It’s been nearly fifty years since I last stroked my little friend, Tarfu, the Terror of the veterinary clinic in my hometown. She made quite an impression on me and some other locals and farmers who frequented the clinic. My introduction to this young, attractive, green-eyed, midnight black cat was one summer vacation for both of us. It was my habit to frequently visit the cats and dogs boarding at the clinic. I was drawn to this particular cat, Tarfu, because she rubbed against the cage door, rolled and sang to me. I couldn’t resist her signs of affection, so I opened her cage door and started to stroke her from her head to her rump. Once…Twice…Thrice! All hell then broke loose! She was suddenly latched onto my arm with teeth sunken in and hind claws digging! Tarfu’s face had dramatically changed. She was angry as hell! Her pupils were huge and she was raking and drawing blood from a shocked and amazed youngster. She continued to hiss and snarl and swat like she hated me. I thought I knew cats… I had always had and loved cats since I was a three year old. I had never experienced such a sudden and unexpected change in behavior in a cat. My feelings were hurt and my arm smarted from Tarfu’s sudden attack.
“Oh, that’s just Tarfu…She’s like that. She goes crazy if you pet her more than two times!” That was Mr. Buckwalter, the office man’s explanation for her instantaneous angel to devil transformation. What kind of pet is that, I asked myself as we washed and bandaged my wounds? Over the next decade, I visited Tarfu many times and found that she enjoyed my company very much, but, as I learned from the office man, she would allow two and only two pets to her head and body. I always returned her affection, but with one stroke only. I had learned my lesson and I always respected her personality as strange as it was. Tarfu had an extreme case of overstimulation aggression. It’s a natural behavior, so we need to be aware.
One of my cats, Mowgli isn’t too popular in our house. He’s called a “man’s cat” by other members of the family because he’s my cat… And, HE BITES! Mowgli’s very social and I do enjoy him on my lap and the lump that’s him pressed against me all night. But I have learned that Mowgli has a short fuse. He likes two pets, NO PATS, and then he’s had enough! He likes a few strokes, but it’s always on his terms! Now Mowgli is not a Tarfu, thank goodness, but he shares some behavioral quirks with her. Remember the terms of engagement with cats? It’s always on their terms. I am aware he has petting aggression and he can easily get over stimulated. I have learned to recognize when Mowgli’s had enough stimulation. It doesn’t take much! If, I feel he’s signaling his intent or his fill of affection, I quit. If he gets screw headed, or squirrely, I change the subject. That is, I don’t touch him and never, ever hit him. If he’s on my lap, I simply stand up. Off he goes and it’s not long and he’s back on my lap kneading and rubbing and curling up to resume his throne. Within minutes we are once again, best buddies…QUICK TO FORGIVE AND QUICK TO FORGET!
Feline behavior is always interesting. I like to think of cats as creatures from another universe. To help with behavioral issues like Tarfu’s and Mowgli’s, one can visit: