My daughter’s cat, Fizzy Izzy, has a nasty habit of biting. One moment she seems to be relaxed and enjoying being petted and stroked. Then out of the blue she turns and attacks the offending hand.
Accepting stroking is a learned response rather than natural behaviour. Cats have to relax and trust the human who is petting them. When some cats relax beyond a certain point they feel vulnerable and react defensively by biting.
Izzy was adopted at 4 months of age and may not have been socialized to humans adequately.
Younger cats may calm down as they mature. Older cats who are set in their ways are harder to help. Reading your cat’s body language and not deliberately provoking a reaction is imperative. If Izzy’s ears twitch or turn back or if she suddenly becomes tense we stop stroking her immediately.
My daughter is trying to help her feel more secure with physical attention by sitting quietly with her, moving slowly and staying calm. When Izzy stays relaxed she scores a cat treat. We don’t stretch the point and stay tuned to the amount of tension in her body.
Punishment only reinforces this type of cat’s belief that humans are a threat and cannot be trusted.
We warn all visitors to only minimally pet her even if she invites it.
I snapped Izzy in her terrace garden earlier this week and posted the pic below. She has been a much happier and relaxed puss since she moved into a terrace with a garden. Lots of diversions and natural things to play with have helped her trust and relax with the humans in her life.
Some of this article was adapted from the FAB cats information site on cat behaviour- visit it today and see what else you can find!
FABcats on cat behaviour