I enjoy being petted, but my dense human just does not know when to stop! When she’s on the couch, watching that box with the funny screen, I’ll jump up and ask for some rubs. Then she pets me… and pets me… and rubs me some more. It feels nice at first, but then it just doesn’t feel so good anymore. I tell her to stop in any number of ways. I’ve even growled a little at her — but that only makes her pet me more! Isn’t that nutty? Finally, I have to bite her, hiss and run away to get some peace. Whenever I do this, she acts like her feelings are all hurt and I start feeling badly too. I mean, my human is dumb and all, but she’s all right 95% of the time. Is there any way I can get my “no more petting” message across to her?
Too Much of a Good Thing
Dear Too Much,
You are obviously a cat who easily becomes overstimulated and only wants limited amounts of petting. And your situation is a prime example of the many ways humans think differently from us cats. They are firmly convinced that more is always better, when cats know that enough is better. Take the instances where you growl at your human to ask her to stop petting you. She keeps rubbing you because she thinks you are upset (which you are), and that if she pets you more, you will calm down. It’s some sort of warped human logic to think that more of something that has become unpleasant will suddenly make it become pleasant.
I am assuming that you are giving your human all the proper signals to make her stop petting you — tensing up, twitchy skin, lashing your tail, flattening your ears, giving the wild eyes, either growling or purr-growling — before you bite her and run off. She should be picking up on all of this. If your human were really paying attention to you instead of keeping one eye on the stupid moving screen, she might learn when you’ve had enough petting for now and leave you alone. Maybe you shouldn’t let her pet you while her attention is elsewhere — just hang out on the couch farther than arm’s length instead. Or you could try making your warning signals a little more obvious — really whap that tail! Or you could leave before the petting gets too horribly annoying.
Humans are notoriously difficult to train when it comes to this issue. Usually they have to read about it somewhere, or somebody has to tell them what the problem is before they realize it’s their fault you’re getting upset. So you might want to send her over here to see what I have to say.