When I was a kid, I had five cats at one time. They were all affectionate and loving kitties. We had a black and white feline named Sam, Livy was an Abyssinian, Kelly a calico, Luciano a beautiful long-haired black beauty who died entirely too young at age 2 from heart failure.
With each of those four, you could pet them all day and they’d just love it. However, Storm, a gray cat who was born in a (you guessed it) storm would let us pet her once or twice, act like she enjoyed it and then chomp down on the outer portion of my hand, get nervous and run away. Every time I tried to pet her, it would be the same exact thing. Why on earth did she do that?
I’ve never known… until now.
Pet experts call the phenomenon “pet-induced” aggression. It makes sense when you consider the fact that one minute your kitty seems hideously pleased and then painstaking perturbed in a second’s time.
Dr. Patty Khuly over at VetStreet says there are a few theories that may explain it:
It may be a manifestation of so-called status-induced aggression, in which cats seek to control a situation. There may be some neurologically significant negative stimulus associated with being petted at length that affects these cats in particular. These cats may be especially subtle at letting humans know when they’re unhappy, so that their change in attitude appears more sudden than it truly is.
Pet experts say there are ways to identify even the subtlest behavioral changes so owners might eventually learn to identify aggressive behavior before they get bitten. But until then, we should continue petting our cats…but maybe just with gloves on!
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