Hi,Buster is a year and a half old shelter cat. He had a home at one point, lost it (this is a college town, with the usual horrible college-town pet dumping problems), was in the wild for an unknown period, and got hit by a car, which ironically turned out to be his salvation. He was rescued by animal control, patched up, fostered, patched some more, and placed in the adoption center for me to find. They couldn't let him play at will with the other kitties in the center because he played "aggressively".

This means that when they let him out of his kennel, he'd make the rounds and beat up the other cats by pouncing them, wrestling them to the ground, and sitting on them. No hissing, no fur fluffing, no angry posturing. It almost looked like a hobby to him. Beating Up Other Cats For Fun and Profit.

He's now in my house, with no other cats. Plenty of other cat smell, thanks to my other cat (neutered male) who lived here for 2 years before going to live full-time with my fiancee.
He's got one of the best Cat Pedestals I've ever seen - a three level industrial-weight cat tree made out of very scratchable wood and carpeted pedestals. He's got a zillion little cat toys, and plays with them regularly. On occasion, I sprout the Magical Feathers and play chase with him (he chases me. or really, I guess, the feathers).

He's settled into the house nicely, owns all the High Places, sleeps on the bed with me about half the time, on the Cat Pedestal or sofa the other half of the time. He's not super cuddly - he's still got a lot of kitten in him - but he does enjoy being petted and scratched. Thanks to his time in the wild, I guess, it takes him a second or two to remember that he likes being petted and scratched - often his first instinct is to flinch when I go to make contact with him. I've been gentle but persistent, and he is now starting to approach me for Kitty Loving.
OK, he's a complicated guy with an complicated past. The only parts we know about for sure are pretty disagreeable, but he's a real Trouper. Enough background.
Lately, he's developed a couple of weird behaviors.

He'll hang around in my travel path (we live in a flat) as I'm moving around - generally, when I'm doing things not involving him, like getting ready for work. Then when I get within direct eyeshot, he hunkers down and gives me a frightened glare, and when I get close, he rockets away and scuttles under the bed.
I don't think he's seriously scared, because he'll come right back out again in less than a minute, and then the scenario gets repeated. He's almost tripped me a couple of times doing this. It annoys me that he's giving me this "I'm so scared" look, since I've never given him cause to - and he hasn't done this all along, he's just started it in the last couple of days when my summer break was over and I had to go back to work. (I teach at a university and work from home otherwise, so I'm not usually gone for extended periods.)

So Spazzy Cat Thing Number One is shooting around the house as if terrified, but doing it repeatedly in a manner that suggests that he's trying to get my attention for something. I'm thinking he might be signalling a desire to play, but I don't want to push his boundaries. Right now, he considers the underside of the bed to be his private haven, and given everything he's been through, I don't really want to threaten that.
Does this sound like an invitation, or is he just recognizing that I'm about to leave & freaking out on it, or am I not playing with him enough in general (he gets about 3 serious 30 minute interactive play sessions - racing around the house, attacking toys, etc per day, scattered throughout the day). I haven't had a young cat in 15 years - is this enough, or should I be providing more? Or do I need to get him another cat?
Next, bedtime. He needs a lot of playing with, and I've learned that if I play with the Magic Feather Toy for a good half-hour before bed, he'll sleep the night through instead of dancing on the kitchen counters at 3am.
The last couple of nights (roughly coinciding with Spazzy Cat Thing One) he's started beating up my arm like he used to beat up the other cats. I lie down on the bed with a book. He lies down next to me and looks expectant. I pet him. He grabs my arm (with both forelegs), pulls it into him, and holds on while he uses one end to kick at it and the other end to chew on it. If I try to pull my arm away, he grabs it again and pulls it back for more. He'll try to get on top of it, and will wrestle it around a good bit if I let him.
I experiemented - I don't actually have to be petting him to launch this. All I have to do is have my hand out and within 6 or 7 inches of him, and he'll grab it, etc. He'll do this over and over until I hide my hand, at which point he settles down, snuggles up, and goes to sleep. Last night I grew weary of this, asserted dominance (not without a battle), and insisted on rubbing his head while he was grabbing my arm.

