Ow. Ow. Ow.
June 24, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm afraid of my roommate's cat. It doesn't "play" so much as "viciously attack," and I have a body full of puncture wounds to prove it. Is there anything that can be done about this?

My new roommate has a male cat which originally belonged to his ex-gf (who lives overseas now). He's half-Siamese (which means he is by FAR the loudest cat I have ever seen). He's an indoor cat- we live in NYC. No other pets. Roommate says he's fixed. I don't know where he came from originally, but I suspect he may have been a street rescue based on how he acts. I've lived with the cat for about three weeks.

Examples of his behavior:

I was playing with him by dangling a long necklace over him and watching him bat at it. He suddenly jumped on my arm and bit down HARD, scraping a two-inch tooth mark onto my arm which bled.

I had been playing with him again, didn't think he was all that riled up this time, and he had gone off and sat down in the hallway. I walked past him and he jumped at my leg and bit me again. Puncture wounds from his teeth and marks from the claws (my roommate clips the claws, otherwise it would have been worse probably). He's done this a few times- sat in the narrow hallway and jumped on people walking past, biting them.

A couple times I've been petting him and he seemed to like it, then again bitten or scratched me really hard with no warning. Again, drawing blood.

Twice, he's been in my room when I didn't want him there- I don't normally mind him sitting around in my room, but he eats my plants when he's unattended and I was leaving the room. So I tried to pick him up off the bed... and he flattened his ears, hissed, and started trying to attack me. I couldn't get anywhere near him. The first time I managed to chase him out, but this morning I was totally unable to chase him away or intimidate him at all until I threw a towel over him and picked him up- still getting clawed a bit- and put him in the hallway. He was still trying to come back in when I shut the door.

The weird thing is, he absolutely CRAVES human attention. If he's been left alone all day, he'll follow you around meowing as soon as you get home. But any interaction with him can turn bloody in a matter of seconds. And, trust me- I have lived with tons of cats before, both my own and roommates'. This behavior is completely new to me. I know some cats don't like to be picked up and will scratch, but I've never had a cat try to attack me when I simply walked past it, or continue coming after me once I'd put him out of a room.

He isn't just like this with me- I think my third roommate has also gotten scratched or bitten a few times.

Beyond never touching the cat again- which, I think I finally got that message this morning, he is probably too dangerous to play with even if he seems fine at the time- is there anything I can do about this? He's like a wild animal. I don't feel, like, unsafe in my apartment, but I'm scared to interact with the cat at all now. What do I do the next time I need him out of my room? How can I minimize the bleeding puncture wounds? What is this cat's damage?
posted by showbiz_liz to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was playing with him by dangling a long necklace over him and watching him bat at it. He suddenly jumped on my arm and bit down HARD, scraping a two-inch tooth mark onto my arm which bled.

In my experience this is how cats play. Because cats are pure concentrated evil. They're all OH YES YES PLEASE PET MY BELLY THIS IS THE BEST BELLY PET EVER JUST KIDDING NOW YOU MUST DIE.

I used to live with an angry cat. Don't touch him. If you have to go near him (my angry cat was the self-appointed grand overlord of the kitchen), make big stomps to scare him back away from you. Always have a water sprayer bottle at the ready. Keep your door closed so Murdercat doesn't get in your room anymore.

Talk to your roommate about looking into cat calming options like Feliway or something so that he isn't always such an antagonistic little shit.
posted by phunniemee at 9:15 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]

So, you figured out that you can't touch him - good! Don't touch him! No matter how needy he sounds!

Don't let the cat in your room any more (and keep the door closed), then you won't have to get him out of the room. If he complains and slams up against the door, do not respond! I have had success repelling cats from my bedroom by wrapping the bottom of the door in tinfoil (made a sound the cat didn't like, I think, and of course it looks SUPER CLASSY).

Wear jeans in the house whenever possible; it's not impossible for a cat to draw blood through jeans, but if the cat is *that* violent maybe one of you needs to move out.

