Ever been patting your cat and everything is fine… Then suddenly…
But I thought we were having fun!!!!
There can be a few reasons your cat turns on you mid-pat.
The most common is what we call “Overstimulation Aggression”. That’s a fancy terms for your cat getting so amped up on human affection that it feels like it can’t take it anymore! Your cat was probably enjoying itself so much that the emotional arousal was simply too much to control – like a pot of boiling water, some of that steam has to escape somewhere. Some cats have higher tolerances for physical touch than others, but pat any cat for long enough and this is bound to happen.
Why do you hate me?
This can defiantly feel quite personal – how could they reject you like this?! Cats don’t always see things in terms of relationships or give and take. They just know that they are feeling a lot of things all at once and that because you are the one causing the feelings, then you have to be the one to be made to stop. Made to stop with teeth and claws..
What can make it worse?
In my experience naturally grumpy cats (like that percentage of tortishells) are obviously going to be worse at this than naturally happy cats. There are a couple of other factors too such as temperature, the cats history, other animals, high winds – things that would start to wear down their patience over time. Think about how short tempered you can become if its hot and windy for example. You may also not be picking up a cats “that’s enough, thank you slave!” signs. If your cats tail begins to thump the ground, or to swish from side to side quite violently – stop!! Cats are pretty good at telling us to stop, if we ignore them (even though naivety) then they are inclined to escalate the situation.
There are even some medical conditions like Arthritis and Feline Hyperesthesia that can make the problem worse.
How do I fix this?
You may not be able to completely fix this, but generally you can make things better.
Try shorter pat sessions, experiment with lighter touches and slower movements. Learn the signs your cat is getting “over it” and stop! If one member of the household is getting beaten up worse than the others, examine their behaviour around the cat – do they like to tease it? Do they take the cats favourite humans attention away? Has this person accidently spooked or stood on the cat in the past? Is that person the primary medication giver? Cats can hold grudges like no one else.
It can be slow going, but consistency is key. If your cat knows you just want to offer some short, loving pats and then move on – it can relax and not be on such high alert. You could reward your cat with a treat or their favourite game for every patting session that doesn’t end in blood. You could also use a pin-brush as a substitute for your hand and lightly brush your cat. This gives your fleshy parts a bit of distance from the murder-claws.
Good luck – and one last piece of advice:
If kitty has that catnip look in its eyes, don’t push it!