Porky and Buddy Pet Health – What Can Be Done About Petting-Induced Aggression?

Dear Porky and Buddy,
I just adopted a new cat, Marvella, (no I did not choose that name, but she’s three and she seems to know it) and she seems very loving and friendly except for one thing.  She will jump on my lap and act really affectionate and I will pet her and then suddenly she will hiss and try to bite me and jump down like she is really mad at me.

I have no idea why she would do that but it is a little disconcerting to say the least. Do you know what would cause her to do that and what I can do about it?

Dear John,
First of all, thanks for adopting an adult cat – the good thing about that is that you get a grown up pet who already knows how to act like a grown up.

The bad thing is that one of her grown up quirks is to try to kill when you pet her too long.

It’s called petting-induced aggression.

Cats, like people, vary in how much they like to be touched. Some cats enjoy it immensely, some tolerate it, and some put up with only small amounts before they let you know it’s enough.

Since they can’t say it verbally, they might indicate that they’d like you to stop by biting and scratching.

While this reaction might seem to come out of the blue, most cats give advance warning when they start to feel crabby.

If you watch closely, you’ll see Marvella tense up. Her ears will flatten against her head and her tail will twitch. She might fidget. If you ignore her and continue to pet her, she’ll likely hiss or growl and then, in short order, she’ll scratch or bite you.

No one really knows why some cats react to petting this way, but think about how annoying it would be to you if  someone started rubbing your back in one small spot and rubbed it and rubbed it even after you asked them to stop.

Would that get annoying?

Would you lash out if this happened to you? (This is why gun control is important, but of course that is not the subject of this column.)

No one really knows how to prevent this type of aggression from developing, but cats who are well socialized as kittens are more likely to take pleasure in being touched by people as adults.

Some  cats can be taught to tolerate more petting if they learn to associate it with something pleasurable, like tasty treats.

We don’t have room in this column, but go to the www.ASPCA.org  pet behavior section for detailed instructions about how to do that.

In the meantime, remember that this behavior is something ingrained in Marvella and she isn’t intentionally being horrible.

So don’t punish her by swatting at her or yelling or throwing her off your lap. It will only make the problem worse if she becomes fearful of you.

Respect Marvella’s desire not to be petted much.

Cats are like people, some enjoy a lot of physical contact and some enjoy only a little and are creeped out by too much.

Enjoy the time you spend together, even if she is not purring contentedly in your lap, and don’t worry about the fact that you sometimes creep her out.

She’s a cat, after all, not a dog.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Phone: (315) 207-1070.

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other!