Petting induced aggression:
Have you ever been bitten by your cat seemingly out of the blue? Was it while you were hanging out petting your cat? Did it hurt your feelings because you thought you were bonding? Don’t take it personally, many cats cannot handle being pet for too long or in certain locations on their bodies. There is a physiological response in cats that is not fully understood that can cause intolerance to being pet.
Be sure you are paying attention to your cat’s body language as your cat has likely been giving subtle signals to ask you to stop petting them before resorting to biting. It’s important that you listen to what your cat is trying to say to avoid bites.
Signs to watch for include:
-The tail twitching or swishing
-Ears flipping back and forth
-Your cat turning quickly their head toward your hand
If you notice these signs be sure to stop petting your cat and allow them to walk away if they choose to do so.
It’s also important to avoid full body pets, lots of cats are particularly sensitive near the tail and belly. If your cat is sensitive to being pet, stick to petting their head and back of neck. You can try offering treats when your cat stays calm after a few pets to keep a positive association with petting. Keep in mind that your cat may always be sensitive to how and when they are pet and respecting their boundaries is an important part of maintaining a positive relationship.
Play induced aggression:
Cats are hunters by nature and play is an important outlet that helps channel their predatory and hunting behaviors. If your cat is not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation through play you may see behaviors such as your cat grabbing your ankles when you walk by, pouncing on you when you move under the covers or wrapping themselves around your arm or leg while biting.
Be sure you are providing daily interactive play sessions with your cat. When cats don’t get enough playtime or enough enrichment around the house they will find their own entertainment which may include grabbing your toes just as you are falling asleep.
Rotating the toys your cat has access to can help keep them interested and playing with their toys. And don’t fret about buying tons of fancy toys to keep up with your cat, if your cat is more excited about the box or paper bag their last toy came in – just give them a box or paper bag to play in, they may be entertained for hours!
Avoid using your hands or feet as toys- this can be especially tempting with kittens -because it will encourage inappropriate biting and may be a difficult habit to break.
If serious bites are happening contact your veterinarian and/or a professional animal behaviorist for help.
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