When your cat crawls into your lap and starts purring, your natural reaction is to pet him and scratch him behind the ears. Kitty might enjoy this treatment for a few seconds but, just like that, might turn around and start biting or scratching you. Even the friendliest of cats are known to perform this type of behavior, which can be very perplexing for the average pet parent. Why do cats scratch and bite while you are petting them and what can you do to reduce this behavior?
What is Petting-Induced Aggression?
Your cat could be the friendliest, most loving cat in the world and still have a tendency to turn around and scratch you out of nowhere. This kind of behavior is fairly common in cats and is known as petting-induced aggression. This phenomenon is not well understood by animal behaviorists but there are several potential causes. One option is that cats may enjoy petting but they become irritated by repeated stroking, especially in certain areas. This may produce static electricity, which can make your kitty uncomfortable.
Cats of all breeds and ages are known to display petting-induced aggression, though cats that have been socialized from a young age are more likely to enjoy being touched and petted. If you handle and groom your kitty frequently when he is young, he will be more likely to seek out human contact as an adult. Genetics may also play a role in your cat’s behavior. Some animal behaviorists say that friendliness is a trait that is passed down from the father to his kittens – if the father is friendly, the kittens will more likely be friendly and sociable, even if the mother is not. No matter what the cause of your cat’s petting-induced aggression, there are several things you can try to reduce it.
Tips for Dealing with Aggression in Cats
The key to dealing with your cat’s petting-induced aggression is to teach him to enjoy being petted. Teach your feline that good things happen when you pet him. To do this you can simply pet your cat for a little bit and take note of any signs of irritation or impending aggression. Then, give him a small treat and walk away, leaving your cat alone for about 10 minutes. After the ten minutes are up, you can try petting your cat again, making sure not to exceed the time limit for when he starts to get irritated – when he does, give him another treat and walk away again.
By following this training sequence, you can teach your cat that letting you pet him means that he will be rewarded. The more you reward your cat, the more amenable he will be to being petted. It is important that you take note of how many times your cat will let you stroke him before he starts to get irritated and to stop at that point. Signs of irritation to look for include tenseness, ears flattened against the head, fidgeting, and tail twitching. He may even growl or hiss. When this happens, you should give your cat his space and try again later. The worst thing you can do is to punish your cat – this will only make the problem worse.
You cannot change your cat’s personality or make him like something he doesn’t. You can, however, learn to understand your cat’s behavior and, in some cases, make minor modifications to ensure that both you and your kitty are content.