It’s probably the most confusing of all cat quirks. You’re lavishing them with pats when all of a sudden they bite, scratch and run away. Well, here’s the answer on why it happens. And how you can avoid it…
Hint: It’s not you…it’s them
When you’re running a positive PR campaign for your cat, nothing sets you back more than a sudden bite or scratch during what was meant to be a positive bonding affection session. And what makes it even harder is the fact it always feels like they’re into the pats right up until the point where they’re not.
But it’s really not your fault. Cats are different to dogs. They’re not hardwired for unlimited indulgence and affection like the canine pat sponges. In fact, even in larger cats like lions and tigers, those loving acts like licking and head-butting are usually only for moments, not extended sit-in sessions.
That rejection of your endless indulgent patting comes from a phenomenon called Feline Over-Stimulation Aggression. Basically, they’ve had their fill of stimulation through patting and they’re checking out. Sure they could use a little more tact than biting or scratching but that’s often the only way they know to say ‘stop please’.
But maybe it’s not so strange. For us, a consoling tap on the shoulder is nice and comforting. But if someone was to repeatedly tap you on your shoulder for more than a minute, it could really get on your nerves. Cats can relate!
So what can you do to avoid this over-stimulation? Well, mix it up. Don’t just give them all over body pats. They will wind a cat up. Focus on 10 seconds of chin scratches, behind the ear scratches, full body pats and then give a break. They’ll often nudge you when they want more of a particular pat.
And also look out for the warning signs they’ve had enough…
- pupils dilate
- skin or tail begin to twitch
- purring stops
- stiffening of the body
- ears flatten
- claws become unsheathed
Importantly, you should remember, it’s not you, it’s just them. They still want affection and attention, just in shorter, sweeter bursts. That will earn you the ultimate respect…and avoid the round of a-claws!
P.S. Obviously, conditions like arthritis or abdominal pain can mimic these signs so if there is behaviour that's out of the ordinary then please see your vet.