Behavior Tip of the Month
Feisty Feline - Please Don't Pet Me!
I've only had my kitty for a few weeks, but she bites me when I try to pet her. My last cat loved to be stroked. What can I do?
Biting, scratching, hissing, pouncing, hunting. Unlike dogs, cats have only been domesticated for a few hundred years. They are still hotwired to protect themselves if threatened. Your kitty may be telling you in the only way she knows, to please stop petting her.
However, it is not a CATastrophe - there is hope! You can teach your feline to tolerate petting and perhaps even enjoy it. However, before starting the following program, please take your kitten to the veterinarian. Be sure that the biting isn't the result of a medical problem. Also, as you follow the suggestions below, progress slowly by baby steps to prevent your pet from becoming upset. In addition, always look for body language that signals aggression. As Dr. Nicholas Dodman says, "the premonitory gestures of sideways glancing and tail twitching should be interpreted as evidence of impending hostility." Additional signs are tongue flicking, ears pressed back, and back arched. You want to stop petting before your feline feels the need to protect herself. Try following these steps:
1. Play the "tuff love" game for a day or two. Give your kitty the cold shoulder-no petting, attention or play. Just do the bare necessities.
2. When your feline starts to follow you around wanting attention, get some super yummy food unknown to your kitty. White meat of chicken or turkey seems irresistible to cats.
3. With one hand feed your feline a "yummy" while touching her once with the other hand. Try repeating this several times throughout the day.
4. The next day, periodically feed a "yummy" and pet for one second. Follow this with a play activity.
5. Each day extend the petting by an additional second, but only if your cat seems relaxed. Always pair a "yummy" with a short stroke and then a play session. Remember to progress very slowly. Always stop before your kitty wants to.
I hope that by following this program your feline will start coming to you while thinking "pet me please". That should please both you and your pet.
Best Friend Behavior Counseling and Training
San Diego, Ca.
"Positively teaching pets and their people since 1977"
Do you have a question for Carole? You can reach her at this email address - firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps she will use it in an upcoming article on this Web site.
The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.