Cats, like humans, can hold a grudge

Pip playing in the box of recycled plastic bags. KARIN SPICER / CONTRIBUTED

“Cats don’t forgive, and once they realize a person is causing them anxiety or hurt, they keep away.”

So says John Bradshaw, an anthrozoologist at Bristol University and author of “Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet.”

In other words, a cat knows who sprayed him with the water bottle when he was sitting on the stove or kitchen table.

Pip, my family’s 1-year-old cat, definitely can hold a grudge.

When Pip was a kitten he would climb in and out of my wheelchair like it was a jungle gym. His antics made me nervous. I worried I would roll over a paw or nip his tail.

I had experience to back up my worry. I had nipped Abby, our past cat, several times in the tail over the 17 years she was with us when I hadn’t seen her around a wheel of my chair. It never caused long-term damage. No vet visits were required. After about 30 minutes of avoiding me, a few treats, ear scratches and healthy doses of “I’m sorry, so, so sorry. Are you okay? I know that had to hurt,” we were on speaking terms again.

Pip takes it to a whole new level.

When I was in our kitchen’s pantry, Pip would jump through my wheelchair’s cross bars and climb into a box that held plastic bags for recycling. I was paranoid I was going to run him over or nip his tail. I would wish I had a horn that beeped like the type large trucks use to warn other drivers when they back up.

One afternoon this past July, I looked to my right then my left before backing out of the pantry. No Pip. Or at least that’s what I thought. But he did an end-around that I didn’t see, and my left back wheel clipped the tip of his tail.

Pip screeched and took off. My husband, Ed, checked Pip’s tail. It wasn’t swollen and there was no blood. The little bugger even let Ed stroke his tail. Ed’s diagnosis: “He’s fine. You probably scared him more than anything else.”

I wasn’t so sure. For two days, he avoided me. He didn’t jump in my lap or sleep next to me. The feline turned up his nose when I offered a treat and refused to play when I got out his favorite toy. If he saw me, he would run away.

I felt terrible.

Many researchers have looked at how humans can make amends with their cats. First – and for me this is the hardest – you have to wait for your cat to come to you.

Second, Richard Parker at seniorcatwellness.com writes, react to your feline in a calm and friendly manner. When Pip did jump back up on my lap, I gently stroked him and offered a few pieces of his kibble. We played with his favorite wand toy.

Pip doesn’t use my wheelchair as his personal jungle gym anymore. He could have grown out of the behavior or he could remember his tail being nipped.

It doesn’t matter to me. We’re friends again.

If your cat is angry with you, he may:

1. Avoid you, hide, or leave the room when you enter

2. Rapidly swish tail, especially when held low

3. Hold ears low, flat against the head

4. Stare with dilated pupils

5. Puff up the tail, arch back

6. Growl or hiss

7. Swipe with paws

SOURCE: www.seniorcatwellness.com/do‑cats‑hold‑grudges

Pip playing in the box of recycled plastic bags. KARIN SPICER / CONTRIBUTED

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