Vicky Halls Cat Behaviour Counsellor

Q: My eight- month-old kitten turns into a wild cat, attacking everyone who tries to stroke her or pick her up! Otherwise, she's a lovely character and enjoys playing. Will she become more affectionate as she grows older?

A: Your kitten may have learnt to play rough at some time in her past. Every time you try to pick her up or stroke her she things you are up for a fighting game. It could also be that her early experiences didn't include the right quality of contact with humans so she doesn't really understand the benefits of cuddles.

I would suggest you concentrate on play that involves inanimate objects rather than your body parts! Only approach her for stroking and picking up when she is tired and finished with play; try not to put your hand out and come towards her from the front - this can look threatening. Keep the contact brief to start with, to get her used to this sort of interaction. You can even end with a positive treat like her favourite food.

If you accustom her to the delights of this sort of contact at this age she may well reward you and become more affectionate later in life!

Q: Our cat attacks my legs whenever I walk past. I get such a scare that I end up screaming and I'm now frightened to walk around the house. He tends to attack me more than my husband.

A: Cats have many different motivations for aggression so it's very difficult to be accurate in 'diagnosing' your cat's behaviour without coming to visit. Giving advice on cat aggression cases can be tricky as you and your family (and other people who come into contact with him) are potentially in danger if you are given the wrong advice.

With that in mind I would suggest an immediate call to your vet for a check up and a referral to a cat behaviour counsellor. Never underestimate the damage that a small cat can do.

In the meantime, to keep you safe:

Wear protective clothing
Shut your cat out of your bedroom at night
Do not make eye, verbal or physical contact with your cat
Try not to approach or pass your cat in narrow passageways or on the stairs

Q: Why does my cat love to be stroked one minute and then turn and give me a cat bite?

A: This is a common problem that is referred to as the "petting and biting syndrome". Many cats enjoy the sensation of being stroked since it is like being groomed by their mothers when they were tiny kittens. However the adult cat has a strong instinctive survival mechanism and they can feel vulnerable to attack if they allow themselves to become too relaxed and comfortable. They develop a sense of conflict between pleasure and potential danger and this can result in a sudden aggressive cat gesture to "escape" from the situation. Cats can often be seen running away a few steps and then stopping to groom their paw quickly as if they are rather embarrassed by the incident! Some cats will tolerate more stroking than others and this can be influenced by their experiences with humans when they were young kittens. Any cat that displays this behaviour will provide strong signals beforehand to give you plenty of warning. For example, he or she will stop purring, visibly stiffen and start to thrash the tail from side to side. If you stop stroking at the first sign you will not get bitten.

Understanding cat behaviour will help you and your cat have a better relationship. Follow some real case studies in my award winning Books

Got a question? My Feline FAQs and Free Guides page answers some of the most commonly asked questions and gives you access to some great advice in my free cat behaviour guides.

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