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7 Ways to Cope With Petting-Induced Cat Aggression

Does your cat love being petted one minute and turn into a writhing ball of claws and teeth the next? Here's 7 tips to stop it.

 |  Aug 9th 2012  |   8 Contributions


You love your cat, but it may seem like she doesn’t love you. Sure, she likes it when you pet her -– but only for so long, and only in certain places. If you don’t follow her rules to the letter (and it may seem like those rules are random and arbitrary) you’ll be rewarded with a fist full of claws and teeth. Aggression in cats is scary, but the good news is that this particular type of aggression, which is called petting-induced aggression, is manageable. Here are seven tips to handle a cat with petting aggression issues.

1. Take her to the vet

Your cat may be acting aggressive because she’s in pain. Sore hips, an injured limb, or a toothache can cause your cat to lash out in order to protect the painful area. The best way to rule this out is to take her to the veterinarian for a full examination.

2. Honor her petting limits

Some cats are happy to be petted around the head and shoulders, but can get overstimulated when pet on their backs or near their tails. When a cat gets overstimulated -- even if the stimulus started out feeling good -- she’ll lash out to make it stop.

3. Watch her body language

Some people think their cat is attacking them “out of the blue,” but if they understood a cat’s body language, they’d have seen it coming. If your cat starts twitching her tail, she may be getting overstimulated. Other signs that your cat wants you to back off include her moving away from your touch and glancing at your hand. If your cat was purring and she stops, that’s another sign that it’s time to let her go, and if your cat starts lashing her tail back and forth, stop petting right away, because an attack is imminent.

4. Introduce yourself properly

Even though your cat already knows you, you should let her approach you. Hold out your hand with one finger extended and let her have a sniff. When she rubs her head against your finger, she’s letting you know that you may start petting.

5. Don’t play rough

Cats are not dogs, and they don’t enjoy wrestling with people. They don’t want to have their fur ruffled up or be batted (even gently) with your hands. If you want to have fun with your cat, use an interactive toy like a feather wand instead.

Prevent biting behavior before it starts; never use your fingers to play wrestle or chase with your kitten. Kitten biting woman's thumb by Shutterstock

6. Push, don’t pull

If your cat does latch on to you with teeth and/or claws, don’t try to pull your hand away. That’ll only make her grab on harder. If you push your hand toward her body, she’ll loosen her grasp and let you go. Same thing with the teeth: If she bites you, push your hand toward the back of her mouth and she’ll open up.

7. Never respond violently

It should go without saying that you should never hit, slap, throw, or kick a cat. Yelling at your cat will also make the situation worse, because it’ll frighten her. Of course, you’re free to quietly and calmly curse to your heart’s content.

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