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Aggression in cats

Petting-induced aggression and overstimulation

Cats aren't close-contact animals by nature, and some cats tolerate less touching than others before becoming uncomforable. Understanding your cat's body language can help to avoid agression caused by overstimulation.

Be aware of warning signs

Tail lashing/thumping, shifting of body position, skin twitching, and direct stares are indications that your cat has had enough petting. If the petting continues, he will likely scratch or bite. Stop petting if you notice these signs. Do not try to interact with the cat in any way. Just leave him where he is.

Try not to reach your cat’s warning phase

You don’t want your cat to learn that the only way to get his message across is to hurt you. If your cat becomes overstimulated after four minutes, for example, stop petting after two minutes.

Respect a cat that doesn’t like petting

It may sound strange, but some cats simply don’t enjoy being pet. If yours is one of them, allow him to sit on your lap or beside you on the couch. Not petting him will build trust and allow him to feel safe around you. You might try scratching his chin or the back of his head, starting with just a few seconds.

Avoid rubbing your cat’s belly

If your cat exposes his belly, it typically means one of two things: defensive aggression or relaxation. Even a relaxing cat can become defensively aggressive when his belly is touched.  Avoid it!

Supervise all child-cat interactions

If you have small children, don't let them chase, grab, pick up or carry the cat, as this could result in serious injury. Older children can be taught that cats are not playthings but living, sensitive animals. Young children won’t understand this and should be closely supervised around your cat.

Aggression between cats

Types of aggression between cats

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission. Source: Victoria L. Voith, DVM, PhD, and Peter L. Borchelt, PhD.