As I have said before, and I will say again, cats are THE most fickle of creatures. This question could be answered with one sentence.
He or she just doesn’t enjoy it!
But why might that be?
Your cat’s upbringing and socialisation as a kitten will have a large part to play in this. Kittens exposed to positive interactions with people, adults and children, are more likely to want this same interaction as adults. If your cat has not been exposed positively (or at all, which can be the case for a lot of farm cats) they don’t associate stroking with a positive experience. As they are generally solitary animals, they don’t need to form bonds with others like dogs do, and many will generally avoid it if they don’t believe it will benefit them.
More serious possibilities
If this behaviour is sudden, it may be related to pain. As such, I recommend seeking veterinary advice ASAP. For cats to show any sign of discomfort is for them to show predators they are weak. It’s not something they do willingly. So, it could be that your poor fur baby could be in significant pain. Below I’ll explore some possibilities as to why your cat has decided NO to you stroking them.
This could possibly be a cat bite wound. These can often be seen as large sore abscesses, or at times, without any signs at all. If you find an abscess (large fluid filled swelling) then the best course is to seek veterinary attention. Here, they’ll likely (cleanly) drain the abscess. This allows for the infection to seep out of the skin, so don’t be alarmed if there is a small amount still weeping from the site when you get them home. Depending on the abscess’s location and length of time of infection, your vet may decide to dispense antibiotics.
It may be from another type of wound. Another common one being barbed wire, which frequently causes characteristic lacerations (tears) in the skin. Whatever the cause, the wound needs a good investigation to make sure the area is cleaned by your vet and dealt with appropriately.
It may even be necessary to sedate (to be given a drug to make them go to sleep) or anaesthetise (to be given drugs and inhalants to go to sleep and remove sensitivity to pain) your cat as the area may be too painful to investigate whilst they’re awake. Depending on their age and health, it might be necessary to perform other tests to make sure they are safe to go under sedation or anaesthesia.
Osteoarthritis is very common in older cats. Studies suggest that 60% of cats over the age of 12 have some form of degenerative joint disease.
You may notice other behaviours alongside not wanting to be touched, such as a reluctance to jump up places they would have normally found easy. You might also find they are struggling to clean themselves as they used to. Are they coming to sit on your lap with kitty litter stuck to their back end? Have they little matts of fur near their tail? If so, don’t despair! There are medications that can help your feline feel more comfortable.
Many people choose to start with a supplement (depending on the severity of arthritis). These are not dissimilar from human supplements, but they are specifically formulated to assist cats. They contain Glucosamine, Vitamin E, Chondroitin, amongst others. All of which help to aid stiff joint, promote mobility and support the structure of the joints themselves. Check out this link for more information on supplements.
However, with established arthritis, a supplement alone is unlikely to be sufficient, and medical treatment is needed.
Probably the most common medication that is used is a “NSAID”. This stands for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. As named, they reduce inflammation, which arthritis causes, and reduces pain. Unfortunately, these do work their way through the kidneys, and for some cats, these may not be an option to use. It’s estimated that 20-50% of cats over 15 years old will have some degree of kidney impairment. That’s why most vets will recommend a blood sample before dispensing this drug to older cats and may require a check-up of the results on a regular basis. They may also start your little kitty on a lower dose of the drug so as not to have such an effect on the kidneys.
Recent research has opened up a whole new class of drugs for arthritis in cats (and dogs). This new class of medication is called a biological, specifically a drug called frunevetmab. It’s a clever medication that works specifically on the molecules carrying the pain signals. As such, they have minimal effect on other organs such as the liver or kidneys. This is great! Not only that, but this is an injection given once a month.
For more information on these medications, please book an appointment and have a chat with your vet.
Remember, all these treatment options require veterinary oversight and prescription.
For more information on which drug would be best, and the pros and cons, your best bet is to have a chat with your vet. They will recommend the best treatment for your fur baby.
Most cats are roaming creatures, and sadly it can be common for them to be involved in a road traffic accident. They can escape with a few scuffed nails, but from time to time they can suffer more serious injuries. They may be seen as an obvious wound, but not always. It may be a small fracture in a small bone. This will generally be seen however with some other symptoms. Specific lameness on the affected limb for example.
If you fear this may be the case, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Has anything changed at home that’s different from your normal routine? Is there a new member of the family? Until your cat feels more relaxed, they will tend to seek solitary confinement until they feel comfortable again. It may be something that you haven’t even realised as a change, like a piece of furniture moved. But this may be enough to upset a fractious cat. The best way to solve this anxiety is to give your cat time and space. You can also try things like pheromone plug-ins that release a pheromone that help your cat to relax. They are completely scentless to us but can help you cat a lot in stressful times.
We’ve got a whole article about managing stress in cats here!
A range of nerve disorders can cause reluctance to be touched, including a condition called Feline Hyperaesthesia. This is where your cat will show signs of extreme sensitivity on the skin. It’s almost always on the back of the neck or often in the area right in front of the tail. They may become aggressive, drool, scratch the area themselves and their skin might twitch. The only way to diagnose this condition is for your vet to rule out others, such as parasites, arthritis and skin conditions. After a check-up with your vet, it may be necessary to undergo an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. This will look for any spinal disc problems that may be causing pain or discomfort.
If this is diagnosed it can be managed with medications to help alleviate the behaviours of over scratching and establishing a routine to minimise the stress. Most cats can be managed and continue to lead happy lives.
So, what next?
If your cat has always disliked being stroked – it’s probably just them! But if it’s something new, whether it’s slow in onset or sudden, it’s always best to get them seen by your vet to rule out more serious problems.