He stayed locked on, but closed his eyes, and when they opened a slit I could see that his second, or third eyelids were completely across the surface of his eyes. They were totally cloudy. The only time I've seen cats do this is when they were super stoned on kitty tranks, or when they were really, really loving something.
What is up with this behavior??? Should I permit it, or is that asking for trouble? Is he hating things, or loving them? It just occurred to me that he might have decided that I am a Giant Cat and that he's playing with me like he'd play with another cat. On the other hand, is this something that's likely to escalate to a territory battle & make him spray (he's neutered, but I know from experience that neutered males can still spray. They just usually don't want to.)

Or maybe this is all perfectly normal, and it's just been way too long since I've been around a young cat?
Thanks for any thoughts!
Tiger "Hey, That's My Arm You're Beating Up" Girl
They couldn't let him play at will with the other kitties in the center because he played "aggressively". This means ... fluffing, no angry posturing. It almost looked like a hobby to him. Beating Up Other Cats For Fun and Profit.

Nah, this is a slightly different hobby. This one is I Like To Play Rough Because Being A Bully Is Fun, or My Momma Left Me Too Early And I Didn't Learn How To Play Nice. heh
This is a cat who likes to play rough. Most other cats will hate this, thus provoking the impression that he's beating on them (and possibly provoking a real fight from an intolerant or dominant cat). Another cat who can dish it out as well as take it would make a great companion for him, provided the other cat is truly playing as well. The play fights would be noisy as all heck, but neither would actually get hurt.
Lately, he's developed a couple of weird behaviors.

I've noticed indoor-only cats who have no other animals as companions tend to do the behaviors you're mentioning below.
All the single cats I've ever had have done this (while I was growing up) and my Mom's cat does it now.
He'll hang around in my travel path (we live in a flat) as I'm moving around - generally, when I'm ... down and gives me a frightened glare, and when I get close, he rockets away and scuttles under the bed.

I don't know your guy enough to know for sure, but Louie, my Mom's cat (an only kitty, and indoor-only) does this as an invitation to play chase. He can get too rough, though, so she has to be careful about how intense he gets.
The last couple of nights (roughly coinciding with Spazzy Cat Thing One) he's started beating up my arm like he used to beat up the other cats.

Sounds like Louie again. To a tee.IMO, two cats is always better than one, provided they get along. The trick is finding one who will get along with your guy, since he likes roughhousing. You don't want another bully, since it could cause dominance problems and real fights, but you don't want too submissive a cat since it would just get beat up, so to speak. If you can have two, you might want to consider searching for a companion for him.

You'll need to be picky to find the right match, and you'll probably need to have the option to try out the new cat before committing to adoption, but my bet is that a lively, well-socialized 6-8 month old cat would do your friend (and your arm) a world of good. Big enough to hold his or her own, young enough to not get overly pissy about someone who wants to play a lot.If getting another isn't an option, you'll need to work on training now so that he doesn't think biting you is an okay thing. It gets worse, not better, if left alone. With the right training, though, roughhousing can work. It's a fine line, though. Your skin is much more delicate than a cat's skin with fur. Teaching him that "Ow" or "enough" means to stop is VERY important before he learns bad habits.

But teaching him that biting is okay in some situations means he may be more likely to bite, period, so weigh your decision whether or not to allow it very carefully. A cat who thinks it's fun to bite is not a cat you want around children. He may live for 15-20 years. If you think you might have kids before then, I'd suggest NOT playing rough with him at all. YOMV, of course.

~kaeli~
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Wow - many thanks for the info. My old cat was abandoned when 8 weeks or so, and went the other route - he's a total wuss and very snuggly, and wouldn't bite on a bet. It's got to be really extreme for him to hiss, even. So this Big Tough Bully thing is pretty new to me.

