Sunday, September 07, 2008

What is this weird human behaviour?

I've heard this weird story from a friend whose human visited another cat lover. He reached down to pet her cat a couple of times gently, and had to defend himself as he was about to have 12 lbs of kitty wreak havoc on his body. The woman grabbed the cat and sat down on the couch, proceeded to put the cat on his back and rub his tummy till he calmed down. While she was doing this - and this is the crazy part - she held a pencil between his teeth. I guess the wood was flying, bits going all over the place. He chewed for a few minutes then was calm again. She apologized and said he had quite a temper and this was the only way to calm him. Is this some new Dr.Phil for cats technique? Or do I just lead a sheltered life? Whatcha think, George?

Dear Goldie,
I think this is just another example of mad and bad humans. Most of us who respond badly to petting are doing so because we are frightened of humans and want to keep our personal space. We may look vicious but we are scared. Personally I like being petted by strangers (I've been criticised for being too much of a human lover)  but many cats do not. They were not brought up in kittenhood to enjoy the promiscuous caresses of passing humans they do not know. So they strike out in order to get humans to retreat - a very effective technique.
What does this woman do then? Grab the cat,roll  it on its back, forcibly pet its tummy (its most sensitive area!), and in order to avoid being bitten (an appropriate feline reaction, in my view), she thrusts a piece of wood in its mouth. A calming technique? Cruel, I think. There is a danger that the cat will break a tooth. There is the emotional damage of being handled in a rough way and forced to comply.
Although I am a cuddly cat, I hate being tickled on my tummy. Most cats do. Sometimes I will allow a little bit of petting there but mostly I respond by grabbing the intruding hand and biting it. My tummy is a no go area and (except for the very occasional caress from Celia) I am the only one who is allow to clean it or touch it. This poor cat, who is already frightened by strangers trying to caress it, is now unable to bite because it has been forcibly gagged. I am amazed it calmed down - perhaps it was freezing with sheer terror.  Cats that are unable to escape do sometimes freeze and go motionless.
The whole story is horrible.


  1. Thanks so much, George. What you say makes perfect sense to me. I thought it was a crazy technique. I hadn't heard of anything like that before.

    My mom wants to try to talk to this friend of a friend to get a more detailed account. The woman thinks this is the only way to calm her cat down. It would be interesting to get it from the horse's mouth, as they say.

    Thanks again,

    many purrs,


  2. This makes me very sad that a fellow cat would be treated in this manner. I would be hysterical of my human tried to put me on my back and run my stomach! I just try to stay away from strangers when they visit my human, unless they have something I want to eat. Then I will be a bit friendly.

  3. George you are brilliant. Animals and humans need you big time.

  4. i'm with you George. the whole thing sounds bizarre. that poor kitty must be so scared.

    i do NOT like my tummy rubbed either and if this happened to me i'd panic

  5. Why do humans do things like this to us? My new human is wonderful but it was a nightmare at my last place - shouting man, whining woman and teenagers that teased me. I had to rehome myself.


Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online