Our neighbour from across the road moved away to a big city this weekend and the short story is that we've taken in her 2 year old cat, Dottie. Now we're very much within Dottie's known territory and I've kept her in for just over one week so far. She's clearly upset with me and she's desperate to get out. What I'm worried about is how long to shut her in for but also more worrying is her behaviour.

She isn't vicious in the sense that she's snarling, growling etc but she frequently snaps to bite and swipes at my feet/legs and hands. It's completely unprovoked - like sitting on the sofa still and she'll just go to bite my toes. I chalked this down to her being irritated at being shut in and that it’d pass but chatting to a neighbour yesterday she said "Dottie has always been a bit bitey...it's on her terms...have to give her space".

Well that is all well and good but I have two small kids who are ever so excited about her coming to live with us and want to stroke her and play with her but every time they do she bites them (reiterate that it is like the motion of biting more than biting down to cause pain) but it's causing them to develop a wariness which I'm worried will develop into a fear.

Can anyone tell me what I should do?! I'm worried I've made a mistake bringing her into our home and whether when I do let her out she'll not associate us with home as we're struggling to bond when we can’t really get near her.

  • I went the other way when I got Rask, He belonged to my neighbour, I kept him inside for 2 days. Long enough for him to be used to coming to the new food location. As a 2 yo she should calm down and become less bitey
    – SAM A
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 19:48

2 Answers 2


One small step to make Dottie more comfortable is to give her a "calm place". This could be an entire room, a certain area like "on this carpet" or her cat tree. The rule is that Dottie is completely ignored whenever she is in her place. No speaking to her, no petting her, no looking at her and no luring her out of her place. It's beneficial to have this "calm place" somewhere out of the way where Dottie can truely relax and where you don't usually sit, work or play.

It might take some time to take effect, as not only your children have to learn these rules, but Dottie as well.

Keep in mind, that outdoor cats are usually much more active than indoor cats. She might be bored and playing hunting or catching games with cat-appropriate toys could be a nice way for your children to interact with her.

You might find this answer usefull as well, where "cat shelves" are proposed as a way to give your cat additional space where she feels safe.

  • in addition to this answer the cat needs time,it is scared right now and needs time to feel safe.after getting a new cat it is common to keep the cat indoors for a month. Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 14:41
  • Yes. We made it our bedroom, Rask just needed a child free space.
    – SAM A
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 19:41

It sounds to me like Dottie is the type of cat that bites or swats when over-stimulated. It can happen if the cat is petted for too long, or if there's a lot of movement around it, for example, you're walking back and forth in front of the cat too much, sometimes they get the inclination to bite or swat.

Some cats even have a disorder known as hyperesthesia, which is often worse when the animal is stressed, like in the situation it's been rehomed, that can cause them to get over-stimulated and bitey. Hyperesthesia is also known as "rippling skin disease" as the most easily noticeable sign is the cat's back will start twitching. Other symptoms include suddenly licking itself, kicking or shaking the hind legs, and suddenly jumping up and running, all as if the cat has a sudden itch or something has bit it. If the cat is showing these sorts of signs, best to let it be until the behavior subsides. Hyperesthesia is pretty common, and mostly just an inconvenience, although there are also medications for it, available by your vet.

Even if the cat does not have hyperesthesia, there may be signs in its body language to indicate it's getting over-stimulated. If the cat puts its ears back a little, or tensely squints with its eyes, or gets a twitchy tail, these are all signs its had enough. If you see any of these signs, simply back off to give Dottie some space.

There is also the chance that Dottie is trying to play inappropriately. I recommend trying to play with Dottie more, with toys that are interactive, but you won't be in danger of getting bitten or swatted. Examples are wand toys or laser pointers. There's also a variety of motorized toys you can try to keep her from getting bored if you don't have time to play at the moment.

The last possibility I can think of is that Dottie is nervous about being approached because she is not used to you yet. Rather than just walking up to Dottie and petting her, I would approach, but leaving some feet of space in between and gently try to coax her to approach you, with food, or a toy, or gently calling her. And if she does not approach, then let her be.

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