Petting Induced Aggression
Last year I lost my beloved 18 year old Siamese cat to kidney failure. She was a wonderful companion over all those years. I later went to the local humane society and adopted a new black and white male cat. Sometimes when I pet him he purrs and is affectionate but then other times he will bite, put his ears back, and hiss at me. Is he a mean cat and can I do something to make him nicer?
We are sorry for the loss of your older cat. It is always difficult to lose a family member, but we take comfort in the many good memories over her long lifetime. I’m sure you gave her a good home and she gave great companionship during that time.
We are very pleased that you have acquired another animal and that you gave a home to a stray or abandoned cat from the humane society.
Let’s address the cat behavior problem. It is always a little more challenging to have a young cat in the household as opposed to an elderly one. They certainly bring more activity and excitement to our homes! Each cat has its own personality. Younger cats are always more playful, which makes them a little more aggressive.
Play-biting in cats is normal and can be a sign of affection, but when we get to more aggressive play, like putting the ears back and growling, that is not acceptable. Because younger cats are more playful, we need to provide them some activity when they become like this. You need to reward the good behavior and punish or ignore the bad behavior.
While a firm “no” works very well with puppies and dogs, it has mixed to poor results with cats. A squirt gun (filled with water) sprayed at the cat or a very loud noise (bike horns work well) at the time of the bad behavior can help the cat know that what he is doing is not acceptable. The key is in the timing—the punishment has to occur at exactly the time of the inappropriate behavior, and should not be used as a threat to the cat. You may also stand up (if the cat is in your lap) and leave the area, showing him that he does not get attention when he acts inappropriately.
You might want to get one of those long flexible poles with a cat toy attached to the end to entertain him. Have a toy handy to throw out and get him interested in retrieving rather than biting your hand. You also may want to reward his good purring, petting behavior with a cat treat which is available in stores. You need to make sure you find one that he will eat and enjoy. This will encourage his lap behavior and not his biting behavior.
Finally, there are some cats that are not lap cats. He may want to be petted only for short periods of time and on his own terms. Remember that younger cats are less patient and usually more active, so they can be less affectionate.
As they get older, they may become a little less active and more affectionate. There will always be cats, no matter the age, who do not like to sit on or next to humans. They just want to show a little affection and be on their way. There is nothing wrong with this, it is just their nature. We have to accept this relationship as their way of showing affection.