What My Cat Taught Me: Perceived Aggression and the Power of a Gentle Touch

Cat two of three, Onion, is a bigger cat who galumphs around the apartment on heavy feet with a loud yowl, so it's easy for me to forget that he responds best to a gentle hand.


I tend to give him rougher affection and speak to him in a louder voice to match the size of his presence, but that is thoughtless. It's a reflex.

He doesn't know how big and galumphy he is, and he finds it confusing to be met with such volume. When I touch him lightly and speak to him in a soft voice, though, he leans into me with a genuine affection that he can't show me when half his energy is being spent reacting to my assault.

It is often this way with people, too. When I am faced with someone who I perceive as being larger physically or energetically, my instinct is to react with at least the same level of perceived aggression, if not more. I am learning, though, to pause for a moment, breathe, and move more gently if the situation allows. It gives me time to think, and it gives them the space to communicate with me without having to fight against my bluster.

A gentler hand makes room for both us to be who we are beyond the volume of our reactions to each other.

Thank you, Onion. You are one smart kitty cat.

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