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Cat Leadership Stroking

Feline "Leadership Stroking" is a technique designed to establish a positive relationship with a cat that is suspected of either Fear Aggression or Status Aggression. A common profile for this cat is one that is loved, pampered and "runs the house." This cat's personality becomes confused about its status and begins to think it is his or her prerogative to "punish" other members of the house for reasons that are unclear to us humans.

A common human mistake is to punish the cat for its aggression. This usually makes the situation worse, and now defensive aggression added on top of status aggression. This "leadership stroking" technique may be useful in other situations as well.

A common human mistake is to punish the cat for its aggression. This usually makes the situation worse.

This cat personality is accustomed to getting attention on demand at any time. Therefore, it is useful to begin by ignoring attention seeking for several days. If the cat jumps in your lap, simply get up and move or gently put the cat down. Most cats crave attention, and will seek it even more.

When you are ready to start the leadership stroking exercise, let the cat stay in your lap but gently position it as described below. The cat should be relaxed, and not restrained in position. If the cat moves, gently return it to the starting position.

Hold the cat on your lap parallel with your legs, with the head pointing toward your knees. Then with both hands moving together, stroke the cat, starting at the corners of the lips and continuing back over the head, ears, neck, shoulders and over the back all the way to the tip of the tail. This stroking gently touches and desensitizes many of the cat's socially significant areas. These areas include the lips, cheek glands, closed eyes, pre-auricular glands, ears, scruff, back and tail.

Between two cats, only the high status cat would be able to have this much control over another cat. Continue this stroking to show leadership for two or three minutes, then you decide to stand up before the cat leaves.

The goal is to establish a leadership position, while building the bond.  Continue this stroking to show leadership for two or three minutes two or three times a day for several weeks and then intermittently for several days each week.

It is common for the leader personality cat to resist this stroking initially. If this is the case, do not attempt to force anything. Simply ignore the cat (for several more days if needed) until the cat solicits attention. If convenient, do the leadership stroking then, and if not, simply continue to ignore the cat. The idea is to let the cat's "attention well" go dry, to motivate them to accept stroking on your terms instead of on his or hers.

If the cat is not attention oriented, then use food as a motivator. Stop any free choice food, and feed meals of dry kibble. The goal is to increase the value of food to the cat.  They they should not loose any more than 10% of their body weight. Choose a tasty treat the cat REALLY likes (e.g. small pieces of hot dog, chicken or cheese).  Let them nibble the treat from between your fingers on one hand, while you do the leadership stroking with the other. As before, if they become upset, do not force anything. Simply withhold the special treat until they are motivated.

The rationale for this technique is that although cats are not as hierarchical as many species, there is still some dominance posturing.

The rationale for this technique is that although cats are not as hierarchical as many species, there is still some dominance posturing. Leadership stroking is intended to establish the "right to touch the cat" in its dominance oriented areas of the body, but without a threat from the person. In fact, most people report that once cats accepts the stroking, they come to enjoy it and request it. The goal of this exercise is strengthening the bond with the cat with you as the leader.

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