It's a scenario many cat owners are all too familiar with. They are simply enjoying some petting time with their feline companion, when all of a sudden they are bitten.
Pet health experts say the behavior, known as petting aggression, occurs when the animal is no longer enjoying being stroked. Because cats can't speak, they use biting to say, "I've had enough. Now leave me alone."
Luckily, the aggression usually does not result in injury. However, it can leave pet owners confused and unsure of the proper way to interact with their animal.
It's important to know that petting aggression is a relatively common behavior. That being said, if your cat begins to exhibit it, you should consult a vet to rule out any underlying medical problems that are causing the animal discomfort. According to PetEducation.com, conditions that may contribute to biting when being petted include arthritis, tooth ache or ear infection.
Cats who were not handled by humans early in their lives or who were poorly socialized may also be more prone to petting aggression.
The good news for cat owners is that it is possible to recognize the signs that the animal may lash out so they can prevent being bitten. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, growling or hissing are sure signs the cat is getting fed up. Other less obvious signs include tail twitching, body tensing, dilated pupils or ear movements such as flattening the ears against the head.
Ending physical contact and petting at the first sign any of these behaviors can prevent biting.
If you have difficulty recognizing the signs that your cat is becoming annoyed but know that he is prone to petting aggression, pet experts say it may be beneficial to find a preferred way to interact with your cat. This may be as simple as discovering exactly how and where the cat likes being scratched or eliminating petting in favor of other interactions such as allowing him to sit on your lap or playing games together. Vets say avoiding all physical contact may also be necessary in order to avoid this and other cat behavior problems.
One thing to keep in mind is that vets say it's important to avoid physically punishing your cat if he bites while being petted, as it will likely increase the animal's anxiety and cause him to become more aggressive.