Written by Becca Gordon
This is a very common cat “issue”. Overstimulation often results in swatting or biting behavior and can be a response to too much petting or commotion/chaos etc. Cats are very sensitive to their environments and can become overstimulated quickly by many factors such as loud music, neighborhood construction, a house guest, or even a plastic grocery bag left on the floor in the kitchen. Oftentimes, cats who are easily overstimulated are friendly cats who will seek attention from people, but then strike out after a short period of petting.
It is important you pay attention to the signs as you will often see changes in body language associated with overstimulation. These can be obvious once you know what to look for. A flicking tail, pinned back ears, intense staring or dilated pupils, tension in the body, or a crouch stance etc are all signs your cat is overstimulated.
If overstimulation occurs without warning you may want to take note of the surroundings during the incident. Was there a noise or movement that frightened the cat, do they only tolerate petting for specific periods? This will help determine when and how your cat becomes overstimulated and can help you to reduce future occurrences.
During these moments it is best not to engage the cat, if you are petting the cat stop immediately once you see the signs. They may be happy to remain near you but no longer wish for your touch. If you are playing perhaps engage them with a wand toy or redirect them away from you and to a stuffed toy.
The marketplace is full of “calming” items you can use with your cats to curb their aggression. Etobicoke Humane Society offers Feliway sprays or diffusers for purchase at the shelter. You should also consult your vet about calming treats, diets or medications that may help. It is always good to get the opinion of a veterinarian if you notice behavioural changes or suspect that something more than overstimulation may be behind the aggression.