Ask the Vet


Dear Dr. Schelling,

My cat George is very sweet, loving and playful but sometimes he can behave aggressively at random. One minute everything seems fine and all of a sudden I have a cat at my ankles or hands biting and clawing. What is causing his “Jekyll and Hyde” behavior?


Dear Tina,

Cats are known for their mercurial temperaments, and cats like George absolutely can be loving one moment and lousy the next! He may be exhibiting what’s called play aggression—a common problem among young cats and kittens. Or it may be another issue called status-related aggression. Either way, there are specific measures you can take, and the sooner the better—before George makes it a habit and someone really gets hurt! Click here to learn more about these common causes of human-directed aggression in cats.

Click here to read the full article.

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The other night, I was on the floor, at my cat Oliver's level, petting him before I continued with our nightly ritual of a pre-bedtime snack (for him). Unexpectedly, he gave me a little bite on the tip of my nose. It was just a gentle nip. It didn't hurt at all; I was just surprised. What was that about? Ollie has been with me for several weeks and is quite friendly.


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Dear Esther,

Cats bite for many reasons; teeth are such effective communicators. The gentle "love bites" you describe are generally done when we're feeling affectionate and amorous. You can go along with it, as it's not done with intent to hurt. But some folks understandably don't want their cats to get used to biting people, so when receiving a love bite they consistently say "ouch" at a moderate volume and cease physical contact with their cats until they're not being bitten, and then for few seconds after that to re-affirm the "don't bite me" message. Don't try to pull away while kitty has his teeth on you, even if just barely; that could trigger a firmer bite. Just give him the cold shoulder and verbal cues that you don't like it, followed by a brief timeout. Then you can resume what you were doing, perhaps with a bit more distance between kitty and whatever part of your body he was biting.

Note: Sometimes the phrase "love bites" is used to refer to cats' bites that are induced by over-petting. For more information on this type of biting, please see this article.

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CRAZY CIRCLE: I like to give this ball a good "whap!" with my paw, watch it roll around, and then – just like that, with my superior quickness and agility – stop it in its tracks. Ha ha! (Note: This toy may be suitable for older or couch potato cats; it lets them engage in satisfying play without having to run around.)

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CATNIP ROCKET BLASTER: I have to give credit to my humans, who seem to invent endless ways to entice me with this combination toy and blast of catnip. They make the toy dance around in front me, knowing that I'll grab it. Sometimes they throw it down the hall, and I chase it down. When they're away during the day, they might leave the Catnip Rocket Blaster in not-too-difficult but not-too-easy hiding places for me to find. In every case, once I get a hold of the catnip-infused toy, I go to town. I roll around, give it the old back-kick shred, bite it every which way, and have an overall good time. Did I mention I may do a few victory pounces? I have a blast with my Catnip Rocket Blaster.

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A cat can jump as much
as seven times its height.
The smallest feline is a masterpiece -Leonardo da Vinci
Catnip Rocket Blaster Crazy Circle