Maybe the cat will get more used to you and less violent towards you or maybe he won't. How long has he lived with your roommate?
posted by mskyle at 9:18 AM on June 24, 2013

You have my sympathies. I have lived happily with many cats, but I once had to spend a month in the company of the most evil cat ever. Think: leaping out at me from behind furniture, attacking, biting and drawing blood. I managed to escape unscathed by keeping my door closed at all times, and wearing long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. I also kept my shoes on at all times except when I was in my (closed) room.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2013

What did the new roommate say when you and your other roommate expressed your concerns about this cat repeatedly drawing blood in unprovoked attacks? I'd be insisting that the cat had to go. No way would I allow a cat to dictate to me that I had to wear only jeans at home and keep my bedroom door closed at all times. Good god.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:22 AM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: How long has he lived with your roommate?

A couple years. I haven't seen him playing with the cat ever- I guess this is why! The cat is USUALLY fine when I haven't been playing with him, so the short term plan is to try ignoring him and see how it goes...

Honestly I think he never really wanted the cat, but the ex abandoned it with him and now he feels stuck with it?

He doesn't seem terribly concerned about the cat's behavior, but I also haven't said "yo this cat is terrifying" to him yet...
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 AM on June 24, 2013

Did you talk to the cat before touching it? Some cats need the warning before you touch them.
To get him off your bed/ out of the room try to call him/lure him away and give a little treat for good behavior.

Ask your roommate what the cat dislikes - for some cats touching their belly or lower part of the back is simply too much and drives them crazy. They will get into attack mode.

Also use proper toys that keep the cat at a distance and play in a fashion that is not aggravating.

Not all cats like getting up close and cuddly. Find out what works for this particular cat before you resort to keeping it locked out/spraying with water/tin foiling everything.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:27 AM on June 24, 2013

Cats can be trained, and the owner should be working on the attacking-while-using-hallway issue. Every cat should have a scratching post, and every cat I've lived with has benefited from dangly toys on doorknobs, lots of ping pong ball type toys, and a laser pointer. These give the cat a chance to get exercise without humans. I would stop doing any play that gets the cat wound up, which is most play except laser pointer. Get a water-squirter-mister bottle, and use it if the cat needs to get out of your room, when you need to use the hallway, etc. If the cat bites or scratches, say NO loudly, and shove the cat off the couch or chair. If the cat continues to harm you, the cat should stay in roommate's room, or, even better, be re-homed where it can get proper training. Take good care of those wounds.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on June 24, 2013

The cat is bored stiff, is my guess. Siamese, especially, get very bored.

The attacks are because the cat isn't well socialised and gets all in a muddle about whether it loves the company or hates the petting. It's the hissing that would concern me, not the biting. For a non-feral cat it should take a lot to make it hiss. I don't know if you can socialise a cat that is as old as yours but you can try.

First up: you want to play with the cat at arm's length. Buy a laser pointer, and be careful not to shine it in the cat's eyes. But cats adore them and you'll be able to tire it out from the comfort of your armchair. But you also need things to stimulate the cat.

Secondly: develop a firm "NO". When the cat hisses or looks like biting then say "NO." Because Siamese especially are such contrary beasts if it is already paws round you then take a finger and tap it once on the cat's nose and say No again.

Thirdly: perhaps try bonding with something like a cat brush, and if you weren't feeling brave you could do it wearing those thick gardening gloves. Every Siamese I've owned loved a good brush. It might work as a means of breaking down the cat's boundaries.

Fourthly: small doses of attention. If you pet, do it for a short time then you stop. Pet the head and the top of the shoulders only at first. If the cat is squaring up to bit you then sharply pick it up and remove it.

