December 14, 2013

Avoiding cat bites.

"When a cat throws itself on its side and shows its belly, most people misinterpret this behaviour and think that it wants its belly rubbed but will get grabbed by their hand and the cat will bite them."
What the cat is actually doing is showing a greeting behaviour and showing trust. It is actually an abuse of that trust to stroke its belly. What the cat would rather you do is to give it a slight head rub.
Useful! That can not only help you avoid cat bites, it can help you avoid concluding that cats are evil.

41 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

There was a cat in that video?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

In what way is it useful to avoid concluding that cats are evil?

Ann Althouse said...

Well, my neighbors' cat would come up to me, lie down and act like it wanted its belly rubbed, act like it loved it, then suddenly attack. I concluded the cat was bad, but if I'd known the belly exposure didn't mean it wanted its belly rubbed, I would never have done it in the first place. As it was, I regarded the cat as devious and unreliable.

Sorun said...

I have a cat who doesn't mind a belly rub, but I can tell he's confused about whether he should like it or not. Most cats clearly don't like it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

It really depends on the cat, you know. I have two cats, and both of them, when they do what's called the "social roll," actually do want a belly rub. It's something individual with cats, like whether they like being scritched near the tail; some cats find this painful; others like it. Mine like it, but you need to find out first.

One of my cats likes you to fondle her toes; the other hates it when you do that. One hasn't really figured out shadows, and so you need to be careful what the lighting is like at night; the other is fine.

Both of them are weird in innumerable other ways; which is another way of saying that they are cats. Doin' cat stuff.

YoungHegelian said...

One of my cats' greatest joy in life is a viscera-shaking, full bore, belly rub, which he will roll over & request on many occasions, even with house guests!

If you try that shit with his brother, on the other hand, you'll be in the market for a new set of fingers.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

That said, Ann, it really is safer to scritch a cat around the ears and face than anywhere else. That's the bit that they find hardest to groom themselves, so they tend to welcome help.

(Though you never know. Our two get into bouts of what we call "kissy-face," initially mutual, except that the male tends to persist longer than the female likes, so she swats him, and then there's a great snarling cat-fight on the bed around your ankles at three a.m. At these times, you start to think that cats are a lot more trouble than they are worth. Then dawn breaks and you come to your senses.)

YoungHegelian said...

@MDT,

..."kissy-face", initially mutual, except that the male tends to persist longer than the female likes, so she swats him, and then there's a great snarling cat-fight on the bed around your ankles at three a.m

In canon law, this is referred to as "Holy Matrimony".

Sorun said...

"Our two get into bouts of what we call "kissy-face," initially mutual, except that the male tends to persist longer than the female likes..."

Two neutered males together are the best, IMO. Very harmonious.

jimbino said...

Folks who play with "outdoor" cats are idiots. I trap and dispose of all trespassing cats on account of their threats to small mammals, birds an humans:

http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/Faculty/bbchomel/WHO_Zoonoses/PDF/Catzoonoses1.pdf

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

YoungHegelian, it's a good thing that I didn't have a cup of coffee with me, or you really would owe me a keyboard.

Sorun, they are both "fixed." The female, Lili, was here first. She was from a shelter; the elderly guy who adopted her first extracted a promise from his heirs that they would take care of her once he died. Naturally, the moment he died, they dumped her back at the shelter.

The male, Charlie, was a rescued kitten from a feral cat colony in MD. My mom was with the local cat rescue, and so she was fostering him when I visited her, and we shared the small guest bedroom. I was smitten, and so here he is too.

Beldar said...

Cats aren't evil. They just don't give a damn about humans beyond humans' ability and willingness to put food in their bowls -- and aren't capable of giving a damn, because their brains are the size of walnuts and other things necessarily predominate.

You want a friend, get a dog. Their genetic programming to be obsequious and mimic human affection is much better developed.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

jimbino,

I trap and dispose of all trespassing cats on account of their threats to small mammals, birds an humans:

Dude, cats are "small mammals." And God knows the world really doesn't have sufficient rats, which certainly pose greater threats to humans than feral cats do.

