Need to rehome a cat who bit once
May 13, 2012 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Rescue cat dilemma: does the fact that this cat bit me mean that I won't be able to find a shelter for her?

Last week, my co-workers found a small cat wandering the street outside the office. She was friendly and clean enough for us to assume she belonged to somebody, so we posted signs and kept her overnight in the office. My co-worker K. took her home the following day, and everything seemed fine. This was a very friendly kitty, purring and on your lap. She loved everybody in the office, followed everybody around like a dog, and made a lot of friends. I looked in on her at K.'s apartment a few days ago, and all her behavior indicated a sociable cat with no issues.

She ultimately couldn't stay at K.'s, so I had the cat brought to my apartment yesterday. We put her in the bathroom. She was purring and lap-happy until she realized that there were other animals in the apartment, then her personality did a 180. She started growling and stopped being friendly to either me or my BF. She bit my hand while I was trying to get her away from the bathroom door, and drew blood. (FWIW, I've been reading up on cat bites, and yes, I will see a doctor if the bites appear to be infected or if the area gets too swollen.)

I have been researching shelters, and most of them don't want anything to do with an animal who bites. Does the fact that she bit me once mean that she is doomed to wind up at a kill shelter such as AC&C? (This is in New York City.) I want to do the right thing, but it would appear that she can't live with my two cats (who are both very gentle and friendly). I think she would be ok with a home with no animals. Does anybody have any suggestions? She is still in my bathroom, and growls at anybody who walks into the room.
posted by computech_apolloniajames to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: All cats bite under duress. She's threatened and feels unsafe right now, and I think you just need to tell whatever shelter she gets to that she's the type of kitty that needs to be the only kitty in the household.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: Shelters are fine with pets who can't deal with other pets. It would be difficult if she couldn't deal with people, but she's an otherwise friendly and sociable cat.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:32 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: Cats that aren't used to other animals being around tend to lose their shit when other animals are around. Nothing wrong with the kitty.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:33 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: Cats take some time to get used to each other. What she's exhibiting seems like pretty normal cat behavior. Even sweet cats bite and scratch once in a while because they're freaked out. It doesn't sound like she's normally aggressive.

I'm sure most shelters would take her. When they say they can't accept animals who bite they're talking about dogs and probably super aggressive or feral cats, not an otherwise nice, domesticated cat who found itself in an stressful situation.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: I got my cat from the ASPCA in New York and he bit me while I choosing a cat. Cat bites in strange situations are normal and it isn't something you can really train them out of. You can train them to stop biting under normal circumstances but not under really strange ones.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 11:43 AM on May 13, 2012

You are worried about human aggression that is a main concern when the shelters are evaluating dogs. The cat is perfectly normal.
posted by MyMind at 11:45 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: My cat, when I was fostering him, bit me. I had to take him out of his safe closet and bring him to the vet (or somewhere), and he freaked the fuck out and bit me. (He was a very, very, very nervous cat. Now he's only a very nervous cat.) I didn't actually tell the shelter about it, because he had a lot of things going against him (and was never able to return to the adoption room in the shelter for other reasons, which is why he is now my asshole cat) but in the six or so years since then, he has not bitten me since.

I wouldn't be worried about a single cat bite when she was brought into a house with other cats. Or that she's been unfriendly for 24 hours after that. It might not even mean she cannot live with other cats, she just needs a bit more time.
posted by jeather at 11:45 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even a cat capable of living with other animals may do this under duress. Cats are very aware of territory, and realizing she was on someone else's - when she was already in a pretty uncertain situation - would have made many cats panic. And they only have a limited number of ways of defending themselves.

You can certainly tell any shelter staff hey, she bites when she's freaked out. And they'll be like, yeah, they do that - at least she's not a defensive shitter, amirite?

Even some happy excited cats bite, they're just like that. It'll be okay.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:54 AM on May 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everybody. I have lived with cats for almost my entire life, and have very little experience with cats who bite. For any reason. My two current cats have never bitten me under any circumstances. I understand she is under stress, but again, it was the sudden shift that took me by surprise. (As per the requirement for a picture for any cat-related AskMe, here you go.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:15 PM on May 13, 2012

To be honest, there are so many homeless cats in NYC that the likelihood of her finding a home is slim. Especially if you choose to take her to the AC&C because they are SO overwhelmed. I've seen more than three private rescue organizations turn away owner surrenders because the owners described the cat as anything from 'feisty' to 'aggressive'. It's really a crap shoot.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:52 PM on May 13, 2012

So yeah normal behavior for cat but I wouldn't say to a shelter "BTW she bit the crap out of me".
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:55 PM on May 13, 2012

So all other things being equal, would you have her live with you? It might be worth following the procedure for slowly introducing cats to one another (keep them apart at first, give new cat time to acclimatise, gradually introduce them) and see how it goes. It'll need patience, but you may end up with cats that can tolerate each other.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:51 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW my cat was very growly and aggressive when we first adopted him from the shelter, having seemed shy/friendly when we first met him. He was just freaked out, and within 6 weeks was totally fine. No other cats involved, in this case, though.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:53 AM on May 14, 2012

If you MeMail me, I can give you the contact info for a rescue org that might take her. They have foster homes with no other animals, or can put her in her own room until she is adopted.
posted by bedhead at 7:59 AM on May 14, 2012

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