Dear Miss Behavin’:

My cat Felix has been biting and scratching me a lot lately, and I think it’s from overstimulation. Would getting a second cat help?

 Although getting a second cat might seem like a good way for Felix to have a playmate, it can also make things worse. The second cat might have been playful when you first met them, and then may become more reserved or mellow in the presence of Felix. This also won’t really change the behavior of Felix towards you, and may increase the likelihood of both cats getting into scuffles.

Instead, let’s focus on the issue of overstimulation before thinking about getting another cat. If Felix shows any of the following body language: flicking or wagging tail very quickly, twitching ears, dilated pupils, ears back or twitching, then Felix is indeed getting overstimulated. Once Felix is overstimulated, he may react to you with a nip or a scratch. At this point, be sure to stop petting Felix and refocus him on a toy instead. Try a different approach to petting Felix, by focusing pets around Felix’s cheeks and head, instead of long full pets from head to tail. These long pets tend to lead to overstimulation a lot quicker than pets around the head and cheeks. Be sure to observe Felix for what he may find stimulating, what his tolerance level for the stimulating behavior is, and when an adequate time is to end the interaction.

For some cats, it can be as easy as ending a petting session and refocusing the cat’s attention on their favorite toys. If your cat plays roughly, consider investing in long cat wands with long strings and feathers attached, giving you ample distance from your cats claws. This can help prevent any misdirected bites and scratches when the cat is grabbing for the toy with its mouth and claws.

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