This is a very common form of aggression. You’re sitting on the couch. Your cat comes to you asking to be petted.
Oh, how sweet. Let me pet you.
You like that, kitty? Is that good? Yes, you like that, don’t you?
You really love it. I can tell!
Now your hand has reddish pinholes in it, and your feelings are smarting too. What just happened? There are a few possible reasons for this kind of bait and switch.
• Overstimulation Cats are wired to be extremely sensitive to stroking and you may have overstimulated him by petting. Cats touch receptors can get their signals crossed in the brain so that the feeling of pleasure turns into pain.
• Undesirable Style of Petting Many cats do not like being petted or stroked on their sides, below mid-back, or near their tail, and may tolerate it only for a short time. If you think about it, body petting is not a natural activity for cats, whose grooming of one another is focused mostly on the head and neck.
• Improper Socialization If your cat was not petted often as a young kitten or had a negative experience with a human hand, such as a punishing whack, your own hand may not be welcome, or may be welcome only briefly.
• Feeling Confined or Confused A cat puts itself in a very vulnerable position when it sits on your lap and allows itself to be stroked. While you’re petting your cat, he may become very relaxed, drifting in and out of awareness of his surroundings, but if the world suddenly comes back into focus for him, he may feel overwhelmed or confined, at which point his fight-or-flight response may kick in and he may bite. And not in a spirit of play!
In some cats, petting-induced aggression may overlap with pain-and so-called irritation-induced aggression, or even status-related aggression.
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