22nd August 2005

 

FINDING OUT WHY CATS ATTACK

 

Animal behaviour experts at the University of Lincoln are embarking on a new project to understand why cats sometimes attack their owners.

 

Researchers at Riseholme Park are asking cat owners who have experienced aggressive behaviour from their pets and who have access to video recording equipment to take part in the study.

 

“Many owners are bitten or threatened by their cats when they play with them or when they are stroking them,” said Professor Daniel Mills, Europe’s first Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine.

 

“There are many theories as to why so-called ‘petting aggression’ occurs; it could be a sign that the cat is simply getting fed up with the owner, or it could be a response to the ecstasy of being stroked, or it could be the cat trying to assert control.

 

“The truth is that we simply don’t know the reason for this behaviour. The aim of this study is to look more closely at exactly when such aggression occurs so that we can help prevent it and treat it more effectively.”

 

Professor Mills and his team are looking for cat owners for whom this behaviour is a routine occurrence and who are willing to video themselves petting their cat.

 

“We want to see occasions when it does as well as when it does not happen,” says Professor Mills. “We will then analyse all the tapes to try to identify the triggers any predictors of the behaviour more accurately. We then hope to be able to give owners more specific advice on how to manage the problem.”

 

Petting aggression is a common problem; it is thought that more than 20 per cent of household cats show it.

 

“Not only can it be very distressing for owners who just want to love their cat, but cat bites and claws can carry serious infections. It is therefore important that we learn more about the problem,” said Professor Mills.

 

If you wish to take part in the study contact Dr Emily Levine at the university on Lincoln 895453 or email elevine@lincoln.ac.uk

 

For more information contact: Jez Ashberry, Press and Media Relations Manager

01522 886042                         jashberry@lincoln.ac.uk