Cats can be quite fickle sometimes. One minute they are purring in your lap and the next minute they might be scratching you with their claws. A common problem many cat owners experience is petting-induced aggression – biting when you stroke your cat. Every cat reacts to petting differently, and some of them simply do not like to be touched. If your cat tends to bite when you pet her, try following some of the tips below to reduce this behavior.
Why Cats Bite When you Pet Them
It is wonderful coming home to find your cat waiting for you. As she rubs herself on your legs, she purrs and meows, begging for your attention. Once you start petting her, however, a switch flips and she immediately starts gnawing on your hand. What happened? Petting-induced aggression is very common in cats, but it is a behavior that remains poorly understood by animal behaviorists. There are, however, several theories out there which may explain this phenomenon:
- Many cats find prolonged or repeated physical contact unpleasant – it may incite arousal, pain, or static electricity.
- Petting-induced aggression could be a manifestation of a cat’s desire to gain control of a situation – this is referred to as status-induced aggression.
- Some cats may exhibit subtle signs of discomfort that, when ignored, can result in a sudden outburst of aggression.
In many cases, your cat does not actually want to hurt you – she just wants to let you know that she is no longer interested in being petted. You may notice that when your cat first starts biting you it is a soft, inhibited bite. If you ignore these signs and keep petting, however, the bite may get harder and the claws may come out.
How to Handle Petting-Induced Aggression
If you are concerned by your cat’s petting-induced aggression, there are a few things you may be able to try. One thing you should definitely do is make an effort to become more in-tune with your cat’s behavior. There are a few tell-tale signs that cats exhibit when they are annoyed so, if you notice these signs, it might be time to stop petting your cat. Some of the most obvious signs of annoyance in cats include the following:
- Tail lashing or thumping
- Flattening the ears against the head
- Growling or whining
- Dilated pupils
- Skin twitching or shift in position
Learning to identify these signs will help you to learn what kind of petting your cat enjoys. Does your cat let you pet her twice before she starts to get annoyed? Or perhaps you can pet her three or four times before she starts exhibiting some of the signs listed above? If you learn to understand your cat’s petting preferences, you can avoid being bitten. It may also help to offer your cat a treat after petting her so she forms a positive association with petting. No matter what you do, do not force your cat to be petted for longer than she is comfortable. Not only will it result in biting or scratching, but it could damage your bond with your cat as well.