Finally: Siamese cats love a good chat. They really do. They labour under the belief that you can understand one another. I would do more of that and see where it gets you as a bond building exercise.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:29 AM on June 24, 2013 [16 favorites]

Well, with your roomate's permission you can suggest conditioning the cat not to bite. It's tougher to do once they're past the kitten stage, but it's possible still to change some of the behavior. (this is, if you're interested still in playing or being in the same room with the cat...otherwise steer clear as others have mentioned). Conditioning is purely Pavlovian, and can be accomplished by startling the cat when it is doing something wrong. Never slap or directly discipline a cat, as they do not associate cause and effect as well as dogs, and may instead associate you with punishment rather than the wrongdoing. You want the source of the startling effect to seem like it came from somewhere else. A small squirt gun could help. If the cat bites at your legs, clapping your hands loudly can sometimes cause it to back off. You'll have to experiment with what works and what doesn't, and wear some protective clothing until the conditioning seems to be taking effect. You may also want to look into one of these to block off your room or areas where you don't want to be bothered by the cat.
posted by samsara at 9:33 AM on June 24, 2013

Your roommate sounds like he sucks. I'd tell him he needs to be a better cat owner or the cat needs to go.

And also, ignore the cat. I had to dog-sit a dog that was a real asshole. I eventually got the hint that some dogs just suck and started ignoring him -- I think it helped with my alpha status, actually.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:33 AM on June 24, 2013

Yikes. Cat bites that break the skin are very bad news. I've had cats my whole life and I've never encountered this degree of aggression. Stop playing with the cat.

If you must touch him, firmly pinch the skin on the scruff of his neck and pull up. This is how to deactivate a cat.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:41 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would guess that the cat is under-stimulated, which explains its behavior when people finally do interact with it. My cat was an only cat for a while, and while she was nice enough to me, my girlfriend was just a perennial target of sneak attacks, chases, clawing and biting. It was some serious Robespierre shit. When we got her another cat to direct her energies onto, this behavior stopped almost immediately. I'm not saying you need to go that far, but I agree with theora55 both that there are various toys and implements that you can introduce so that your roommate's cat can get exercise in while y'all are out, and that the cat can be trained to stop this sort of behavior (I've heard that click training is supposedly effective with cats, but that's about the extent of my knowledge there).

In the meantime, do you have a lot of experience being around cats? Before I had cats (I am a secret dog person) I was terrible with them, and they hated me. Being around them all the time has apparently altered my behaviors in ways too subtle for me to consciously identify, but cats, even supposedly mean ones, take to me very easily now. One thing I can tell you works pretty well in my experience is to slowly extend your hand to the cat until you get maybe four to six inches from its face (close enough to make it obvious that you are intending to interact with it, but far enough that it's not an imposition on the cat's personal space and also far enough for you to retract in time if it decides to go berserker on you), and then just let it sniff your hand at its leisure. He will probably sniff your thumb and your fingers separately, just let him take his time. For the foreseeable future this should be your only mode of interaction with the cat. If he's feeling pretty comfortable he might rub your hand, but at least initially I wouldn't take that as an invitation to cuddle time or anything. If he doesn't rub your hand and expresses disinterest, that's okay too. Doing this repeatedly is a great way to build trust with a cat, and even if it never gets to the point where you can just pet him whenever I suspect that it will lead to less violence overall.
posted by invitapriore at 9:41 AM on June 24, 2013

My own cat would intentionally attack me for the first few months I had him, and was pretty bitey for a few years after. Here is my advice.

1. The roommate needs to step up his ownership first. He's supposed to be training, playing with, etc. the cat so it's not bored.

But of course you can't totally ignore the guy, so -

2. If you want to play with him and he gets bitey, playtime stops immediately and you walk away. This is one way to teach the cat "yo, dude, that bitey stuff ain't cool."

3. Squirt guns make very good cat deterrents. But get a whole bunch and keep them pre-loaded at spots where you are likely to sit/stand/be in every room, so there is always a squirt gun in reach if you need to grab one in a hurry, rather than just getting one and you being out of luck if he bites you in the kitchen when the squirt gun is in the bathroom or whatever.

