Stop my kitten or my cat will have no ears
May 1, 2006 1:10 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my cat to stop biting my other cat's ears?

All the info I get from google is about cats biting people and to smack them on the ear.

As some of you might know from a past question, I have a newish cat. She just turned 1 in February, and my other cat, a male, is just turning 5 (I think), both indoor cats. They have a good if aloof relationship; he's used to being alone, he lets her take over everything. They don't sleep together, all they want to do is bite each other (they try to adorably clean each other but it just becomes furious and biting ensues).

They chase each other and play fight, but she has been drawing blood on his beautiful head, and her teeth have come dangerously close to his eyes. He's taking all the damage in these fights probably because he often doesn't let up--though doesn't ever hurt her, not a scratch. But, the thing that has me concerned are his ears.

We came back from 5 days away and his beloved petal-like soft ears are covered in scabs, 2 tiny tiny pieces of his ear are hanging off, and if you look closely the color is a bit patchy. They seem to be better since we've been back, but I can't have this. I can't have him have the ears of a stray, meaning no ears. It's both their fault: he won't let up and she's too eager to go for blood.

They enjoy chasing each other and scaring each other so I don't want to stop the play altogether. Does stopping the ear biting require stopping the playing?
I thought of putting something on his ears to discourage it (orange oil, ointment) but he'd just try to clean it and wouldn't it be torture for him too?
Is this her only weapon against a bigger foe? He's bigger in size, longer and taller, she's compact, but only 1 lb difference in weight.
Is this just because we went away for 5 days?
Will she just grow out of it?

I haven't called my vet yet. I thought I'd ask here first. Your help is always so helpful.
posted by scazza to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
Remove the biter (or the victim, which cat do you want to keep?) from the scene. Forever. Or go to a cat whisperer and see what they say. The vet might suggest a pheromone spray, like Feliway. She might grow out of it.

And I am not going to lecture you about not taking a cat whose ears have pieces hanging off them immediately to the vet. I'm just not. But I want to. Ok, I guess I just did.
posted by bilabial at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2006

Well, I'd start with a squirt gun. Spray them both when they get too aggressive with each other, don't spray them when they're being nice together. This won't stop it entirely but it will cut down on their worst fighting.

There's not much the vet's going to do for notched ears, I'm afraid.
posted by jellicle at 2:06 PM on May 1, 2006

Would it be horribly insensitive of me to suggest you try to get over it? You may have an attachment to his "beloved petal-like" ears but apparently he doesn't. He's getting enough enjoyment from the squabbling that he's not stopping even if he's getting injured. They are cats and they're interacting, playing and establishing hierarchy in the ways cats do. There's only so far you're going to be able to deal with that.

That said, I hope that you are making sure to clean the wounds a few times a day with peroxide. I don't share bilabial's straight-to-the-vet belief but they do need to be tended to. Notched is one thing, infected is another.
posted by phearlez at 2:27 PM on May 1, 2006

Wait... a cat whisperer? For real?
posted by punkrockrat at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

First off, she's still a young cat, albeit a young adult cat and young cats like to play and sometimes play rough. Your older cat will put an end to the play if it becomes too rough for him, even if he's an unusually passive fellow. Your young cat is trying it on and pushing boundaries in much the same way as a young adult human will do in any new situation with older peers.

The licky/bitey behaviour often happens when a cat suddenly feels that contact is too intense and intimate, both the licker and the bitee are likely to instigate the biting if they suddenly less than confident in a close contact situation.

If you haven't done so already, get the young female speyed. If she's coming into season regularly then she will be more aggressive during this period. Speying will reduce this.

Ensure that both cats have their own bowls to eat and drink from, probably several feet apart and supervise mealtimes. Repeatedly and quietly removing the young cat to her own bowl when she impinges on the older cat's food will eventually get the message through to her. I would also provide a second litter tray, so that both cats can feel secure whilst using it without the pressure of a queue forming or a sly attack looming.

I second Jellicle's suggestion about a water pistol if the play gets to the point where it's causing serious damage to either cat. If you use it, make sure neither cat sees you take aim and fire. Similarly, no shouting when you use it. It's important that they don't associate the water splash with you or they will learn to play fight when you are out of the way.

Definately no smacking/hitting or punishment of any kind. It's ineffective and will irreparably damage your bond with both cats.

Don't use any kind of deterrant substance on either cat. Most distilled oils contain high note phenols which are particularly toxic to cats.

Get your home kitted out with some Feliway diffusers. This rough play is heirarchical/territorial and Feliway will make sure your home smells like cat (to the cats only, your nose won't detect it) and this will make both cats feel more secure and behave in a less violent manner.

Follow phearlez's advice about inspecting and cleaning up any wounds. Make sure that both cats have plenty of play time with you and plenty of toys to occupy themselves when you are not there.

Be prepared for all these remedial suggestions to take several months to work. Animal behaviour, just like human behaviour can take a while to change. If you can, try and be relaxed yourself when your cats play/fight, if they pick up on your anxiety, it's likely the issue will become more intense for all involved. If after 6 months or so, none of these measures have worked, then consider consutling with a qualified pet behaviourist. Choose one who uses motivational/no punishment techniques. Your vet should be able to recommend one who specialises in cat behaviour.

Good luck :)

PS: Find a good book on cat behaviour. Go for one that contains a big fat section with pictures on body language.
posted by Arqa at 11:15 PM on May 1, 2006

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