Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
Let me start this article by saying that I have had a life filled with animals from the moment I was I was born. I grew up in the country, played on farms, bred domesticated animals, and even on occasion had to deal with wild animals. In my adult years I still remain very involved with not only my own pets but really any animal I come by. I’ve helped people in need groom their pets, medicate them, clip their nails, and in the process I have had some pretty interesting experiences! Maybe you'll learn something from all this but more likely you'll just laugh like you do whenever that crazy animal-catching dude on Animal Planet shows up on your TV, and that's perfectly OK. I have learned to laugh too.
Turtles are kind of funny because you don’t expect them to bite – unless they’re snapping turtles. When I was four years old my mother decided to teach me about snappers in the hopes I wouldn’t get myself into any trouble. We happened to live between a swamp and a pond and a very large duck-eating snapper lived there, occasionally waddling between the two bodies of water. This was no mere turtle, it was a prehistoric beast so big that it routinely blocked cars from passing it on the road. In fact it was on the road that day my mother brought me out to see it. She picked up a stick and taunted it a bit. It gave out a mighty hiss, then reared upwards and bit the stick, breaking it into shards. I was so terrified by this that I ran all the way up our long dirt driveway (maybe an eighth of a mile) dodged up the stairs, ran into the house, and locked the door behind me. I was absolutely convinced it was red hot on my trail after all. To this day I have never been bitten by a turtle, though I did come remarkably close when handling a painted turtle who really thought she was a snapper. Strangest thing I have ever seen!
The first animal I can remember biting me was a goat. I was five years old and going to a farm/petting zoo for a field trip. It was the first time I was ever given a camera to operate and no one gave me lessons so I ended up with a lot of photos of my own eye. That’s beside the point, the point is the camera was on a string, a particularly delicious-looking string and at one point I found myself in the middle of a mass of goats, all biting at the string around my neck, pulling me one way and then the other. Think about it. Even cute little goats are creepy in swarms.
Living in a farm-friendly area I also had a lot of interactions with horses and let me tell you – they aren’t all nice! I had the joy of playing with sweet little Shetland ponies and riding horses. It sounds idyllic but horses for the most part don’t really like me. They seem to know they’re ten times bigger than me and can push me around. I cannot count how many times or how many different horses have grabbed my shirt or collar and dragged me around, used their body to slam me against the barn, or just tried to bulldoze me. These were otherwise well behaved and trained animals but as soon as their owner turned around the horses would turn to me with that little glimmer in their eye almost conveying the thought, “I’m watching yoooou….”
One of the first domestic animals I can recall biting me was a ferret. I remember his name. He was the pet of a friend who got him from Marshall Farms. He came with all sorts of paperwork saying how they had bred their ferrets to be docile and sweet. They even claimed they no longer had any need or ability to hunt. HA HA HA! Let me start by simply informing you that ferrets are the domesticated form of weasels… you know those absolutely vicious animals that can break into almost anything and delight in ripping live chickens limb from limb. These animals were domesticated and released by traveling ferret wranglers onto farms to dispatch of vermin. I’m not sure when this changed but now they are only kept as pets and some are far better at this task than others. My friend named his ferret Mick Jagger. I quickly renamed it Mick Jagged-Tooth after it repeatedly tried to maul me. Let me tell you, they may be small but ferrets are fast, agile, and have teeth sharper than a dog’s. They are not pleasant to be bitten by! For years I wondered why the hell anyone would want one of these smelly vicious beasts in their home because every ferret I saw after that shared the same intense psychosis. I was asked to feed one once by being told, “All the critter food is right there, just fill up their dish but if the ferret is out don’t put your hand in his cage.” This ferret, abused and starved by a previous owner, literally woke up when I opened its cage and made a run for my fingers, shooting up to the top tier of the cage. I slammed down the door just in time but he wasn’t happy about this, sticking out his paws and madly trying to grab me while simultaneously biting the air and making horribly agitated noises. Sounds like the perfect pet. When I was in my twenties I finally met some ferrets who were docile and sweet. I immediately asked what was wrong with them. Had they been drugged? What do you mean they’re normally like this??
I had a similar impression of hamsters as I did of ferrets because again all of the furry beasts were more like Critters than cute little balls of fluff. Suspiciously some of these hamsters resided at the same house as the aforementioned Mick Jagged-Tooth. I was maybe seven years old when I saw two adorable dwarf hamsters sleeping in a little ball in the corner of the aquarium. No one was around and I figured no one would notice if I picked one up and played with it in their absence. It’d be the perfect crime! I quietly slipped off the cover to the aquarium and put my hand into the cage where I went to pick one of the sleeping angels up. This is where things went wrong. The hamster woke up and upon seeing a giant hand coming for it bit the intruder as hard as it could. I jumped backwards, hamster still clinging to my finger in midair as I shook it desperately trying to dislodge its teeth! Not surprisingly it did eventually let go and went flying, slamming against the wall of the aquarium before falling onto the bedding below. I felt terrible but the little guy was OK and I learned a very valuable lesson – do not play with other people’s pets without their permission!