4. Let the cat initiate play or cuddling. Some cats just like to be the one to decide whether it wants pettin's or play, rather than having you decide. Even if it sits on your lap, don't go in for pettin's right away - more like, occasional pats. Also, I've read that in the wild cats are pretty solitary by nature, and domestic cats are just socialized out of that ideally. But if a cat isn't properly socialized, they can have a bigger streak of that introversion that gets 'em all confused sometimes, and the way they manifest that conflict between "ah yay pettin's and scritches is awesome" and "wait I'm around people and they're touching me" is to suddenly give the person petting them a nip and to run off. So maybe scale down the petting if he sits in your lap; and of course, if he still bites you, then he goes off the lap immediately and you walk away.

5. Patience. It takes a while for an improperly-socialized cat (which it sounds like this guy is) to calm down. But they do calm down - Zach turned into a lap cat after a few years, and one of my favorite memories now is of him jumping up into bed with me in the mornings when I was waking up and bompfing his head directly into my outstretched hand and lying down along my arm so I could scratch his head even while half-awake.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've had all kinds of cats including feral rescues and have not encountered this level of aggression. Get it checked at the vet for an injury or illness. They don't show pain in the way you'd expect.

Don't put your hand anywhere near the cat or tap its nose. This level of aggression makes physical proximity unwise.

Your roommate needs to fix this or give the cat up, which will probably lead to euthanasia.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:59 AM on June 24, 2013

Siamese often enjoy getting wet, carry around a keyboard duster to encourage the cat to leave you alone: the loud PSSST! noise is pretty effective and nothing actually contacts the cat or hoses down your stuff. For my own overly rambunctious cat, just holding the can up is enough to make him bolt out of the room.
posted by jamaro at 10:00 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Find a no kill shelter in the area, ask that your friend either train the cat or take it to the shelter. Barring that ask him if YOU can take the cat to the shelter.

It sounds like the cat is not in a space it likes, and the owner is not THAT interested in having it really, so unless YOU want the cat move it along.
posted by edgeways at 10:02 AM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: I'd like to at least try to improve the cat's behavior before getting rid of him- I like cats generally, and I like him when he isn't being a dick. I like sitting next to him while I watch TV and having dumb meowing/talking conversations with him. But if I try various things and nothing improves, we'll discuss re-homing him for sure. I will also talk to the roommate about his behavior.

I hadn't even thought about him being bored- but now that I think of it, I have never lived with a single cat, only ever with pairs. So maybe that's part of it, he's bored. He has a scratching post but doesn't use it much...

For now I think I will get a laser pointer, some toys, and a squirt gun, and try playing with him and talking to him but not touching him, and squirting him if he attacks. I will also hang my plants up, which will make it ok for him to be in my room when I'm not there.

For what it's worth, nothing looks infected!
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:13 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Kitty Prozac works wonders. Not even joking. Our vicious little monster used to behave very similarly, but she's much calmer now. She's less agitated and seems quite content. Her quality of life seems much improved.
posted by Lieber Frau at 10:14 AM on June 24, 2013

Keep some cat balls in your pocket or in a convenient place at the end of the hall. Roll the ball down the hall ahead of you to get him to pounce on the ball. You can also do this when trying to get him out of your room -- lure him with a moving ball to leave. If you always have two or three in your pocket, you can distract him when bad behavior is ABOUT to happen.

I had a cat pretty much this aggressive and we did train him out of it, by withdrawing human attention when he bit, using spray bottles, and distracting him with balls. He used to ankle-attack people on the stairs, and for months everyone going down the stairs had to throw a ball so they didn't fall to their doom from a vicious cat attack, but eventually he settled down and forgot about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Make sure you're not using hands or feet as toys, too -- don't drum your fingers on the ground to get him to play-pounce, etc.

Wand toys are good, too, but look for ones that are super-long. None of my cats have ever had any interest in laser pointers, but they'll chase around a fake mouse on a string forever.
posted by jaguar at 10:24 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Three weeks isn't a lot of time for the cat to adjust to a new person/new living space so hopefully some of the aggression is just being scared or out of sorts.

