Does Your Senior Cat Really Want to Live with a Kitten?

Venus Hand Traps

By Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

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Oh, that belly…that terribly inviting, soft and squishy, hard to look away from, magical and mysterious cat belly. It taunts you, or at least you have been conditioned to believe it is. The mere display of this potentially deadly part of your cats arsenal makes you want to tempt fate, each and every time, like a red button that says, “Don’t push me!” You want to put your hand there. I know you do.

My advice to you: Either don’t do it at all or be prepared to get owned like a house fly. I know….I’ve heard it before. Your cat LOVES to be petted on the tum tum and he never bites. Of course, thresholds will vary, but just know one thing- The big belly reveal is not an invitation for petting. It’s more like a finger waving you closer and closer. Doom awaits and you can’t avert your eyes. This is a trap and you are at a severe disadvantage. Your soft and supple, skin covered hand is no match for this wiggling warrior’s weaponry (Say that three times).

Cat’s will display their bellies for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a show of contentment, arousal (either negative or positive) or a reaction to a catnip toy. Most of the time, a belly display is an invitation for rough play. All positive reasons to squirm and show the belly, but still not an invite to put your hand there.

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Sometimes when cat’s are being petted on their back or flanks, they will choose to roll over on their side or back, displaying the gold. This can be confusing to well-intentioned guardians, because instincts will tell you to continue petting, working your way to that golden treasure chest of soft temptations. Be careful…You may be  inadvertently arousing your cat into a playful mood, bringing confusion to the purpose of your hand. One second your hand is petting with compassion, the next….threshold has been reached and you are being bunny kicked, bitten and held down by two very sharp paws. The bottom line is: Don’t take the bait at all or watch your cat’s body language closely. Make sure you aren’t provoking the petting aggression by missing the signals all together. Most of all, don’t take this sudden change in direction personally. It’s not about you. It’s about what you do with your hands.

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 If you see the following before a belly display…You may be heading into a Venus Hand Trap:

  • Flattening, turning or twitching ears
  • Tail swish – Slow to Fast
  • Cranky meow or drawn-out vocalizations
  • Staring or pupilary dilation
  • Quick head turn to watch your hand as you pet
  • Stillness or tenseness
  • Shifting body position repeatedly
  • Back feet push against your hand to keep it away
  • Front paws grab hold
  • Twitching of the back (often described as “skin rolling”)
  • Hissing and growling
  • Licking of your hand
  • Inhibited nipping (soft and gentle)
  • High play drive or need for interactive play
  • You just got bitten and scratched.

What to do if your hand is stuck in the trap:

  • Cease petting
  • Make your hand go limp (dead prey)
  • Do not react by pulling your hand or fighting back (this can provoke more aggression)
  • Redirect the focus to an interactive toy
  • Redirect to your cat’s favorite treat (only when the aggression stops)
  • Apologize for not noticing your cat’s limits
  • Never make the same mistake again
  • Tell all your friends how to avoid the trap

Next week: We’re covering ELEVATOR BUTTS!

Freedom of Choice

Whether you are introducing yourself to a cat for the first time or just saying, “Sup?” to the cat you live with, allowing your feline friend a moment to decide is sometimes crucial for daily diplomacy. Cats need time and space to feel comfortable with visitors. Approaching them too quickly and reaching, petting or attempting to pick them up can be an invasion of their space. Most of the time, it can end badly for you, especially if you are not aware of their limits. Ever had someone stand too close to you on line or on a bus? As every second passes, all you can think of is escape, or homicide. Sometimes, cats feel the same way about you.  

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You can ease this introduction if you kneel down at ground level, make yourself smaller and offer a closed fist (held to the floor). This will give kitty a chance to walk over at a comfortable pace, rub against your hand and say hello… or if their not stoked about it… remain exactly where they are. Don’t take it personally. Just be patient and relax those intentions a bit, then offer a fist bump as an icebreaker. Kitty will come over (when their good and ready of course) and return your “fist bump” with a “head boop” (These are not clinical terms).

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By offering your hand first, and allowing the cat to head butt, rub and mark you without the intention of forced petting, you also allow the cat to drive the interaction and make a freewill choice. Always think about whose choice it was to interact first. If it was your idea…next time, slow your roll and relinquish control.

Regardless of how many cats you have met in the past and your experiences with their petting tolerance, give cats their freedom of choice to make sure the first impression is the best one! You need that head boop in your life. Don’t mess this up. All you have to do is sit there and extend a closed hand and the next thing you know…boop, boop, shaboop!

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