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Old 12-18-2013, 08:02 PM
Location: Yakima WA
3,856 posts, read 4,277,751 times
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For the past few months I have been feeding a stray cat and letting it in on cold nights. The cat has bonded with me and been affectionate. Lately it has taken my hospitality for granted. Actually it has become hostile. When I moved a blanket it was sitting on it bit me. Then yesterday for no reason at all it (not sure of it's gender) scatched my face hard. If the scratch was any closer to my eye it would have been a medical emergency. I kicked it out. That was 24 hours ago and to the cats surprise I did not feed it today or let it in. It's meowing and scratching on the window trying to make me feel guilty. It's almost working but I'm staying strong. I just look at the scratch mark on my face and I don't give in. Too bad the cat doesn't understand that you dont bite the hand that feeds you.

Am I being too cruel considering it's used to being fed twice a day? Is a cat capable of learning a lesson? If in a few days I let it back in will it make it a priority not to attack me? Or will a cat raised outdoors not change it's behavior no matter what?
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:27 PM
Location: FL
1,117 posts, read 1,606,947 times
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Sorry the cat hurt you but I think you and the cat have an expectation issue. The cat may think the blanket is his and was annoyed when you moved it so bit. If you were interacting with the cat when it scratched your face it may have been overstimulated. Cats will scratch and/or bite if overstimulated. They give subtle clues before attacking when overstimulated but even experienced owners can miss them, I did and got an infection when my cat bit me.

Cats do not understand punishment so I'm sorry to say yes you are being cruel to the cat by withholding food and shelter. They live completely in the moment and cannot make the leap between scratching and biting you and the withholding of food and shelter. It isn't trying to make you feel guilty either, it is trying to get its needs met as it has in the past and doesn't understand why you are ignoring it. If you give in it will thank you.

Cats can and will change but it is a slow, slow process. We had a cat that hated men. It would attack my brother although it would ask him to pet it. He would do it knowing he'd be scratched and/or bit because he didn't want it to fear him. Eventually the cat learned he wouldn't harm it and would sleep in his lap. The key is consistency, kindness and patience. You'll have to learn what the cat's boundaries are and the cat will learn and respect yours. They are intelligent, loyal and affectionate beings. I hope this helps.
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Old 12-18-2013, 08:29 PM
Location: Pittsburgh area
9,918 posts, read 19,683,339 times
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To my knowledge, a cat can not learn a lesson that way, does not have the capability of associating the withholding of food (or whatever other punishment) with its misdeeds of a couple days ago, or even a couple hours ago! It has to be in the moment for an association to be useful.

Now, you do not need to give in to meowing and scratching for sure. I do think they can learn a little bit over time that such actions get them nowhere, as long as they actually don't get them anywhere. But mainly they respond to positive reinforcement, not negative. Certainly withholding food altogether now won't teach the cat anything about your unfortunate scratching incident.

I don't have any experience with a stray, but I think that kind of aggression would not be uncommon for a cat who is used to at most the company of other cats and hasn't been around humans too much.

Or maybe it is not feeling well. Have you had this cat checked out by a vet?
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:03 PM
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I'm assuming this is a homeless cat. It's probably a bit scared and doesn't quite trust you yet. I would never withhold food as punishment to an animal or person, and hope you continue feeding it. You don't have to bring it in, if you now fear it. And a cat doesn't know to be grateful, so I don't know what you expected from it. I don't believe you're teaching it anything by ignoring it, maybe making it more distrustful.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:19 PM
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I want to quickly respond to the thread title. If any animal whatsoever has become dependent on you for food, please don't stop feeding it in the middle of the winter. This doesn't just apply to cats and dogs. All animals, including birds. Animals need food to endure the cold more than in the summer. When you make them dependent upon you, their literal survival depends upon you in the winter months. Wait until the weather is warmer to stop feeding. Warm weather gives animals a chance to find a new food source.
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Old 12-18-2013, 09:59 PM
Location: I'm not lost, I'm exploring!
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Oh no!

Even the stray that has been with me for years still gets overstimulated very easily, and reacts back with misplaced aggression. You begin to see it coming. But not always. The poor kitty won't understand this form of "negative reinforcement" that you are implementing. And Hopes is dead on, it is so very hard to find food in the winter. It takes all the energy they have just to try keeping warm.

It's scared of you. And long after, will still need reassurance of your trust. If you are unwilling to feed or shelter it anymore, at least do the humane thing, and call someone who will come and pick him up. But give the guy a chance!
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:37 PM
Location: Yakima WA
3,856 posts, read 4,277,751 times
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OK you all convinced me. I let the cat in and fed it. I never saw it eat with such intensity. Now it's being very loving towards me purring loudly.

I know what you mean by overstimulated. The other day it was rolling back and forth in my lap faster and faster and was I ever shocked when out of nowhere it bit me....although that bite didn't hurt as bad as the one when I took my blanket away.
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Old 12-19-2013, 05:27 AM
Location: Ft. Myers
15,574 posts, read 9,650,106 times
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I understand your ill feelings toward the cat, kinda like biting the hand that feeds you. I felt the same way with Mama cat that I took into my office while she had her kittens. I kept her there for about 6 months, kept food and water there for her, played with her with a fishing rod type toy daily, and generally treated her great. But the day she dug into my hand for no reason was the last straw and I returned her to the outdoors, after having her fixed, of course.

But I still go to the shop every night and feed her, and she is there waiting for me. She will come into the shop and lay on a blanket or walk back into the office sometimes, but she is basically still a Feral and will never be tamed. She seems happier being free and at least she is getting fed daily by me.

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Old 12-19-2013, 05:54 AM
Location: Pittsburgh area
9,918 posts, read 19,683,339 times
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By bite I assume you mean smallish nibble? A real bite from a cat can be a serious wound! And the problem can be all the more serious without knowing any medical history of this cat. I won't say you need to rush and do this but I will reiterate it would be prudent to have the cat checked and get a round of vaccination and have it spayed/neutered if not already. If cost is issue many areas have low cost options and perhaps special programs aimed at strays.

In terms of overstimulation, sure, even a lifelong house cat will do that, but usually with less ferocity. If you watch carefully you may eventually be able to see telltale signs in the cat's body language before you get to the breaking point. But sometimes there is really no warning.
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:07 AM
Location: Mayacama Mtns in CA
14,523 posts, read 7,362,884 times
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Jay, I agree with all the advice given to you .... and I'd add that I think YOU should see a Doctor to get a tetanus shot and probably the rabies prophylactic shots, as the cat obviously hasn't had the rabies vaccinations.

And don't weird out about taking the rabies prophylactic shots; they are not horribly painful as was true in the past. I know, because I've taken the series myself.

As I read in your posts, this now semi-feral cat has both scratched and bitten you. So you are at risk for rabies because of the possibility of the cat being in an early stage of rabies. This is serious stuff! Do an online search about it. Here's just one of the many I easily found:
Rabies - a fatal disease that affects animals and humans - learn more about rabies

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