Rats are the love of my life. They are such wonderful intelligent and whimsical creatures. I owned and bred them for many years, getting my first rat from the pound. He was the best pet any child could ever wish to have. I fed him only what I ate and took him on walks outside with a leash. When he died a year later I was DEVASTATED. Two weeks later news came of another rat in need of rescue. That’s when we brought Babe home. Babe was an albino rat with stunning muscle structure that he built up from running on his wheel almost 24-7. He was every bit as fit as my last rat was portly. Unfortuneately he was also every bit as psycho as my last rat was sweet. You could not handle him at all. He was wirely, agile, fast, and an avid biter. The only way I could clean his cage was to trap him in a box and then clean it while he was confined. Being a child I still loved him despite his obvious flaws… my mother however did not and this was the only animal she ever forced me to get rid of. I wrote to rat breeders and owners everywhere, desperate to find him a home because as mean as he was I still loved him and didn’t want him to be put down. In the end someone did take him… but years later I had to reflect on his suspicious beginnings. Babe, you see, was caught in someone’s garage. Being white they thought he was someone’s escaped pet. Only years later did I learn that albino animals pop up in wild populations of all animals from time to time. Yup. You guessed it. I was nurturing a wild rat. Go me!
When I was maybe eleven or twelve years old I begged my mother to allow me to get some spiny mice. At the time they were the most exotic creature I could get my hands on. So exotic in fact that little was known about them. I had found a guy that had been importing and breeding rodents for pet stores and he was selling out in order to study to become a vet. He had no less than four separate sub species of spiny mice, which these days I am sure at least two of which no longer exist in the United States as soon after it became illegal to import pretty much anything from Africa. In any event these little critters were not the domesticated marvels you see in the pet stores today. They were only two or three generations from their wild imported ancestors. I bought the cheapest ones, all I could afford, the common spiny mice you can still get for pets today. I can’t tell you why but I brought home several groups of them from different lines. I think I had the intention of starting a spiny mouse farm. Be careful what you wish for! In time my wildest most bitey mice were the ones who decided to breed and it wasn’t just once. They bred repeatedly. To make matters worse they are exceedingly difficult to sex. Suffice to say I ended up with a lot of the little buggers and they were all from the meanest lines, getting more ferocious by the generation. When dealing with ferocious rodents one usually can pick them up by the tail but not spiny mice! Their tails were fragile and would rip clean off if I tried, not that I ever did, I knew this when I got them. You’d think being so small their bites would be nothing – WRONG – they had some of the most painful bites I have ever received. Not only are their teeth needle sharp, ALWAYS drawing blood, they also have a certain awful tenacity, first biting onto you and then sliding their jaws back and forth to really get them deep in the wound and causing more bites before you’re able to dislodge them. I got bitten a lot… and never got used to it.
I wasn’t exactly the most girly-girl as a child, in fact I seemed to revel in my own snake and spider catching skills. I’d catch spiders, put them in baby jars, and morbidly feed them flies one at a time for my peers to watch at recess. Similarly whenever I saw a snake I’d catch it and hold it up high for everyone to see my prize. I have long since grown up and hadn’t engaged in snake catching for many years. However when I was walking in the park with a friend one day we came across a baby ghost corn snake. Corn snakes are not native to our area and the ghost coloration is a completely domestic thing that does not happen in the wild. This was either someone’s pet that had been released or the offspring of someone’s pet who had been released. I could not just leave a feral animal wandering around the park – it could potentially do a lot of damage to native wildlife. With this I picked it up and from that moment on it was love at first bite. I named it Sid. I could have held its neck right behind its head but it was squirming and I felt maybe it might settle down if I let it have some relative freedom in my hand. No… instead it just bit me, repeatedly, walking its fangs up and down my wrist. It was such a wee baby I could barely feel this and was just laughing most of the way home.
