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Avoiding Misunderstandings With Your Cat: Games and Caresses

We love and admire our cats for their ability to keep the wild side of their ancestors. At the same time, our daily actions and interactions often contradict this characteristic of their own character. Two common types of over-stimulation: games and caresses show how a better understanding of these natural cat behaviors can help us interact more peacefully.

Caress In The Wrong Way
You are comfortably seated in your bed, reading, casually caressing your cat with one hand while holding your book in the other. Suddenly, you feel small, sharp teeth piercing your hand. Looking up, you see your cat sitting quietly on the other side of the room. What happened?  

Watch your cat’s behavior with other cats to get the answer to this question. Cat-to-cat caresses are usually short-lived – a time you’ve probably overstepped without noticing! Your cat has certainly given you several small warnings before biting you: dilated pupils, stiffening, jerking of the tail, or even a head that turns quickly as your hand arrives near a «forbidden» place. So it would be good, in order to avoid petting your feline companion in the wrong place, to pay a little more attention to his behaviors and to respond to the stop signals he transmits to you.

If your cat has a relatively low caress threshold (more common in unsterilized males), you can slowly increase it by pairing caresses with meals or treats. If he can accept two or three caresses calmly, complete them, then offer a treat and caress him again before ending the session (gently increase the number of caresses after each treat). If your cat has a hard time accepting caresses, do so once or twice by giving her a bowl of food.

“Aggressive” games
You walk down the hall very slowly when suddenly your cat grabs your toe and bites it. What happened?

There is a good chance that your cat will simply practice the skills he would normally practice to survive in the wild such as: tracking, hunting, crushing, scratching and biting. It can give a dry kick with its tail, rotate its ears from the back to the front or remain motionless in a crouching position before leaping and wrapping its front legs around your hand or foot, while biting it – the position of the body resembling that of a cat preparing to jump on its prey.

These “mischievous” attacks usually happen when you don’t expect them, whether it’s when you turn around a corner of the house, move under the blankets or walk down the stairs. and can often be differentiated from aggressive attacks by a side jump or bounce, arched back, half-open mouth or silence (no grunting, spitting or whistling). Despite the game intentions of your cat, it can result in scratches, inhibited bites (which do not pierce the skin) or serious injuries (scratches and bites can become infected). The cats most likely to play the game of aggression are those less than two years old, often the only cats in the house and who spend more than eight to ten hours alone in a day.

Tips and Tricks To Keep Your Play Time Interesting, While Sparing Your Fingers and Toes

Encourage appropriate play
  • Channel your cat’s energy into positive play by practicing pleasant feline sports, two to three times a day for three to ten minutes per session.
  • Include daily interactive games with your cats using cat fishing rods, chopsticks with feathers, mice with catnip and insects on a thread (keep them handy when your cat is unsupervised).
  • Build a central outdoor entertainment enclosure with perches, boxes and shelves to redirect your cat’s energy.
  • If you can afford the extra cost and you have time, consider adopting a feline companion for your cat alone at home so that he can have someone to spend his energy with (make sure the new kitten has the same energy).
  • Avoid playing aggressively with your cat or encouraging them to bite your hand or foot during a game (also make sure all family members follow this rule).

Distraction and Attack Diversion Games
  • If you can predict the timing of your cat’s attacks, throw a toy ahead of you to get your cat’s attention away from your feet.
  • If your attempts at distraction or diversion do not work, remove all attention when entering another room and close the door long enough for it to calm down.
  • Avoid hitting, jostling, patting, or giving chiquenaudes to play more aggressively with your cat (or blocking it with your foot or running away). These tactics are more likely to scare him, intensify the game or move him from play to aggression.
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean all bites or grafts and apply antibiotic ointment to them. If you have received a bad bite, you should consult a doctor immediately.