I think you're totally right about the invitation to play chase. I tried pursuing him with one of his toys when he did this earlier, and we've been playing for the last 30 minutes on that note.

I definitely don't want to send him the message that biting arms is OK. I don't have kids, but my friends do, and he's not at all intimidated by the kids - he'll come right over to investigate.

I don't mind the wrestling, but it sounds like if I get one, I probably get the other - so I definitely want to take some intervention. Do you have any suggestions (since I've never had this issue before) for a pretty effective approach? Should I just take my arm away and say NO! or do I need to do something else that "talks cat" (I don't know, if I had a dog that did this kind of thing I'd roll it on its back to reinforce the notion that *I* am the boss here.)
His favorite toy is a wand with feathers on a string. He's pretty tough on that - he'll pounce it like mad and chomp on the feathers. We're going through the feather bundles at a rate of 1 every 10 days. I don't mind this, but he treats the feathers like he treats my arm, and I'm wondering if I'm reinforcing the behavior through the feather toy. Or maybe it will get it out of his system so he doesn't want to beat up my arm?
Thanks again for the advice! I've seen this happen with parents so often - my first one was an angel and now I've got a real little devil as number 2...
TG
Wow - many thanks for the info. My old cat was abandoned when 8 weeks or so, and went the ... to be really extreme for him to hiss, even. So this Big Tough Bully thing is pretty new to me.

Yeah, my Jeffrey's like that.
I definitely don't want to send him the message that biting arms is OK. I don't have kids, but my friends do, and he's not at all intimidated by the kids - he'll come right over to investigate.

Yeah, you don't want him biting, then.
I don't mind the wrestling, but it sounds like if I get one, I probably get the other - so I definitely want to take some intervention.

No, you can wrestle with him and not allow biting or scratching. Cats are just as smart as dogs and just as trainable, it's just that the methods vary.
It's up to you what you allow and disallow, but young adult cats certainly have the self-control to play semi-rough and restrain themselves from biting.
Do you have any suggestions (since I've never had this issue before) for a pretty effective approach? Should I just ... this kind of thing I'd roll it on its back to reinforce the notion that *I* am the boss here.)

If he bites, you say "OW" loudly and in a whiny voice, as if he REALLY hurt you, then you leave him. The game is over. Interaction is over. Ignore him for at least 5 minutes. This is what his littermates would do to indicate that he played too rough, and he loses something he wanted - attention. This is called negative punishment (take something away to decrease behavior). It is different from positive punishment (apply stimulus to decrease behavior) such as a squirt bottle and can work wonders in training. It is the basis of the "time-out" or loss of privledges.
It works most of the time. If it doesn't, you move on to positive punishment, such as a light nose-tap or scruff shake (very light, NO PAIN INTENDED for either one).
Your pet should never, ever fear you.
And by the by, rolling a dog on its back forcefully is a great way to get bitten and does little to teach the dog that you are the boss and a lot to teach the dog to fear you. Fear != respect. An adult dog would never roll another adult dog on its back for any reason short of a real dominance fight, and dogs don't fight like people. Unless you grow a long muzzle, sharp teeth, and quick reflexes, don't alpha roll a dog.
A puppy should be disciplined with nothing stronger than a slight muzzle grab or tap, as mama would do it, and any dog over 6 months of age should get a light scruff shake and shoulder-push ("mounting"), as a more dominant dog would do it. You want to prove you're the boss to a dog, you employ pack behavior (eat first, always go through doors first, you control toys, playtime, eat time, and so on). This is vastly different from how to show dominance with a cat. Cats, while they can live in groups and have a heirarchy, do not form packs with a rigid heirarchy as dogs do.

The dog needs to decide that he wants you to be the boss. Anything else will get you a fear-biter, passive-aggressive stubborn nutty-head, or, at worst, an all-out aggressive animal that pushes you at every step.