My cat could be aggressive when I first got him and he's improved a lot since. I'm not sure if its just getting older or if i've trained him but i find it helps not to play with him in a way that he mistakes hands for toys - so laser pointers are great and bird like things on a string but stuff dangling from my hand not so much. Also when he was more wild i'd let him sit on my lap and not pat him and if he did bite or scratch I'd with draw myself.

I also found it really helpful to learn his tells such as a tail moving slightly at the end, ears going back, pupils dialating, and get away from him when he's displaying them.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2013

I have a new kitten who's still in the BITEY stage, which for a kitten's to be expected but I've managed it somewhat based on "Help, my cat is biting me!!!" searches. I use a 3-pronged attack, which has worked pretty well in reducing her insanity level: 1) Squirt bottel. This is usually if I'm at my computer desk and she starts eating my feet when option 2's no available. She's to the point where I see that, "Mmmmm, human flesh. Nom nom" look and I just grab the squirt bottel and she 50/50 backs away knowing what's coming. Sometimes I think she enjoys being squirted, though, as she just starts grooming herself once squirted. 2) Immediately walk away and lock myself in my room for a few minutes if I'm laying on the couch and she starts eating my fingers. I prefer this over water bottle, but isn't always possible. 1 & 2 are always backed up with an emphatic NO and stop of playtime. 3) So many toys. Lots of the cheap mylar balls. Cardboard boxes. Toilet paper rolls. More cardboard boxes. 3 scratching posts for a 1 bedroom apt. Whatever. Things to amuse her are abound. It's hard to eat human flesh if she's otherwise occupied.
posted by jmd82 at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: I also found it really helpful to learn his tells such as a tail moving slightly at the end, ears going back, pupils dialating, and get away from him when he's displaying them.

His tail is twitching at the end essentially all the time. I had been thinking it was just a quirk and didn't mean anything... hmm.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:30 AM on June 24, 2013

Watch My Cat From Hell. Jackson Galaxy has a lot of advice and this cat is on the show pretty frequently.

He usually recommends that the beat up person feed the cat, play with the cat and in general become everything that is wonderful and good to the cat.

My little girl Eartha, who is also part Siamese, wants to have long conversations with me, so I talk to her.

Eartha: Meow, mreow, row.

Me: No, it's not time for noms yet.

Eartha: Mraow, mao, meow, chirp

Me: You don't say, well, that's a consideration, but no, not yet.

You get the idea.

Watch some Jackson, do some play that's designed to really tire the kitty out and I think you'll both be a lot happier.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:20 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've lived with the cat for about three weeks.

I'm with SpaceWarp13; three weeks is not very long. Just keep on being patient, slow down your interactions with the cat, keep talking to it, give it space...it should get better as the cat gets to know you. Being the new member of the household and picking up the cat when it doesn't want to be picked up? Not a great idea.

the young rope-rider raised a good point about possible illness, especially if your roommate is nonchalant about taking care of the cat. When was the last time it got a checkup at the vet?
posted by mediareport at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2013

I'd also recommend a vet checkup to make sure he's not having any kind of pain or health issue that is causing him to act out. How old is he? Does he bite his current owner, or just you and the other new roommate? Did he behave this way when he lived with your roommate's ex, or only after he lost 'his person'?

If it's not health-related, there is a chance that this could just be the way this particular cat rolls, and I know because my cat is and has always behaved exactly the same way. I adopted him when he was about nine months old... 15 years ago. He's been to more than a few vets over the years to check for anything under the sun that might cause him to behave this way and we've basically been told, "Sorry! Your cat is perfectly healthy and inexplicably vicious."

