Cats and Petting Aggression

having a warm and fuzzy petting session is one of the perks of owning a cat.
When your contented, pampered cat suddenly turns and delivers a bite or scratch to your unsuspecting hand, he or she is exhibiting a cat behaviour known as petting aggression.
Felines, by nature, do not allow us to pet them. This is a learned behavior.
Some domestic cats have a built in tolerance level for being pet or handled. When your cat has had enough, for whatever reason, a reflex reaction kicks in and your cat will ‘attack’ …
nip, bite or scratch at the source of its discomfort, in this case your hand, in order to stop the petting session.
Why a cat is bothered by too much petting is not fully understood.
Some possibilities:
… a cat’s skin is very sensitive. It is thinner than ours and easily irritated. Too much petting (or brushing) can cause the receptors in the skin to be over stimulated.
What sensation a cat is feeling isn’t clear (irritation, pain) – what is clear is that your cat can suddenly start feeling very uncomfortable.
… some cats simply don’t want certain parts of their body touched – hips, paws, lower back, usually the stomach …
… is there a medical problem? Your cat might be telling you something is very wrong and something really hurts.
… static electricity is zapping your cat.
… has the cat been socialized – is it used to human interaction and trusting of people? Is your cat comfortable with the person who is handling it?
… in some ways, petting your cat is similar to a mother grooming her kitten. Like a kitten your cat relaxes, while you, mother cat, protect and ‘groom’ it.
Perhaps your cat suddenly ‘wakes up,’ realizes you don’t look like its mother, feels vulnerable in this relaxed state and reacts defensively by biting your hand.
… your feline feels confined – don’t hold a cat against its will.
dividing line
Cats do communicate with us and do provide us with warning
It is most helpful if you and your family learn and understand cat behaviours and body language. Your cat is ‘talking’ to you when:
… the purring slowly stops
… her tail begins to twitch, or even lash from side to side
… ears are no longer erect, but flattened
… she becomes tense and stiffens her body
… claws start to appear
… the skin ripples
… she turns her body and moves her head toward your hand (good clue)
… it gives a low growl.
If your cat is displaying any of the above warnings, or you have already received a bite or scratch, stop, and put your hands to your sides. Gently blow in its face.
You can stand slowly, so your cat easily slides off, and then walk away. He or she might sit quietly, or simply jump off your lap and running away
In a situation where your cat is acting aggressively, always allow your cat to ‘escape’ and leave the scene … which is in everyone’s best interest.
Let your cat calm down.
If you punish or scare your cat he or she will be even less relaxed around you and more likely to repeat aggressive behavior in the future.
An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.
To avoid petting aggresson, watch for the warning signals. Know your cat’s tolerance levels for petting, handling and its sensitive body parts.
Take note of how long your cat actually enjoys the petting session.
My maine coon, Ruttu, (bless his soul) was quite aloof. He was also sensitive to petting and did not like his lower back being touched … at all. Petting sessions were brief. I didn’t push him (he was pretty big) and he never bit me.
Over time, he began to welcome petting sessions (they were still brief) and followed me around looking for attention. I guess he knew a good thing when he saw it and made up for lost time.

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