Petting Aggression in Cats

Do you start to pet your cat, then after a few strokes she gets angry and swats or bites you painfully? This is known as petting-induced aggression, and is rather common among our feline companions. Below, a Grandview vet answers some of your questions.

Why Does My Cat Act Aggressively When Petted?

While petting-induced aggression isn’t completely understood by behavioral professionals, it’s commonly thought that physical contact like petting quickly becomes annoying and unpleasant to cats when repeated. Many cats simply don’t like the feeling of a human hand rubbing the same spot on their backs over and over again.

Older cats who weren’t socialized with humans at a young age are more likely to act aggressively later. If raising your cat as a kitten, be sure to maintain lots of physical contact and pet often to get your kitten acclimated to it from a young age.

What Should I Do?

If you’re not overly concerned with correcting or changing this behavior, it’s simplest to figure out how long it takes your cat to become annoyed—if she starts clawing or biting after four strokes down her back, stop before you get there. If you refrain from petting to an agitated state, the behavior won’t occur at all.

Also try to figure out the type and location of petting that your cat prefers. Perhaps she likes long strokes down the back more than a scratch behind the ears, or prefers some chin scratching more than a rump pat. By using her favorite method, and stopping at the slightest sign of irritation or aggression, petting shouldn’t be an issue.

How Do I Teach My Cat to Like Being Petted?

If you desire, you can try to teach your cat to like petting sessions. Pet your cat the smallest amount of times she’ll allow, then offer her a treat. Repeat this, always stopping before any agitation occurs. Gradually, put in an additional pet or stroke and then offer the treat. Over time, you can increase the amount of petting your cat will put up with!

Set up an appointment with your Grandview veterinarian if your cat has a serious behavior problem. Excessive scratching and biting can be corrected with the help of a professional.