To wit: My now-elderly-and-arthritic neutered male Maine Coon cat has always had an apparent taste for human blood, and it actually gets worse if/whenever he is made to live with any other cat -- male or female, fixed or unfixed. He gets a healthy variety of frou-frou wet and dry foods, a heated bed, toys, scratching boxes and posts, joint supplements, fresh and dried catnip, regular brushing/grooming, and multiple litter boxes with multiple types of litter all to himself, with lots of petting and talking and love provided by his humans throughout the years, but he has still attacked with no notice and no known motive (and has peed on everything I have ever owned from clothing to records to 1890s-era original hardwood floors) since the first day he came home. He has actually gotten more freakishly bitey with age, and will still jump up and bound over any obstacles like a decidedly non-arthritic kitten specifically in order to full-on attack people just for walking past him, no matter how wide of a berth of personal space he is given in the process. And he remembers to exact serious revenge if you manage to escape his initial attempt to attack you. Oh, how he remembers.

He is a giant, adorable furball of a Maine Coon who constantly chases human affection, shrieking and crying endlessly whenever he is not actively receiving it, almost always physically inserting himself underneath your hand, arm, or foot in order to most expediently receive pets, but he never fails to turn unexpectedly brutal. It could be a few hours, minutes, or even seconds, but he will bite and claw you, hard, if you do not back away immediately upon observing the pre-attack warning signs, some of which you have already observed.
In our case, the warning countdown usually begins when he slowwwwly puts his ears down and back. Then his pupils dilate, and he starts twitching/flicking the end of his tail. Occasionally, he will close out the pre-attack warning signs by emitting an alarmingly cougar-like low growl. Sometimes he does not care to provide any warning at all except twitching his tail, so I think that's the safest indicator that Kitty Ultraviolence is imminent. He will immediately attack with all his might if you give even the slightest indication that you intend to remove him from any place he has chosen to deposit himself, so we do use the old 'quick, throw a towel over it!' trick to move him whenever that needs to happen.
He also has a wealth of extremely creepy habits like stalking/hunting us around the house for days at a time after some invisible perceived slight, directly and pointedly attacking our eyes/faces as we are sleeping, and getting up from whatever nook he's been happily nestled in for hours in order to run over to bite and/or claw us as we walk past him.

Overall, we've likened the experience to living with a miniature bobcat, and have just come to terms with the fact that our cat will always lean much more on the "unpredictable wild animal" side than the "reliably approachable indoor pet" side, no matter how terrified he seems to be when it comes to even setting foot back out into the open air/unimaginable hellscape from whence he came.

Failing the procurement of a pair of falconer's gloves, I'd recommend giving the cat a wide berth, getting up and away from him as soon as he displays any of the warning signs, and using a squirt bottle to stop him in his tracks when he's stalking/hunting you.
posted by divined by radio at 11:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I live with a cat (Mall Cop) who would either run away, start hissing when people came too close, and when frustrated with the world, would angrily masturbate on his carpet while staring at us. It was creepy. He was obviously frustrated because he wanted to be around people and get attention and affection from us, but didn't want to be touched or petted. Basically, he had no way to communicate 'hey! I'm done now! Leave me alone!' without lashing out.

So, this is how we changed things.

Roomie and I noticed that Mall Cop liked to hide under the glass top living room coffee table. He could see us, but we couldn't gt to him. So, what we did was that we made this the 'no touch' zone. So, if he was out and about, and started to get cranky/overstimulated, he'd go under the table and stare at us. He started to learn that we would talk to him, but not touch him, when he was there. This gave him more confidence to come out from under the table when he wanted interaction. Some days, he spent the entire day under the table, and we'd respect that.

It helped Mall Cop's frustration and anger issues tremendously. It's to the point where he's no longer afraid of strangers, and he lets me pick him up and carry him around the house for a couple of minutes, while he leans against my cheek and purrs. Then, he wants to get down, he gets a treat, he retreats under the table, gets told that he's a good boy, and all is happy.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and there's nothing physically wrong with Mall Cop except that he's an Old Man cat, and has his 'Old Man Yells at Cloud!' moments.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:48 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

That's a good point about the safe zone. In my household's parlance we call that The Angry Place, which unfortunately tends to be located at the top of the couch.
posted by invitapriore at 12:50 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

nthing the "Angry Place." All cats need an escape route, a place where they can either be "in the brush" or "in the tree".

