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The Cat Division of the IAABC offers opportunities to both seasoned and aspiring professional Cat Behavior Consultants. We encourage members to share with and learn from one another in IAABC's online educational venues, including discussion lists, guided studies, case study tutorials, mentoring, and networking. We work together to establish guidelines for dealing with cat behavior issues and toward the goal of enhancing the lives and relationships of cats and their people.

The Not So Touchy-Feely Feline!

Ingrid Johnson on April 16, 2014

Leave me alone.
Leave me alone.

Petting induced aggression, over-stimulation, petting intolerance, hypersensitivity to touch, short fused personality-call it what you will all of these terms mean your cat is not so touchy-feely! Similarly to some people, some cats just want to be with you but not constantly touched or pet. I’m sure we all have a friend out there that wants to hug you every time you see them but perhaps you just saw them yesterday and you don’t feel the need to hug them! Cats can be the same way and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The key to managing and dealing with your over-stimulated cat is to recognize the signs that they are growing displeased with the petting. If your cat is sitting beside you on the sofa and you’re petting them and you see their tail start to flick and switch back-and-forth in an agitated short, quick, motion or you see their ears go flat or their skin ripple, twitch and roll then stop touching them! I call this the equivalent of the kitty heebie-jeebies. These cats often want to be with you but not necessarily be touched the entire time so that means if on the fifth stroke you would normally get swat or bitten stop at three. The key with these cats is to always leave them wanting more. In other words, stop before you push them to the point where they feel the need to lash out at you. They don’t have any other way of saying, “that’s enough, thank you”. So the cat either gets up and walks away, swats at you or bites you. The problem is that many people don’t recognize that the cat has given you many warnings prior to one of those three things happening, you just weren’t listening!

Another great tip for these cats is to simply find other activities to bond with them. Most cats that have petting intolerance also do not like a lot of brushing or grooming. Find ways to spend time with your cat such as interactive play via a lure toy instead of constant touching. Even cats with petting intolerance usually enjoy a good chin or cheek scratch, so stick to the head when petting.

Additionally, I find that many cats with this problem are also obese and they never get to touch down their own back with their own tongue while grooming themselves. So when we pet them down their back it’s a very sensitive area since it never gets touched in their self-grooming process. Part of the beauty of having a multi-cat household, as so many people do these days, is you may have one cat with petting intolerance and others that love affection and relish and it. Accept each individual for who they are and try not to make them something they are not.


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