How to Fix Your Cat’s Petting Aggression

You have so much love for your cat and want to show it by giving them a pat.

However, when you do they don’t seem to like it and will usually lash out and bite you.

If this behaviour continues you will be afraid of getting bitten every time you pet your cat and in result will probably never pat them again.

This means that, a good relationship you could have with your cat will become lost and instead you will avoid them, just like they will avoid you.

So how can you help to steer your cat from this aggressive behaviour when being pat or touched?

angry cat being pat

Determine Why They are Aggressive

Cat lovers will frequently ask for basic tips on how to stop their cat’s aggressive behaviours. But it can be very hard to determine what someone should or shouldn't do as all cats are different and may have certain behaviours due to different things. 

Most petting aggression behaviours will consist of the cat wanting attention however after only a few strokes will try to bite you. The reason a cat will bite is because they have had enough and would like to stop the interaction of being petted, picked up or moved.

Petting aggression is most common in young energetic cats that were taken from their litter to early, or left alone for long periods during the day. This type of aggression in cats is known as a ‘bully cat’. Using smacking or hitting in return to a bully cats’ behaviours will only make them worse as they will view this as a challenge. It is best to learn how to identify and avoid situations that may lead to aggression.

hissing cat

Know the Warning Signs

Cat communication varies between cats. However, body language can give away clues on what the cat intends to do. To avoid getting bitten look out for the following body language signs.

  • An active tail and tuned down ears means they are ready to attack.
  • Sudden dilation of the cat’s eyes indicates arousal.
  • Purrs that transition to low growls warns you to back off.

crouched cat with dilated pupils


As long as bites continue to work, your cat will continue to use them to control interaction. Make biting unnecessary by trying to avoid situations that will prompt bites, and manage them so they do not get the chance to bite. Be consistent and practice tough kitty love. Keep in mind that bad habits will often become worse just before they go away. 

The Petting Threshold

The amount a cat likes to be pat will vary from cat to cat. Some cats love to be pet for long amounts of time however others will only like to be pat 4 times. In order to start to control petting aggression, start by counting the amount of times you pet your cat until they bite you. Once you have identified their limit, ensure you stop petting them before they tell you (via biting) so that YOU now have control over interactions.

Cats are more accepting of touching on the head and neck and not accepting of full body stokes. Ensure you limit your petting to your cat’s head and/or back of their neck.

If your cat is sitting on your lap it is best not to push them off. Instead, stand up slowly allowing them to jump off. 

man petting cat

Petting Desensitisation

If you would like, you can work on desensitising your cat and improving their petting quotient. If you have learnt that they tolerate four strokes before their ear or tail signals distress, add one more stroke, stop and move away so they don’t get the chance to bite you. By adding one more stroke each week, overtime you will be able to increase their threshold and avoid getting bitten.

cat being pet by hand on head

Use Bribes for Actions

If your cat has aggressive tendencies toward petting then they probably do not like being picked up or moved either. If you would like your cat to move off furniture or other places, instead of pushing them or lifting them, lure them off by using a treat or toy. 

Whilst luring them off say ‘move’ to try to teach your cat that this is a command. If you are able to slightly move furniture by tipping or shaking, you can also do this to get your cat to move on their own. Eventually the ‘move’ command whilst using a sweeping motion with you hand may be all that you need to do to make them move.

woman playing with toy and cat

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