need to do is, Take Kitty to the VET. You want to rule out any possible medical reasons for kitty’s behavior. Cats DO NOT act out of spite or just plain meanness. There is always a reason as to why kitty does what they do. Now some of you may be wondering how mommy can speak to aggression, since we’re Service Kitties who get along, as did sis Lexi and me. Well, let’s just say, things weren’t always rosy in mommy’s house. We rarely talk about it, because it was a moment in time, and something mommy dealt with as soon as it reared it’s ugly head. But we feel we need to give you a little background with a look into the past.

 

 Tiger jumps at you from the screen

We have quite a few friends that have joined us this past year and never met mommy’s first black tabby cat love, me’s sweet sis Lexi. Mommy was a foster mommy for newborns without a cat mommy when sis Lexi came into her life. At all of ten minutes old, sis Lexi started working her feline magic to make mommy fall in love with her. Mommy already had two kitties at the time and had no plans to add a third, so altho’ she loved Lexi, she had no intentions of making her part of the family. Me knows it’s hard to believe, but sis Lexi was a tiny kitty girl. This was no surprise as she was an Egyptian Mau that should weigh about 6 pounds full grown. Sis Lexi was special and grew into a large, not overweight, 30 pounds, due to her early cow milk diet that strengthened and caused her bones to grow much bigger. Anyways, since she was a foster, mommy would take her regularly to be shown at adoption events where she was caged and unfortunately poked and prodded by onlookers/possible adopters/children. She was also a little bullied by her more outgoing bigger brofur and littermate, who was the alpha of the litter.

 

 Young teenager Lexi

Lexi as a little girl. Here she is at about 7 months old.

 

Lexi grew to hate those events. She had already decided she wanted to stay with mommy. So, what’s a kitty girl to do when the human isn’t paying attention to all the signs? On adoption days, Lexi would hide and hiss and growl her displeasure at being crated up and carried off to be caged for the day. Mommy ignored all the early signs, until one day, Lexi took her frustrations out on the resident kitties. Yep, teeny little Lexi attacked mommy’s resident kitties and drew blood. She made a stand. She was saying, “I’s don’t like those cages or the people poking at me.” She had been saying it, mommy just hadn’t been listening. But, with the site of blood, mommy finally got the message. Yep, mommy adopted sis Lexi herself and changed her name from Lana to Lexi. Mommy explained to her that she’d never be caged and prodded again, and that she would live with mommy and the boys (Devon and Lucky) forever and ever.

 

 Devon, Lucky and Lexi on bathroom sink

Devon yawning, Lexi with arms and legs around Lucky in sink.

As you can see, the boys are much larger than Lexi.

 

The boys were three times the size of Lexi and very laid back. At first, the boys’ gave Lexi a wide berth, while mommy was spending time reassuring her, that she had a forever home and helping to build her confidence through love and play. After a couple of weeks, Lexi and the boys not only co-existed, but as you can see by the above photo, they learned to love each other. Mommy continued to foster other kitties. Until that is, shortly after sis Lexi’s spay surgery. Lexi once again, found herself in a cage being prodded by strangers. Obviously, she didn’t understand the whole thing, but cages brought back bad memories. While mommy was gone to a rescue meeting, sis Lexi broke into a large crate with one of the foster kitties mommy had, and she killed it. Mommy was devastated. But, she loved Lexi and understood that she had acted out of fear. Through love, patience and a lot of confidence building, sis Lexi was once again, the loving kitty mommy always knew she could be.

 

 Devon and Lexi together on sink

Me on the bathroom vanity luvvin (massagin’) on sis Lexi in the sink.

 

The point of all this, is that Lexi wasn’t born mean. She certainly wasn’t raised to be mean. But early circumstances and experiences had caused her to fear cages and strangers. Now let me tell you, the rescue organization that mommy fostered with, had wanted to kill Lexi when she drew first blood. But mommy understood that Lexi had been giving her warning signs before she took those actions and knew that with stability, patience and love, she could overcome it. In Lexi’s case, her behavior wasn’t motivated by any medical causes but rather, Fear.

 

 Lexi and Dezi lay together on window perch

Sis Lexi and me in our old window purrch. We luvved

each other very much.