Ever have one of those days when you look up and go, “Oh my God! There’s a bat in the living room!” No? I have… sadly on three separate occasions in two different homes. In any event this bat was a little brown bat, just a darling looking little thing. I didn’t have a net so I caught it with a towel and brought it outside, figuring it’d fly off. Well the next morning I went outside to retrieve my towel and as I thought the bat was gone. So I picked it up only to hear a pathetic little hiss and see a whirl of brown move before me on the opposite side of the towel. I jumped and dropped everything. It took me a few moments to realize the dear little thing had its toes caught in the towel’s fibers. By this time it was looking up at me with its mouth gaping open, hissing. It was sort of adorable in a way. I had to get another towel and use it to pull the poor thing off. It flew off and I haven’t seen it since.
When I was twelve or so my mother decided to take up cockatiel breeding as a hobby. I was all for this and quickly learned how to hand feed them. The funny thing was they were very sweet babies but as soon as they grew up they all hated me, not people in general, just me. Over the years I came to realize I was not a “bird person” and that I had been blacklisted by most species of parrots who despite being sweet to other people all tried to kill me. The worst case of this was GT, my mother’s Goffin’s Cockatoo she acquired a few years later. He was a beautifully sadistic bird, one who already has his own story here on HubPages, “The Evil Scheming of a Viscous Cockatoo” He hated me from the time he first laid eyes on me despite the fact I had done nothing to him. It didn’t matter. He always made a beeline for me, to bite me. The worst event happened when his cage was situated in the hallway. One day I walked down the hallway and noticed his cage door was flopped on the floor. I thought this was odd but I didn’t think too much about it as I stepped over it. Much to my horror the bird had unscrewed the hinges to his cage door and crawled up to the top where he set about ambushing me. Without realizing what had happened I felt an INTENSE pain on my boob of all places. Without thinking or even looking down I grabbed whatever was paining me and flung it clear across the house. I saw him hit the floor, then skip three steps towards me before thinking better of it. In a split second he managed to bite me three times, his first one giving me a permanent scar. BASTARD. I still hate this bird.
Bitch Kitty was a kitten I had a number of years ago. She was one of the prettiest cats I have ever seen, a tabby calico with big orange and black cow spots overlaid with tiger stripes. Stunning. She also never grew past six weeks of age. She was a perpetual kitten. Too bad she wasn’t as angelic as she looked. She was in fact a wolverine in cat’s clothing. Despite the fact I handled her and cuddled her from her birth she grew into the meanest bastard of a cat I had ever come to deal with. By the time she was a few months old you could not lay your hands on her for any reason… Well one day my uncle let the cats out. At the time we lived next to a road I like to call the Cat Kill Highway. Nothing moving is ever spared by speeding motorists there and in any event all my felines were house cats! He went outside to catch them and managed to do so until all he had left was Bitch Kitty, surely the easiest of the bunch, she was just a little squirt, right? I wasn’t at home to warn him otherwise. When he cornered her in the barn and grabbed her she threw a temper tantrum that would have made her look like she was possessed by demons. She ripped that poor man up one side and down the other leaving no limb unscratched and unbitten. Oops.
Vlad the Sexual Harassment Kitty
Vlad was a cat I had quarantined in my home, in a cage, for a few weeks before he went on to his actual home. In any event he was a weird little creature, a five month old orange Siberian cat who you could do anything to so long as you didn’t talk to him. If you talked to him, or God forbid sang to him, his eyes would get as big as plates and he’d stare at you in sheer terror, eventually retreating to the back of his cage. I never found out why this was, but its irrelevant. Vlad never bit me but he did spend a lot of time on the third tier of his cage which was approximately ass height. I never thought much of this until he started to slap my ass every time I walked by, nails out! It wasn’t pleasant but luckily all I had to do to correct him was talk.
Bezoomny was another cat I had the joy of babysitting. His name wasn’t really Bezoomny, that’s the name I called him as it’s the word for bat-shit crazy in Nadsat, the language spoken in the Clockwork Orange. It seemed fitting. Bezoomny was a 20+ pound Bengal tom cat. He was cattery raised and completely wild. I was babysitting him along with a few other cats including another tom cat. I had the two separated by keeping Bezoomny in a large cage. Much to my chagrin he tore that cage apart and escaped only a few hours later. I noticed this when I heard a noise that sounded like demons escaping the ravages of Hell. It was coming out of the cat room. I walked in to find the two toms at each other’s throat. I couldn’t get near them as both were not people friendly and being Bengals they didn’t have a scruff to grab a hold of either! I took a broom after them and beat them apart. Then I went after Bezoomny to try and get him back in a secured area. Little did I know I was about to try and catch this animal as if I was on an episode of the Crocodile Hunter. Imagine that but with a Bobcat. It would be much the same! I ended up sitting on the cat, trying to grab a scruff I quickly realized did not exist, before the son of a bitch turned around and nailed my arm. To my horror all 20+ pound of him clung on as I tried to get up and he ended up dangling in midair from my arm! Let me tell you that left a nasty scar. I used the broom to shoe him back in the cage. I ponder if I should perhaps invest in a rabies pole or look into the legality of tranquilizers… you know, for next time.