My cats, FWIW, aren't allowed outside, primarily so that they won't be "disposed of" by the likes of you. No doubt the neighborhood rats are grateful.

Ken Mitchell said...

When a cat rolls over on its back, what it is really doing is, in Navy parlance, "unmasking batteries".

Navy ships have guns pointing forward and guns pointing backward, but ALL of the guns can point to the side. When a Navy ship turns to "unmask batteries", it's turning so that all the main turrets can bear on the target.

So too with a cat, which can then use all four paws full of claws to defend itself.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ken Mitchell,

That's quite true. A cat with belly exposed is, in the immortal words of Satchel Pooch from the comic strip Get Fuzzy, "pointy side up."

lemondog said...

They just don't give a damn about humans beyond humans' ability and willingness to put food in their bowls -- and aren't capable of giving a damn

Baloney.

I used to travel and when I returned my cats would ignore me, not because they
aren't capable of giving a damn but because they did give a damn that I would return and were showing disapproval at my leaving.

Subtle but to the point.

And what Michelle DT said in response to jimbino.

mrs. e said...

One cat is evil to you, ergo, all cats are evil. Wow, Althouse.

Seven Years of College Down the Drain said...

Whaddya mean, conCLUding? Evility of cats is a premise. Practically an axiom.

jimbino said...

Yo Lemon Dog and Michelle DT

Do a web search. You won't find much about zoonoses from rat scratches. Who the hell sits on the couch petting rats, or exposes the kids of the house to rats?

Cats are worthy of extermination, whether on Galapagos or here in Amerika.

richlb said...

Reason #84 that dogs are superior to cats.

Kirk Parker said...

I'm with Beldar et al. Get a dog.

You really do find wisdom in the weirdest places; second only to Jonah Goldberg's dog and cat diaries (Dog: "Oh boy, the yard! My favorite!!! ... Oh boy, the kids are home my favorite!!!" Cat: "Day 132 of my captivity: the humans seem to think... I must see how I can use this to my benefit") is found in the cartoon strip Pickles.

Curious George said...

My old cat loved getting belly scratches. He would lay down on his back beside me on the couch for that very reason. He even allowed many of the neighbors to do it to.

My current cat will allow me to rub his belly, but not when he is on his back, on;y when standing. I can rub his back and belly simultaneously.

David-2 said...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

"In what way is it useful to avoid concluding that cats are evil?"

Exactly. Concluding that cats are evil is a survival characteristic, a positive adaptation to the real world we live in.

You people making friends with cats: You're going to be Darwin award winners someday.

Beldar said...

I once heard a spirited argument about whether ferrets made good pets.

Of course they don't. They make good rodents. What's their niche in the ecosphere, that's what they're "good" at.

If having a capable rodent makes you happy, then get a ferret. If having an underpowered lynx makes you happy, get a housecat.

lemondog: I don't doubt that your cats were showing disapproval. But it was still about what you put in their bowls and when. If you've been really blue, perhaps disappointed and weeping, has any of your cats given (or appeared to give) a damn about that? My guess is: Not unless their food bowls were empty.

Jarby said...

Ann, have you heard of "My Cat From Hell"? It's the Animal Planet's equivalent of "Dog Whisperer," and it has a lot of interesting information about cat behavior.

I think the overwhelming majority of people--including cat owners--don't understand a lot about cats. Which is fair enough, since, unlike dogs, they weren't really domesticated to be companion animals. But if you learn their "language," they can be just as affectionate as any dog.

campy said...

If loving cats is wrong I don't want to be right.

And as for a Darwin Award — I'm ineligible. Twice over.

YoungHegelian said...

@jimbino,

You won't find much about zoonoses from rat scratches

And you won't find much on bubonic plague from cats as opposed to rats, either

But that's you, jimbino, being what you be. I'd be as surprised for you to be any different as I would for rh to be a favorite for Ladies Night Out, or Cedarford being a cantor at Temple Bnai Hill, or that The Crack Emcee was actually Dreaming of a White Christmas.

SteveR said...

I refuse to engage in a cats vs dog debate, each are easy to figure out and capable of giving you great pleasure.

Gahrie said...

