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How to Fix Your Cats' Petting Aggression

Do you have a cat that is aggressive when you try to pet them?

It can be hard to determine what to do, due to each cat having their own behavioural patterns. Cat lovers, here are some basic tips on how to stop your cats aggressive behaviours.

cat being pet by hand on head

Know the Warning Signs

Cat communication varies between cats. Make sure to watch your cats body language, as this can give away clues on what the cat intends to do. To avoid getting bitten look out for the following body language signs:

  • An active tail and tuned down ears means they are ready to attack.
  • Sudden dilation of the cat’s eyes indicates arousal.
  • Purrs that transition to low growls warns you to back off.


crouched cat with dilated pupils


Determine Why They are Aggressive

When your cat wants attention, they will let you pat them. There will be a time limit about how long your cat wants to be petted.

Most petting aggression behaviour occurs when your cat bites you after being petted. There are reasons why your cat will do this, including:

  • They want you to stop petting them
  • They want you to stop what you are doing (holding them/petting them/moving them etc.)

There are also other reasons why your cat might be aggressive.

There are certain situations that may increase the chances of aggression in cats:

  • Kittens that have been taken away from the litter too early
  • Cats that are left alone in the house without interaction from people

This type of aggression in cats is known as a ‘bully cat’. If your cat is aggressive to you, do not hit or smack them. This behaviour will lessen their trust in you, and make them worse.

It is best to learn how to identify and avoid situations that may lead to aggression.


hissing cat


Your cat uses aggression to control your interaction with them. Remember, cats have limited ways of communicating with you. Aggression may be the only way your cat thinks you will understand them.

Make biting unnecessary by trying to avoid situations that will prompt bites. Manage them so they do not get the chance to bite. Be consistent and practice tough kitty love.

Keep in mind that bad habits will often become worse before they go away. Below are some tips of how to retrain your cat's behaviour.

The Petting Threshold

Every cat will have a different threshold of how much petting they can handle. The easiest way for you to determine this is by counting how many times you pat your cat. Once they bite you, stop counting.

The number you count (minus 1) should be a rough guide about how much you should pet your cat. Once you have identified their limit, ensure you stop petting them before they bite you. Generally, cats are more accepting of touching on the head and neck, rather than full body stokes. Ensure you limit your petting to your cat’s head and/or back of their neck. If your cat is sitting on your lap it is best not to push them off. Instead, stand up slowly, allowing them to jump off.


man petting cat


Petting De-sensitisation

You could also work on de-sensitising your cat and improving their petting tolerance. Use the counting technique, and add 1 more pat before quickly moving away. Do this once a week, gradually adding 1 more pat each time.

Of course, watch your cats body language and try to go at their pace. Make sure to give your cat attention consistently, as a routine will be more calming to your cat.

Over time, you will be able to increase their threshold and avoid getting bitten.


cat being pet by hand on head


Use Bribes for Actions

If your cat doesn't like being petted too much, they may also not like being moved or picked up. Once your cat is comfortable and is in one spot, try using positive reinforcement to try and get your cat to move.

Use treats or toys to get your cat to move. While luring them off, say 'move' to teach your cat that 'move' is a command. Continue to use the ‘move’ command while using a sweeping motion with your hand to train your cat. This command may be may be all that you need to do to make them move.

If you are able to slightly move furniture by tipping or shaking, you can also do this to get your cat to move on their own.


woman playing with toy and cat


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