It happens to me and my staff all the time when we’re providing care for our client’s feline fur-kids. If you have cats, no matter how much they love and adore you, I’m sure you have probably experienced it yourself.
The dreaded “Love-bite”.
Since many of our fur-kid kitty-cat clients want more than just spotlessly clean litter box, their cat-grass watered and their breakfast or dinner delivered on time (and kitty says not a minute late, mind you) we always incorporate “socialization” in our pet care and go the extra mile to scratch, pet, brush or play with our cat-clients when their pet-parents can’t be with them (if they aren’t hiding out under the bed). Sometimes that mile is a painful journey.
We sit in the “favorite” chair. Kitty stares imploringly at us at our feet and meows as if to say: “Hey…you have a job to do”. We invite him/her up into our laps and commence to gently stroking, petting or doing whatever else their pet-parent has instructed us that Kitty enjoys. Enter the jet-engine purr.
And then…..The afore-mentioned purr stops abruptly the next second we’re left yowling in pain and staring with confusion at puncture holes in our hands, arms or both as Kitty launches herself/himself off our laps and stares at us from across the room with what now can be only be described as great disdain. Insert indigent tail-flick.
Yep. Kitty goes from friendly to feral in a nano-second.
It turns out that there is actual a more scientific term for this conundrum: Petting-induced aggression—and after trying to research WHY we have said puncture wounds – it turns out that it’s not a very well understood behavior at all.
Experts don’t agree on exactly why some cats enjoy being petted, but end up biting. One thing that they do agree on is that when kitty bites at you, it’s a sure sign that she has decided that she’s had enough stroking.
Really? Thank you, scientific cat-behavior trail-blazer, for the deep insight.
A couple of possibilities have been proposed to explain why cats might do this:
- It may be a manifestation of so-called status-induced aggression, in which cats seek to control a situation. Geez. Can’t you just jump down? No. Too predictable…. much like dog behavior.
- There may be some neurologically significant negative stimulus associated with being petted at length that affects cats in particular. Translation – cats rule, you drool.
- Cats may be especially subtle at letting humans know when they’re unhappy, so that their change in attitude appears more sudden than it truly is. Basically, Kitty thinks we should be able to read his/her mind and STOP before even THEY know they don’t want to be petted anymore.
Ok…so the GREAT news is that there may be warning signs of when your cat is going to bite you:
- If Kitty’s tail begins to twitch in a rolling little flick, watch out! You’re getting ready to be chomped.
- If Kitty’s ears start turning towards the back of her head, or flatten against her head, puncture wounds are in your very near future.
- If Kitty suddenly becomes restless, or stiffens and stares at your hand, take heed. Don’t. Move. A. Muscle.
My scientific analogy of this behavioral pattern, and ALL cat behaviors is that cats act this way “because they can” – after all, they’re cats, and most cats think, or rather know, that they rule the world.
– Beth Green, Owner & Pack Leader At Paws Pet Care Pet Sitting & Dog Walking