Sometimes our kitties go under the bed. Sometimes they go on the fridge. Either is good. When they're there, that's it, we leave them alone.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is why you should never let a kitten or puppy play in a way that would not be appropriate once they are adult cats and dogs. Human body parts are not appropriate cat toys but someone probably let this cat play-bite and play-wrestle on hands/arms as a kitten and now he is trained to think that is OK.

Since it's not your cat, you're not really in a position to attempt to retrain him, so your only option is to play with it using toys that keep your body parts outside of his kill zone. I recommend getting a toy with a long reach, like "Da Bird": http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000F9JJJE/

When the cat wants attention from you, play with him that way, and leave the cuddling-as-bloodspot to the cat's owner.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:51 PM on June 24, 2013

Have you tried ignoring the cat? I have two cats, one sounds a lot like this guy but he generally keeps to himself luckily(he only really likes me) so I just tell people to leave him alone. He will sometimes rub on people's legs but I tell them not to pet him.

I'm pretty sure he would react the same way if someone else tried to pick him up or really do anything to him, especially when I'm not around. Playing with him with a string or something that keeps plenty of distance is generally okay, but I still stress to people to keep their distance.

Lastly my current roommate keeps her door closed which is good because if my cat goes into an unfamiliar room and then someone else goes in, he hisses at the person, probably because he feels trapped.

I had never met a cat like that until I got mine, but my other cat is his brother and he's perfectly friendly so I'm not sure what happened.

tl;dr stop interacting with the cat and keep the door to your room closed.
posted by fromageball at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2013

If ANY animal repeatedly attacks you in your own home, you have the absolute legal right to be protected from that animal.

Call the police, and file a complaint.

I'm dead serious. Your roommate has an absolute, undeniable duty to keep you safe from his animal's behavior.

No amount of (fucking stupid, wrong-headed, false) claims that "cats do that!" absolves him of the stress and injury you are enduring.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:18 PM on June 24, 2013

I've got a cat that I think is some part Siamese (black short hair, Siamese body and meow, hates all other cats). I've had to work with her on being moody and aggressive. She gets frustrated and went through a phase of biting. Holding her by the scruff of the neck so she'd freeze up like a kitten and telling her it was okay to be be mad but not okay to bite and she needed to walk away and calm down eventually worked. When I held her by her scruff, I either supported her body weight or she was on the floor so it wouldn't hurt her. It just immobilized her enough to listen.

It's funny now because she will walk away when she's upset. She does huff and sometimes snort which is so wrong somehow when a cat does it. She does not appreciate being laughed out so I try hard not to and manage most of the time.

I did get scratched a few times until she figured out I wasn't going to back down but it worked for me. Try to keep something with long sleeves handy. My cat can be a terror. "My Cat from Hell" has comforting and helpful to watch and I recommend it but holding the neck until she calms down was something I read about that has worked for me.
posted by stray thoughts at 1:46 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: I would like to post an update to this: since asking this question, I have made an effort not to provoke the cat in any way. This means not touching him at all, not playing with him to the point where he's overstimulated, and not twitching fingers and toes at him like I used to with my parents' cats. I do play with him using long dangly toys, and I talk to him (and boy oh boy does he talk back). I don't let him in my room unless I'm settling in for watching TV and know I won't mind having him in there, and if I need to remove him, I use a dangly toy to tempt him out, rather than picking him up. And if I see that he's sitting in the hallway, his primo jump-at-legs-for-no-reason spot, I make sure to give him as wide a berth as possible.

In return, I am proud to report that I have been cat-injury free since I began doing these things! I guess the lesson here is that not all cats are similar. I thought that a cat was a cat, so I could treat this one like any other... nope.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Each and every cat is crazy in their own unique way!
posted by jaguar at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2013

You are going to be so delighted when he starts coming up to you and nuzzling of his own free will. It may take another month or two, but I bet it happens.
posted by mediareport at 9:51 PM on July 29, 2013

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