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Play and Prey Aggression

Play and Prey Aggression

We've all heard the expression "as playful as a kitten." Kittens love to pounce and chase one another in what behaviorists describe as attack-andretreat behavior. They will jump on each other and wrestle around, clutching each other. When they get older, they continue to play in this mode and sometimes even hiss and growl. Although it may sound serious, they are still in play mode. Cats also indulge in predatory play. They will lie in wait, hiding, crouching, getting ready to spring out and pounce as they would if they were hunting in the wild. Very often cats transfer these play and prey tactics to the humans in the household, lying in wait and jumping out to attack legs and feet. Sometimes a calm and peaceful petting session suddenly turns aggressive when your cat gets overstimulated and bites down on a finger and brings both her front and back legs together to hold your arm in a vicelike grip.

When it comes to a petting or a play session, you need know to when to stop the game, which is before your cat becomes overstimulated and goes into attack mode. Learn to read the signs, such as a twitching tail or flashing eyes and flattening ears, that will herald a bite and stop petting or playing with the cat. Initially, keep a squirt bottle handy and squirt her paws, never her face, with your "free" hand. An alternative is redirecting the cat's attention elsewhere by throwing a toy. You can also walk away and call it a timeout. Once again, remember never to resort to physical punishment because cats don't learn from it and it only introduces a new set of behavioral problems.It's also an excellent idea to divert a cat's play and prey drive by engaging her in interactive games with toys such as wands with fluttery furry or buglike objects, such as Neko Flies, on the end. There are also wonderful battery-operated toys that cats love to chase around and attack that keep your hands and feet out of the equation. Always remember to pack them away when the games are over to prevent accidents such as cats choking themselves by ingesting things or wrapping the strings around their necks.

Alpha Cat Syndrome

If you haven't yet encountered an alpha cat, be forewarned: They are the born leaders of the feline world, ready to take charge of everything. They will dictate how things should be done and when they should be done, setting up the play schedule and the feeding schedule-they are particularly insistent on meal times. They will prod you out of bed in the morning by pawing your eyelids or even biting you on the ear. They will also let you know in no uncertain terms when you can pet and play with them and when they would prefer you to keep your hands to yourself. Thus, the most classical component of alpha cat syndrome is petting-induced aggression. Petting-induced aggression seems to occur out of the blue: you are petting your kitty and suddenly she goes from being quiet and placid to all fangs and claws and bites-hard bites! It's particularly important to know and understand your feline, so that when you see that tail begin to twitch and the eyes narrow down, you know that an attack is imminent. Prevent it from happening by ending the petting session by simply getting up and walking away until calm is restored.Alpha cats need to know who is the boss-you. And, as with both small children and teenagers, it's about tough love so that they learn to respect being petted or being given their food.Clicker training is one tool that behaviorists suggest to teach your alpha cat more acceptable behaviors.

If your cat becomes overexcited during play, divert her attention from you to a wand toy.

From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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