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Five Steps to Correct Petting-Induced Aggression in Cats

five steps to correct petting-induced aggression in cats

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I’m getting more and more calls from cat parents who are confused about why they’re getting bitten when petting their cats. Things start out just fine and then suddenly, without warning, the cat turns around and lashes out with teeth or claws.

In many cases the behavior being displayed is called petting-induced aggression. It seems to come out of nowhere from the cat parent’s point of view. A quiet session of petting and affection suddenly turns violent as the cat sinks his teeth into the very hand that’s stroking him.

Here are five steps for identifying and correcting petting-induced aggression:

1. Vet Visit for Your Cat

Just to be on the safe side, have your cat examined by the veterinarian because the sudden aggression may be the result of pain. He may be fine when you pet him in some locations on his body but if you hit that tender spot he may react aggressively. Go to the veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an injury you’re unaware of or some unseen condition such as arthritis, tooth problem, abscess, etc.

2. Did You Interpret Your Cat’s Mood Correctly?

Sometimes the reason your cat may bite when you’ve been petting him is that you misinterpreted his intention when he approached in the first place. His approach may actually have been a play solicitation and not a desire to engage in physical affection. Perhaps he was being as tolerant as possible by allowing you to stroke him a few times but if he was in play-mode and not affection-mode then the stroking just served to increase his stimulation.

quote from dr. haug


3. Read Your Cat’s Body Language

Even though it may seem as if your cat displayed aggression without any warning, there are usually several body language signals given off that cat parents often ignore. If you’re not paying attention to your cat as you pet him, it may seem as if his attack is out of blue but from his point of view, he clearly gave numerous warnings. If you have a cat who has displayed petting-induced aggression previously then you need to watch his body language as you pet him. You can’t become distracted or you’ll easily miss those physical warning signs again.


  1. I have a cat that i pretty well know knows why she is being disciplined. Some times you have no choice, The cat wants to walk on something that could break or create other problems. What seems worse is when i have no choice but to pick the cat up.
    When i first got the cat and it went to bite me after petting her for a while i would push her away. Or put her in the bathroom for a time out. Then i read articles like this and stopped with the discipline. the cat is not stupid. The next time she nipped me i did nothing and THEN her ears went down because she was expecting some recourse. After i stopped for a while each nip got more aggressive as if like a child she was testing me to see what she can get away with.
    Sometimes she lets me know she no longer wants to be petted by moving away or meowing in a nasty way. Other times there is no warning. And it not that i pet is not that i pet her some where different.
    I think with cats it can be a game of who is in charge. and it will be you the owner or the cat. I will try your advice a little longer and if her actions become steadily more aggressive i will go back to discipline.

  2. My cat Sky,it’s hard to read the warnings, she is always wagging her tail, she reminds me of a dog, as soon as she sees me the tail starts going she gets excited. Even when she eats, her ears don’t go back or out but her tail is constantly wagging when do I know when to stop petting her. She doesn’t stop purring and jumps in my lap for me to pet her. But she bites me.

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