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Letting your cat choose when they want to be petted can improve your relationship – and also keep you from getting bitten or scratched – one study found.
Feline behavior experts at Nottingham Trent University have developed a set of interaction guidelines to help pet owners, whom they have dubbed “CAT.”
They advise giving their cats choice and control (C), paying attention (A) to their pet’s behavior and body language, and thinking about where they touch (T) their kitten.
When these simple rules are followed, the team found that cats are less likely to behave aggressively towards humans and are also more affectionate.
Letting your cat choose when they want to be petted can improve your relationship – and also keep you from getting bitten or scratched – one study found. Pictured: A can hits a man
According to study leader Lauren Finka – a feline behavior expert from Nottingham Trent University – the key to making sure your cat is happy and comfortable when you’re together is making sure that it controls the interactions.
A good place to start, she explained, is offering your hand to your cat and letting them decide if they want to interact – if they want to, they’ll likely bump into you.
Owners should allow their cat to walk away if they wish and resist the temptation to follow the feline or pick it up, as this takes away the cat’s sense of control, the researchers explained.
Cats are easily over-stimulated by petting. Signs that a cat may want you to stop petting it may include tail flapping, head turning, spinning or flattening of its ears, nodding, nose licking, attempting to pull away or a ripple of the fur on the back.
Other behaviors can include if the cat comes to rest, stops purring, stops rubbing against you, suddenly begins to groom, or quickly turns its head to face you.
Cats are easily over-stimulated by petting. Signs that a cat may want you to stop petting it may include tail flapping, head turning, spinning or flattening of its ears, nodding, nose licking, attempting to pull away or a ripple of the fur on the back. Continuing to pet a cat at this point may force it to resort to less subtle messages – like scratching (pictured)
Continuing to pet a cat at this point may force them to resort to less subtle messages of their discomfort, including scratching, hissing, or biting you.
As part of their study, Dr Finka and his colleagues also looked at where cats like to be petted the most – the base of their ears, around their cheeks, and under the chin being prime positions for petting.
According to the team, it’s often wise to avoid touching a cat’s belly and the base of a cat’s tail – as well as being careful when stroking its back – especially with an unfamiliar feline, although some cats enjoy being petted here.
“The results demonstrate a clear preference among cats for a more ‘hands off’ approach to petting, which ultimately allows them to call most of the punches,” said Dr Finka.
“Cats aren’t necessarily known for being overly expressive when it comes to communicating their feelings.”
âThis can often cause problems during petting, as many cats can feel a little uncomfortable at times, but it’s not something that is always easy for us to understand,â he said. – she concluded.
“The results demonstrate a clear preference among cats for a more ‘hands off’ approach to petting, which ultimately allows them to call most of the strokes,” said Dr Finka
âWhile every cat has a wonderfully unique personality, they often share fundamental similarities, as this new study shows,â said JoAnna Puzzo, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Feline Welfare Manager.
“Cats can be incredibly subtle in expressing their likes and dislikes, and as a result their behavior can be misunderstood or ignored altogether.”
âBy using these new, simple but effective ‘cat’ guidelines, owners will be able to better understand how their cat is feeling and tailor the way they interact to ensure their pet is happy and relaxed. “
To help them refine the CAT guidelines, the team monitored brief interactions between the human participants and 100 felines at Battersea Cattery in London.
Each participant interacted with six cats – three before receiving training on the CAT guidelines, then three after.
The researchers found that cats were much less likely to show signs of discomfort or behave aggressively when people followed directions.
The same cats were also more likely to display friendly behaviors towards participants and seemed more comfortable during interactions that took place after training, the team noted.
The full results of the study have been published in the journal Frontiers of veterinary science.