Flower my feral cat
I have already posted the story of Flower, however I do have other questions. She will follow me around the whole house all the time and lay near me but when I pet her she attacks me. She does not attach all of the time but most of the time. Is this because she did not have socialization at a young age. She is just over two years old.
Hi Deb, thanks for posting. I think this is a tough one. I hope other people provide advice too. These are my thoughts.
Certainly yes, one reason that she might "attack you" when you pet her is because of things learned as a youngster in the same way a lot of our character is formed when we are young.
However, this would seem to be more than just a lack of socialisation. An unsocialised cat might hide etc but not actively dislike stroking and touching for an indefinite period. She may have had some bad experiences as well.
It may fade a bit in time. And you may be able to change it in gradual small steps. I am not sure what type of "petting" you are doing. She may accept some types of attention and not others. A certain type of stroking etc. may be similar to a negative experience she had and she is therefore defensive when it is repeated.
I would be surprised if she rejects all forms of stroking and touching. You might like to find a type of stroking/brushing/combing etc and an area that she finds acceptable.
Does she bite you when you stroke her? Is it as simply as that? I am not sure how strongly you are stroking her. A very gentle stroke in a certain area, say the shoulders or on top of the head may be acceptable to Flower. These are what I would call the safer areas.
I think that it is possible for Flower to at least partially unlearn what she has learned earlier in life but the challenge (to retrain her) may be a little steep but time and gentle training should produce some positive results I would hope. I think too that we have to be careful that we don't reinforce bad habits by stroking our cat in a certain way that is unacceptable and then admonishing our cat. I am sure you aren't doing this but it may happen in some homes.
Are there other cats by the way? These may be a factor. Sometimes too there may be an underlying health issue. She may be tender in an area, something that is not obvious. Soreness of any sort can lead to an aggressive response if the area is touched. Even, for example, a flea infestation can produce irritation in an area. You might explore this by gently seeing if one area is sensitive. Cats are good at hiding health problems as we know. I would certainly check this one out carefully.
Another possible underlying cause might be stress, just general stress caused by any number of reasons. It might be the fact she is indoors and used to being outdoors for example. Other possible stressors are: a change in her lifestyle, noise, other cats, other people. You might like to think what she gets stressed by (if this could be a reason) and eliminate the cause. Some people recommend natural human products like Bach's Rescue Remedy to help relieve stress in cats.
There is also behavior called re-directed aggression. This is when a cat is aggressive towards something but expresses towards someone else. For example she might want to attack a bird but can't and then you stroke her and she attacks you instead. But this would not seem to apply here.
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