Pet Connection Q&A:Cat's tail will signal when to stop petting

03/19/2013 12:00 AM

03/18/2013 3:17 PM

We've been adopted by a cat, and he's earned his way from "stray we fed" to "our outside cat" to "sometimes inside" to "sleeps anywhere he wants in the house." He's usually affectionate and loves to purr, but now and then he just gets wound up and claws and bites us when we're petting him, just out of the blue. He never breaks skin with his teeth, but sometimes he hurts with his claws. It seems to be a game with him, but we need it to stop. Advice?

Human stupidity (from the cat's point of view, that is) in misreading or ignoring body language earns more than a few cat lovers a scratch or bite from time to time – the result of misinterpreting a cat's "I've had enough" signs.

The classic example of this phenomenon is the cat who, while being petted, "suddenly" grabs the hand that pets him with teeth and claws, to the shock and sometimes anger of the human doing the petting.

In fact, these "out of the blue" attacks rarely are that. Before the biting or clawing, a cat gives out subtle signs of diminished tolerance. Primary among them: an increase in the stiffness and twitching of the tail.

Often, the problem starts with petting your cat's tummy, a very vulnerable area for any animal. Your cat may even offer his belly out of love, but after you start to pet, he may become increasingly uncomfortable with the attention. Most cats just don't like tummy rubs, although exceptions to this rule certainly do exist.

Watch your cat's body signs: If he's tensing or that tail starts twitching, stop petting immediately. Not only does doing so save you claw and teeth marks, but stopping before your cat strikes also slowly builds up his trust in you and his tolerance for physical attention.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Are parasites becoming resistant to control?

Researchers are warning about the development of heartworms and other parasites resistant to products commonly used to kill them in domesticated animals. Speaking at the Western Veterinary Conference, Dr. Dwight Bowman of Cornell University cited evidence of resistant heartworms in the southeastern part of the United States. Dr. Christy Corp-Minamiji, writing for the VIN News Service, quoted several researchers who likewise believed the wide use of products for parasite control and prevention was driving the evolution of pests resistant to the drugs, which are in common use for both pets and livestock.

"Green" does not necessarily mean "safe for pets" when it comes to household products, veterinarians at the University of California, Davis, and the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center told the Associated Press. Of particular risk are homemade cleaning concoctions, some of which contain essential oils, such as citrus or mint, that are toxic to cats.

Proposals to tax veterinary services are again being floated as part of larger strategies to balance state budgets. Veterinarians in Ohio and Minnesota argue that the proposals put veterinary care out of reach for many in struggling communities, and drive others to cross state lines for care, putting local veterinary businesses at risk. California, Michigan and Georgia have previously floated plans to tax veterinary services, but only Hawaii, New Mexico and South Dakota levy sales taxes on pet health care.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

Do you have a pet question? Send it to petconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

Entertainment Videos

 

Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service