Hobbs was a cat I was told needed to be rehomed because he was biting this couple’s child. I said I’d come down and check the situation out and if the cat was healthy I had volunteered to drop him off at a no-kill shelter in my area (a few states away.) Before entering the home I had wondered why a cat they’ve had for more years than the child was suddenly on the chopping block. Surely they could make things work out between the two but no – the cat was living in an unfinished basement and was using the entire concrete area as his own personal toilet. I was told they had tried other things but this was just one of those unchangeable situations where big decisions had to be made. We found the cat roaming about upstairs, jumping on the tables and even begging for attention. It was weird. There was nothing wrong with this cat – could these people just be some of those dumb people who believe that old wives’ tale about cats sucking the breath out of infants as they sleep in their crib? They did have another baby on the way. All this continued to roll through my head as I petted the cat and then without any warning whatsoever the cat bit me but it wasn’t a play bite you usually get when cats get moody. This cat had the strength and veracity of a wild mink. It bit clear through my finger to the bone. This was one of the most painful bites and the craziest pressure I had received in any bite in my life. It was uncatlike. As we tried shoving him into the crate he took another victim, biting this person so hard that he nearly tore his whole thumb clear off. Suffice to say the cat got away, we never were able to crate him, and he was eventually dropped off at the only shelter that’d take him – a kill shelter.
A Deaf Puppy
I have been bitten by many many dogs in my life. However none are notable because all of them were under five pounds and when they bite you… well it’s just funny really. I always loved angry pugs, not because I liked the breed but because when you pick up an angry pug it can growl and snap all it wants its flat face is never going to reach the hands holding it up. OK so maybe that is slightly mean… and maybe karma was just kicking my ass for that one and the time I growled a Yorkie for shits and giggles and threw it into some sort of fit of panic. Anyways… the only big dog I ever got bitten by was a 5 month old puppy. I had taken on a mother pit bull and her litter in the hopes of finding them all appropriate homes. I had always loved the breed and even had one as a child. I was more than happy to help out a dog in a bad situation. The problem was the puppies were from a sister-brother breeding and those pit bulls I had a strong suspicion came from even more inbred fighting parents. It wasn’t good. Although I managed fairly well I did have problems with this litter. Some had a predisposition to mange and couldn’t be fixed until it was cleared up. Some had epilepsy and some ended up with weird injuries like torn tendons. Most had entropy which could only be corrected with surgery. Many seemed unable to read the normal body language of other dogs and would end up in nervous aggressive fights with others. This is what happened when I had two puppies left, both male. It was a bad situation as the second puppy, the bigger one, was blind and deaf, something I knew could happen with this litter considering they carried the same gene that makes a Dalmatian’s spots. As an amateur geneticist and breeder of other animals I knew this and hoped I would not get a deaf puppy but I did. I got a deaf puppy with bad entropy who as still growing and couldn’t be operated on until he was. He was a sweet puppy and very mellow but when the other puppy bit a hold of him he fought back with a startling strength. Someone grabbed the other puppy, I grabbed the blind one, and we pried them apart and got them into separate corners but being blind this puppy had no idea the fight was over and bit what was closest to him – my calf. His mouth went clear around my leg and his teeth sunk in deep. If you are ever in this situation DON’T MOVE! I had learned this years ago with the rodents – the less you move the less of an injury you will get. By struggling you will tear your skin much worse and feed into the frenzy that will encourage the animal to keep biting. I didn’t move a muscle and to be more than honest I didn’t feel any pain, just pressure, and within a few moments the puppy realized whatever it was biting wasn't struggling anymore so he released me. The bite was entirely my fault. For one I shouldn’t have allowed the other more aggressive dog near, and for a second I should have stayed to the dog’s side or behind him as I had learned to do when breaking up fights. This is because he wouldn’t have been able to reach me in those positions. I did end up with a lot of puncture wounds, no tearing wounds, and deep muscle bruising that turned my leg black for a few months. I was very sore for a few weeks! I do not blame the dog or the breed, it was my own stupidity that caused the bite. Pit Bulls are a powerful breed but when they are bred correctly and well socialized they are far more predictable and manageable and can be the most loving pets you can ask for. Why do I say this? Because I still have the mother of the puppy and she’s a wonderful dog that I know would go to the ends of the earth to protect me should I ever be in danger. She’s never bitten a human and although I can’t trust her with smaller dogs I don’t mind so much. She’s all I need anyway.