If having a capable rodent makes you happy, then get a ferret

I have often thought that meerkats would make the perfect pet...they're pack animals so they would be loyal and devoted like dogs, but they bury their shit, and don't have to be walked like dogs.

lemondog said...

If you've been really blue, perhaps disappointed and weeping, has any of your cats given (or appeared to give) a damn about that? My guess is: Not unless their food bowls were empty.

You would be wrong.

MathMom said...

Beldar -

I had a Siamese cat which was loyal and true blue. I was injured in a motorcycle accident when I was 14, broken arm and gashes and stitches and so sore I couldn't go downstairs to my bedroom. Had to sleep on the couch for five or six days before I could navigate the stairs.

My Siamese sat on my chest, day and night on the couch, purring. He got up to eat and hit the loo, then back to taking care of me. They don't all care about you just for the food.

Jason said...

My cat, Sasha, is an adopted stray we got when she was very little. She is a total sweetheart 97 percent of the time. Unless you don't get the signal when she's had enough petting, thank you.

She greets me at the door when I get home. She wants to be picked up as soon as I walk in. If I put her down too soon or don't pick her up she gets mad but if I pick her up and hug her she is sweet as pie and wants to lie on my chest for a while. Until it's time to sprint across the room for no reason.

When momma's car pulls up outside she can recognize it from all the other cars and she runs to the door. Very much like a dog or even a small child. And yes, she's very doting when one of us is sick. She seems happiest when mom and dad are home at the same time and she can sleep between us. Also like a small child and like some dogs.

I've had cats and dogs and both have been delightful. People who reject cats out of hand are probably just douchebags.

Paco Wové said...

Ferrets may be crappy pets — in fact I'm pretty sure they are — but they are sure as hell not rodents.

Beldar said...

Paco, I stand corrected. Wikipedia informs me that ferrets are of the order Carnivora, and rodents are of the order Rodentia. They're still wild animals masquerading as pets in my humble opinion.

Obviously I'm generalizing. There are dogs who are quite wild, and cats who actually seem to care about humans. But in general, cats and I don't care about each other as much as dogs and I do, and we're all of us fine with that.

Blue@9 said...

If cats don't like you, it's because you have a crippled soul. Dogs are just more tolerant creatures, but it's likely they secretly hate you too.

I've always been more of a 'dog person,' but I've had some awesome cats in my life. Cats just aren't needy like dogs, and I guess that's off-putting to some people.

Blue@9 said...

If cars don't like you, it's because you have a crippled soul. Dogs are just more tolerant, but likely they secretly hate you too.

Seriously though, I've had some awesome cats in my life. They're just not as needy or as simple as dogs, and I think that's off-putting to some people. Dogs give you unconditional love, but cats don't trust as readily.

whswhs said...

It seems to vary with the cat. Our younger cat will do that and respond to a belly rub by rolling his head back and licking his forepaws. He makes no attempt to escape and indeed seems to rather like the experience. We've started saying that he's a disguised dog.

On the other hand, our elder cat shows the traditional cat behavior, exactly as described.

ALP said...

Cats can form a more lasting, meaningful bond with their humans than with a member of their own species.

Jimmy said...

@jimbino is the apex predator, however unlike the cats and birds and small mammals below him in the chain, he does not kill for food, but rather for his beliefs.

Hmm... who else kills indiscriminately for their beliefs?

jimbino said...

Yo Jimmy,

I don't kill indiscriminately for my beliefs.

I'm a scientist who has no "beliefs" as any of which would simply get in the way of science.

I don't act indiscriminately, seeing that I only trap cats who trespass.

I don't kill cats, since, if they have a chip, I ransom them. Only if the owner declines to deal do I release them in a country adjoining Texas. [It's illegal to kill a cat not your own in Texas!]

Mitch H. said...

Why am I not surprised that jimbino is the sort of person who delights in tormenting and "disposing" of small animals. Oh! He doesn't kill them, because it's illegal. But he "disposes" of them, and "ransoms" animals who can be proved to belong to someone.

Sociopath.

(I didn't know that about belly-exposing and betrayal of trust. I've only been a cat person for a little less than a year, and I obviously have a lot to learn.)