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I'm having a lot of trouble with my boyfriend's cat. In several instances, she has attacked me and I don't understand why or how to stop it.

So my boyfriends American short hair cat liked me so much at first once she seen me a couple of times and would let me pet her she would come up to me and rub against me and I can still call her over by putting my hand down and making a tisking kind of sound and she will get up and run over towards me and sometimes let me pet her.

The first time it got really bad was when I was on the bed shutting the window she wasn’t near me at all and once I mostly shut it she attacked me really bad and my finger started bleeding. Right before that happened, I was playing with her for half an hour and she was sleeping right next to me on the bed cuddled up.

Ever since then, when I walk to the bathroom or get of the bed she will hiss and meow and attack my feet. I can’t wear any socks or anything because socks scare her. She has attacked my right foot mostly so bad to the point where it swelled up like the size of a golf ball cause of how hard she hit my foot. My right foot now has blue and green bruises and scratches all over it.

This just started happening a couple of days ago cause I’ve been recently staying over at my boyfriends house and since the window she acts like she hates me but then will sometimes show signs that she likes me. I want her to love me back, but I’m literally scared of her and scared of getting off the bed because she will instantly attack my feet and it hurts so much what should I do to make her not feel threatened of scared or whatever she’s feeling so that she won’t keep hurting me for no reason?

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    Welcome to pets.SE! It will give you better answers, if you focus on a clear question to answer or aim to reach. As your post is now, there will every person have a different interpretation what your aim is. Do you want the cat to stop attacking you? or is it more important to be loved back? Would some "the cat attacks, but it does not hurt me anymore" solution help you? You see... please give a clear aim/question to be solved by the people here :) Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 16:51
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    Any chance you stepped in something? I only ask because of the socks thing. The smell of something on your socks could be setting kitty on the war path.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 20:02
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    Could you describe her body language leading up to each attack? Does she make noise (i.e. hiss or growl)? What are ears doing? What's her tail doing? How big are her pupils? Things of that nature would tell me a lot about her emotional state before she attacks and what's possibly motivating her
    – user25771
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 0:29
  • @Feencyx 1+ a cat has never done anything for no reason,find the reason and the problem is solved. Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 4:33
  • Though the reason may make sense only if you understand the cat's perceptions, history, and what is important in its world.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 15:25

1 Answer 1

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There are two reasons why cats will commonly attack people - play and fear/distress. This sounds to me like fear, but it can be hard to tell the difference between them sometimes, and they need to be dealt with in different ways.

A few questions:

  • Does she ever "play rough" with your boyfriend? Do they wrestle or does she ever play with him using teeth or claws?
  • Before she attacks you, what is her body language like? A playful cat will "dance" or run around you. They might scoot toward you and then away. They might crouch and wiggle their rump as they prepare to pounce. A distressed cat attacking usually seems much more "out of nowhere." They might look calm or be laying or walking nearby. They likely won't be looking at you, but you'll see their ears are pointed your way.

Assuming this is distress/fear, it sounds like there are two things going on: you mentioned that she will bite and scratch when you're petting her sometimes. You also mentioned that there have been times when she approaches you and attacks - like in the hall or when you were closing the window.

When petting her

I would recommend not petting her for the time being, but continuing to greet her like you have been. Crouch down, glance toward her, offer your hand, look away, and call to her. If she comes and sniffs your hand, maybe you can have a cat treat on hand to offer her, but don't pet her. Let her sniff and then (slowly) stand back up and continue what you were doing. Do this whenever you notice her. Probably she'll come up to you sometimes and not others, that's fine. Cats are all about personal space, and greeting her and then ending the interaction tells her that you respect her space and she needs to respect yours.

Once you have had 10+ positive interactions like that (no petting, just greeting and maybe offering food), you can try petting her just a little bit again. Start with just one or two pets, a chin scratch, whatever she likes best, and be on the lookout for signs that she isn't liking it. The biggest sign is usually a cat swishing or flicking their tail. Some cats get overwhelmed really easily, and this is usually the first sign that humans can tell. If you see that, stop even if she's still rubbing on you. Stay calm, slowly stand up, and go about your business. Again, this will tell her that you respect her space and she needs to respect yours.

Never chase her to pet, even a little bit. If she moves out of super easy reach of your hand, wait for her to come back to you again. Let her choose to engage with you on her own terms.

Other aggression

Assuming she's not being playful, there must be something going on in these instances that has her scared or overwhelmed. Some potential ideas:

  • The noise of the window closing or socks on the floor really bothered her
  • She has previously been kicked by a foot wearing socks
  • She is scared you're going to hurt her or isn't sure what you're doing.

Since we can't ask her what the problem is, it can be hard to tell. You've done a great job of including specifics here. You said that socks scare her - how do you know that? Is it something about her behavior other than the attacking? Have you seen the same behavior in any other circumstances? Do shoes/slippers have the same effect?

You/your boyfriend may find it really, really helpful to work on that fear. There's a book called "The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat" which has great, specific instructions for desensitizing a cat to an environmental fear (their example is a vacuum cleaner, but it can apply to anything). If it is a fear, then working on it slowly will likely help and prevent the attacks by lowering her fight or flight response.

In the short term, it might be helpful for her to be "given" a room during the night time. This should be a space where she feels comfortable and has access to water, food, litterbox, toys, and lots of soft things to lay on. Ideally it would also have a door that can close. Putting her in her room overnight would keep you safe and will lower her stress because she won't have to be on high alert the whole night. Anxious cats typically do a lot better with smaller spaces.

A note for your boyfriend

Cats are often territorial, and yours might feel distressed by the presence of a new human who is (in her view) displacing her. I'd advise you to do your very best to create consistency in her routine regardless of whether your girlfriend is visiting or not. For example, if your cat is allowed to sleep in your room when your girlfriend isn't there, but is kicked out when your girlfriend is there, that could be causing a problem. In this case it seems like the best temporary fix would be to not let your cat sleep in your room at all so that it's consistent. Once she's getting along better with your girlfriend, it likely won't be a problem anymore. As another example, make sure that you're giving your cat attention even when your girlfriend is over. Snuggles, playtime, whatever you normally do. Continue to offer positive attention even if your cat doesn't seem interested at first.

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