Q: My eight-year-old cat is hostile to me, her primary caregiver. She follows me around the house when I prepare her litter and food, but bites, hisses and claws when I try to touch her. Strangely, she is affectionate towards to the rest of my family—allowing petting and hugging. What is wrong?
A: It is difficult to establish the cause of aggression based on the information given. For a proper analysis, I need to know how you and your family members interact with the cat. However, for touch-related aggression, I recommend that you bring your cat to the vet for a thorough check-up to ensure that there are no underlying conditions such as arthritis, which can cause pain when touched. If it is not due to a health condition, it could be that you’re being too “touchy” for your cat’s comfort.
Cats are solitary animals by nature. In their natural environment, cats generally spend a minimal amount of time interacting with members of a social group. If you observe a colony of community cats in your neighborhood, you will notice that at meal time, the cats will gather at the feeding point to wait for the cat feeder to arrive. During this period, friendly members may greet each other by sniffing and rubbing affectionately against each other. However, after eating, the cats will go their separate ways. On odd occasions, you may see bonded pairs hanging out with each other, but it is very rare.
In a home environment, many cat owners tend to be overly affectionate towards their cats. This is totally understandable—it is difficult to keep our hands off such adorable creatures! However, your feline furkid may think otherwise. Showering too much attention on your cat may cause him to get frustrated. Since you’re the primary caregiver, you may be expressing your love too overtly the way humans do (with hugs, kisses, and pets), making your cat unhappy. She may feel more at ease with your family members, who probably fuss over her less, and have a “hi-bye” relationship with her. To most cats, this is much more favorable.
The solution for your situation is to ignore your cat! Cat-initiated interactions are preferred over human-initiated interactions, and usually last longer. Let your cat decide when cuddle time is. When she wants to play, she will walk to you and ask for attention. When this happens, play with her using stimulating toys to allow her to associate you with positivity. You should also continue to be her main feeder.