The cat just needs to respect you. He doesn't need a boss, like the dog does. A dog with no boss decides to BE the boss, and then you get problems. The cat needs only to respect you, even if it's just as an equal. Like having a roomate, there must be mutal respect of rules and such. A dog is a child. A cat is a roomate. Emotion: smile
His favorite toy is a wand with feathers on a string. He's pretty tough on that - he'll pounce it ... toy. Or maybe it will get it out of his system so he doesn't want to beat up my arm?

He needs the outlet. Praise the behavior for the toys. Redirect any biting on your arms TO the toys and praise as additional teaching. Behaviors aren't intrinsically good or bad. It's the way they are expressed that is interpreted as such. You want him to scratch appropriate things, like a post, but not inappropriate things like your couch. He can be trained for this (and probably is). Same with biting. If he likes to bite and chew, he can be trained to only bite and chew his toys, but not human flesh.
Thanks again for the advice! I've seen this happen with parents so often - my first one was an angel and now I've got a real little devil as number 2...

I have two angels, a brat, and a dog (who can be either an angel or a devil, as most dogs can), myself. Emotion: smile

~kaeli~
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If he bites, you say "OW" loudly and in a whiny voice, as if he REALLY hurt you, then you ... a squirt bottle and can work wonders in training. It is the basis of the "time-out" or loss of privledges.

Thanks! I tried this a minute ago. I could see he was starting to get worked up - this attack always seems to be preceded by him starting to groom my hand. Sometimes he just grooms my hand without going nuts, but there's something about his face that signals that the Cat Attack is on the way. So I tried heading it off at the pass, when he made to grab my arm I wailed. He stopped instantly. We repeated this scenario but not more than once.
It works most of the time. If it doesn't, you move on to positive punishment, such as a light nose-tap or scruff shake (very light, NO PAIN INTENDED for either one).

I'm glad that he seems to be responding to the verbal feedback. I hate to physically discipline cats. I know it's necessary sometimes, but I'm just as glad not to have to mess with it.
And by the by, rolling a dog on its back forcefully is a great way to get bitten and does ... don't fight like people. Unless you grow a long muzzle, sharp teeth, and quick reflexes, don't alpha roll a dog.

I haven't actually had to do this - dogs usually just do this around me. They come up, fawn on me, and then roll over. I figure it must be my scent or something...
He needs the outlet. Praise the behavior for the toys. Redirect any biting on your arms TO the toys and ... likes to bite and chew, he can be trained to only bite and chew his toys, but not human flesh.

Thanks again for the help!!!
Thanks! I tried this a minute ago. I could see he was starting to get worked up - this attack ... he made to grab my arm I wailed. He stopped instantly. We repeated this scenario but not more than once.

Glad to hear it!
Sometimes, you just need to let them know beyond a doubt that they're hurting you. They don't know how sensitive our skin is unless we teach them. They've got fur. Emotion: smile

~kaeli~
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His favorite toy is a wand with feathers on a string. He's pretty toughon that - he'll pounce it like ... toy. Or maybe it will get it out of his system so he doesn't want to beat up my arm?

I think the latter. He needs to beat the snot out of something. A hard early life can bring that out in creatures. Emotion: smile Better an object than you. I would
take Kaeli's advice and never play with him with
your hand at all without an object between it and him, I mean. Bless you for taking him, too.
My thoughts: He's a CAT. He wants to play chase, hide-and-seek- and catch the monster. Best wishes. MLB
I have a cat I adopted from a life of outdoor vagabondage (though he was far from wild). I think he was around four or five years old. He's about six now.
He'll still run from me if I try to pick him up. This I think is a defense mechanism he learned from his many years living outdoors. He was probably chased by all kinds of animals, people and the cars both of those entities drive. So I don't blame him for keeping this habit.

I certainly maintain a lot of my own survival habits, too.