 

So, the first thing one needs to try to establish with an aggressive kitty, is the motivation behind it. If you’ve ruled out medical causes, then Motivation is the next step. Unfortunately, when adopting a kitty from a rescue or shelter, you don’t always know their history. However, ALL  kitties send up warning signs before they start taking action; humans just need to be aware of what to look for. When adopting a kitty, try to find out as much as possible about their past. Were they a stray? Owner Surrender and why? Formerly Feral? Abused or Abandoned? These things can often help you to see into the kitty’s mind. By the time a kitten is 6 months old, their experiences will determine how they see the world; humans, other cats and animals. But don’t be discouraged if you adopt an older kitty. Although you can’t change the Natural instincts of a cat, you can change most of their Learned behaviors.

 

 Stressed out cat clip art

 

Cats like stability. Old folks and cats hate change. Did you know something as simple as rearranging the furniture can cause your cat to be stressed and act out? A cat that’s been bullied by others, may become aggressive when placed in a new environment with other kitties or animals? It’s the old, “the abused becomes the abuser” story. We suspect that might be the case for our sweet friend Jinx, but we don’t have enough information to truly make a diagnosis. The big key in having a happy and peaceful household with multiple cats is that all kitties be confident and own their territory.

 

 Raena playing with Petafe cheese and mouse toy

 

Cats learn confidence from things like play, interaction and ownership of their surroundings. Having their scent present in their home, the furnishings, toys, and cat furniture is very important to establishing ownership for a cat. Co-mingling scents in multi cat households is a must. When introducing cats slowly, site swapping and scent swapping are also a must. The human scent is just as important as all the other kitties in a household; so a piece of worn clothing can be left in the area with the “aggressive” cat as well as a towel, blanket, or other highly scentable cloth with all other animals’ scent. And be sure to spend quality time with the “aggressive” cat, playing the “Scent Me Up” game and with toys.

 

 Dezi and Raena square off and get ready to rumble.

A confident kitty can walk or stand their ground in the middle

of the floor while their housemate passes.

 

We’re gonna wrap this up fur today. We knew this was gonna be a really long post ifin we addressed it purr-opurrly, so we’ve decided to break it up into several installments. Aggression doesn’t happen overnight, so fixin’ it, isn’t gonna be a snap either. But, keep the hope alive in your heart, your kitty can be helped and everypawdy/kitty can live happily. To recap, see the VET to rule out any pawssible medical reasons fur kitty’s behavior. Excluding medical causes, look fur kitty’s Motivation. This may require you to look into the past, but take the time to try to figger out why kitty may be acting out. Are there any triggers? Does kitty give warnings and what causes them? Again, you might have to look into the past, but kitty didn’t start attacking without giving a warning furst. Make a list of your findings, so you can refer back to it during training and just in case you need it in the future. And lastly, help all the kitties be more confident thru play, ownership, scent swappin’ and the “Scent Me UP” game. Spend quality time with each kitty. We think this is a lot of work, but by next week, ya’ might have a better handle on what causes your kitty to be “aggressive”, and fur sure, you and kitty will have fun implementin’ these techniques. Remember, THERE’S NO BAD CAT!!! 

 

Ifin you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, ketch up by clickin’ the links below. And be sure to leave your questions, suggestions and comments below. We hope you all have a pawsum week and join us next Monday fur the second installment in dealing with Cat Aggression.

 

Till the next time………………………………………Be Blest!!!

 

Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses

 

Deztinee and RaenaBelle

 

Service Cats

What to Look For   Training Foundations   Train Kitty To Massage

Smelling Disease   Do You Need One   Who Bears the Cost

Housing Laws & Exceptions   Accommodations & Common Sense

When the Handler Dies     Proper Training Methods Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

Easiest Task to Train   Getting Kitty Ready for an Outing

Discipline: Stop Countersurfing Kitty     Internal Disputes

Calling Emergency Help    Just What Is Kitty Capable of

Shad: Original Service Cat    Harness, Vest, Leash or Stroller

Dezi, the Wheelchair & Chest    Round and Round We Go

Tumble & Fall Response    Raena Calls for Help

The Rest of the Story     Raena & the Wheelchair Pt. 1 Pt. 2 Pt. 3 Pt. 4

When to Train    Explaining Rewards & Kitty’s Feelings

Stop Kitty’s Begging     Calling For Help Options Pt. 1

Medicating Kitty

Training the Pig Headed, Stallion Strong, Submissive Pup & Conniving Cat

Cats Love Training & Social Media Downfalls

Reintegrating the Scared or Bullied Cat   There’s No Bully Cat Breed

Going for a Walk When in a Wheelchair