So what can we learn from all this? To stop doing stupid things, obviously. With every bite I was given a lesson on what not to do next time. It's a hard way to learn but it is effective! And that's where I will leave off, with the humble statement that even an experienced wrangler such as myself can be capable of doing stupid things. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it all.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on October 23, 2014:
Sounds like you're well on the way of beating my record! ;) Oh, the things we put up with for the love of critters!
Good thing on the snakes not being venomous! I think I will pass on the venomous ones myself...
Snakesmum on October 21, 2014:
What a lot of animals have had the pleasure of biting you! Some of those parrots can give a very nasty bite - I've been bitten by a budgerigar, and a sulphur-crested cockatoo. Also a few cats, dogs, and snakes. The snakes weren't the venomous variety, fortunately. I still have them.
Oh yes, we mustn't forget the leeches....... I hate leeches!
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on May 07, 2013:
Ouch! Good thing! I've seen some camels, they look like they have some pretty scary chompers. :)
Christian Honore from Philadelphia, PA on May 06, 2013:
A very interesting and funny article.
I haven't been bitten many animals, one that did was a camel I was riding on a tour in the Canary Islands a few year ago. It turned its long neck around and bit me my arm (fortunately, I had a long-sleeve shirt on)!
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on March 21, 2013:
Indeed! Birds can be real bastards, be they wild or pet! I too have been chased by swallows, bitten by parrots, and harassed by roosters. I stay well away from birds of prey... not just because that's the legally responsible thing to do but it also looks like those suckers could do some real damage! I am so happy I have never accidentally stumbled near one of their nests! The terror!
Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on March 17, 2013:
I've had love and play bites from cats, some good claw wounds too. It is surprising how much sharper the claws are on kittens. I was always successful in teaching my cats how far they could go. Any cat that couldn't learn to just play I just wouldn't play with.
I had more trouble with birds attacking me than any other animal. I like to explore abandoned and old places so some of the birds have been from those trips. Most of the birds were from right at home, during the starling nesting season. They didn't seem to bother my Mother but as soon as I stepped out the door I had the damned birds dive bombing my head. I ended up with a phobia of birds which I'm still not completely over. We lived at that house more than ten years. I'd never live at another house with a lot of pine trees near the house itself. Or, if I did, I'd make sure to have cats with a taste for bird meat.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on October 14, 2012:
Why thank you everyone! I really wasn't expecting to see quite this many comments so shortly after I published this one! I love hearing your stories and reading your comments. They've been wonderful. :)
Elani-Lee from Los Angeles on October 13, 2012:
This was really funny and a good read. I like how you seem to take care of any animal that needs help. That is really sweet of you. Voted up and shared!
Kate McBride from Donegal Ireland on October 13, 2012:
This was a great hub to read-such a variety of stories and adventures with these creatures. I'm sure you have the scars to prove it as you say. Voted up and interesting. The photos are great in this hub too.Thanks!
Ann from Round Rock, TX on October 13, 2012:
Great stories! The worst bite I ever received was from a hungry full grown ball python at work when I was pregnant. She latched onto my hand, wrapped herself around my arm and would not let go! It hurt horribly and they finally pried her off carefully by making her sniff rubbing alcohol soaked cotton balls. I enjoyed your bite stories, thanks for sharing.
QudsiaP1 on October 13, 2012:
Holy crap that there is some childhood theophanes! I swear if you had written anything about eating weird animals right back, I would have pronounced you the female version of Bear Grylls. :P
Loved your narrative writing style. :)
Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on October 13, 2012:
What a great hub about your hmm..interesting run-ins with fur-babies - or should I say fur devils? You have a wonderful writers voice too.
I also am an animal lover - the worst bite I ever received was from my friends blue and gold Macaw (left a knot the size of a small ball on my arm and MAN it hurt!) and another time I tried to introduce kitty to doggy and got nailed by screaming, biting kitty. Boy did that one ever bleed - and HURT!
Eiddwen from Wales on October 13, 2012:
Wow a great read and I share .
Enjoy your weekend.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 12, 2012:
What a great childhood! I had forgotten all about my first ferret, Syd Vicious, and the first time I looked down on him in the cardboard box and was greeted with a bite on my too-curious nose! I bred ferrets in college, and even before they can see the little critters will move about the room and search for something to bite. It is amazing we are still walking around.
viveresperando from A Place Where Nothing Is Real on October 12, 2012:
That was a list all right, loved the cats the best, love that you are out there trying to help animals. awesome.