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Nov. 15th, 2009 @ 08:59 pm Mouthing behavior in kittens
So, I have been raising a little feral kitten since she was about 2.5 weeks old. She was found with her brother in some bushes and brought into the pet store where I work. Dinah is a wonderfully sweet and curious girl, just coming up on 8 weeks. I have four adult kitties and they are still trying to figure out how to play with her, being so small. She isn't even two pounds yet, but isn't thin, just petite. Her brother is twice her size. I am keeping Dinah, but her brother is being adopted out.

When she was found, she would hiss and growl at strangers, but that was resolved around 4 weeks of age. She is very social, and once she meets someone a few times, will purr as soon as she sees them or hears their voice.

Dinah loves to play with humans and plays very gently. However, she likes to put hands in her mouth. She mouths it a bit, but she is very gentle and cautious about it. She even uses her paws, but not her claws, to hold onto your arm/hand. Dinah also likes to taste and play with my hair on occasion. All of these behaviors I have been ignoring, and they have not progressed in intensity at all, and she's been playing like this for a few weeks.

All of my adult cats know that teeth and claws are not allowed on human skin, but I'm not sure if what Dinah is doing will be harmful in the long run. I always think of the future when raising my pets, only allowing them to do now what I will allow for the rest of their lives. They don't get away with something "just because they're a kitten/puppy." She is already great about using her litter box and various scratchers, and listens very well to my adult cats' body language.

Will allowing her to mouth on my hand encourage her to be a biter in the future, or can I allow this? It seems like a comfort thing, almost like a cat nursing on your clothing. When I trimmed her nails, all she did was lay on her back and purr. She is definitely not aggressive in the slightest. We do encourage her to play with toys, and loves the interactive ones she can chase, but when she is in my lap while I'm watching TV, for example, she'll do the mouthing and keeps herself entertained.

The small pet store I work for allows pets to come to work, and she is actually going to continue to come to work with me. She stays crated for part of the day still, but gets to come out multiple times per day and hang out on the cat trees, out on the office desk, playing with toys or at the front counter, but still only supervised. She has only been a little nervous around big hyper dogs, and that's fine with me. I want to teach her to avoid the path of a dog who may not be cat-friendly, since she is so trusting of most dogs now. Any tips on this?

Thank you for those who read the entire post. I appreciate your input. :)
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Date:November 16th, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
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Awww sounds like a good little kittie =) It sounds like her behavior is great considering her feral history. It's good that she's sociable, in spite of not having a mommy-cat to teach her.

I agree the finger mouthing with paws clutching at your finger is probably a comfort thing. It sounds like a nursing/suckling behavior. Maybe once she is weaned some of that will stop naturally? I dunno. The mouthing behaviors seem ok to me too as long as they don't lead to your kitten into thinking that human hands and hair are her playthings.

Personally, I would discourage her mouthing behaviors. I had a feral kitty who I let do that and at first it was totally non-aggressive and cute, but for whatever reason he became more violent about it as he grew older. He did become a biter. So, just some anecdotal evidence there for ya... Certainly that might not happen with your kitten, but I say it's best to err on the safe side.

You could xpost your entry to lj user="cathealth"> and lj user="felinebehavior">, those people will be able to give you good advice =)
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Date:November 18th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
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I don't think at 8 weeks it's really something to worry about. Most kittens I've raised have gone through a bitey phase, but grew out of it before the end of their first year.