We do not know where Vimsan came from, where she grew up or what experiences with humans she had before she came to live with us. She must have been in great pain when I found her severely injured in our basement. Still, she did not try to defend herself when I petted her, so she seemed to be used to humans. While she was convalescing, Vimsan lived in our basement so that she could have her peace and did not have to confront our other cats all the time. We visited the veterinarian frequently, changed her bandages regularly, and gave her antibiotics and painkillers, which she took bravely. I spent an hour with her every morning and every evening, and after each meal she lay in my lap, where she stayed for a long time, purring and letting herself be petted. But once, I petted her when she was still standing in front of her bowl, and she bit me immediately. I had to go to the doctor, where I was prescribed antibiotics for the deep, inflamed wound. From then on, I was a bit more careful around Vimsan.
When we introduced her to the triplets a little while later and she started to share her space with them, we tried to pick her up like we did with the others, but she did not care for it at all. She hit us with her front paws, tried to bite us with her sharp teeth and swung her tail intensely. She managed to bite me once more. We gave up our attempts to pick her up, and guessed that Vimsan’s aggression might be due to bad experiences with humans earlier. Maybe she was often held against her will, and perhaps humans had also hurt her.
It occurred to me only much later that it might also have to do with the rapidity of my movements. I had already learned that two rivals who do not like each other but wanted to avoid a physical altercation removed themselves from the field with very slow movements, in slow motion. It was a signal to the opponent that they should not follow and should not launch an attack. Hence, I thought that if I wanted to show Vimsan that I am not dangerous, I should move slowly as well.
We are still working on it, but it seems to be going all right. If I approach her with my hand and pet her using slow movements, she does not defend herself and does not try to scratch or bite me either. If I touch her fur with rapid movements though, she turns around right away and hits at the air with her paw, as though to show me that she is not interested. We train every day though, and I speak softly with her, repeating the same slow movements and holding my lower arm up like a “friendly cat tail.” I believe that with a little patience and a little practice, we can both learn to get along with each other. My husband, Lars, can now pick her up and put her on his lap without a problem when she rubs up against his legs. When I teach Vimsan new tricks, such as getting into the carrier by herself, I do it with a lot of patience, a lot of rewards (e.g. treats), a soft voice and very slow movements.
Tip: If your cat bites and scratches you, try to be more patient and use very slow movements when you want to pet them or pick them up. Please consult a veterinarian, cat psychologist or therapist, as there are no universally valid rules. Give your cat time to get used to your hands (or gloves) and never use your hands as a biting or scratching toy. I hope it will work as well with your cat as it did with our Vimsan.