Feline Biting Aggression When Being Petted

Filed Under: Cats, Behavioral & Training

One of the most frequent forms of cat aggression toward people is biting or scratching while being petted. This type of aggression often results from a mismatch between the owner’s and pet’s desire for physical contact. Warning signs may include twitching of the tail, restlessness, and “intention” bites where a cat moves as if to bite but doesn’t.

Some cats seem to have a limited tolerance for tactile stimulation and prolonged petting. Owners should be aware of the warning signs and should cease petting immediately when observed. These same cats may continue to sit happily on someone’s lap when left alone. Punishment, such as a sharp tap on the nose as soon as the cat nips, may not be successful and may make the cat more aggressive and fearful. When warning signs are noted, all interaction should stop immediately and the cat should be allowed to leave the lap of the individual or, alternatively, the person should stand up so that the cat jumps to the floor.

Some cats may be taught to allow additional petting by associating the contact with some additional reward such as food. The owner should stay below the threshold that elicits the aggressive reaction and should reward the cat for good behavior.

Some cats prefer contact only in certain areas of the body. Respecting the cat’s individual preference will help prevent petting-induced aggression from ever developing.

References:

Beaver, Bonnie. Feline Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians. W.B. Saunders Co. 1992. Pp. 97-115.

Crowell-Davis, Sharon. “Intercat Aggression.” Compendium for Continuing Education Veterinarian. September 2007. Pp. 541-546.

Horwitz, Debra. “Feline Aggression Directed Toward People.” NAVC Clinician’s Brief. May 2007. P. 33-34.

Marder, Amy and Victoria Voith. “Advances in Companion Animal Behavior.” Veterinary Clinics of North America. Vol. 21. No. 2. W.B. Saunders Co. March 1991. Pp. 315-327.

Topics: aggression, biting, petting

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