Am I caring for a naughty cat?

“He keeps biting me on the leg” says Ingrid one day as I mill around her desk during the new water cooler moment that is a comfort break on a Microsoft Teams call. I pat Martok, one of our cats, and he rubs up against me, pretending that he might nibble at me too.

I experience this regularly. It used to be at half five, then at five, and these days at half past four. He strides into my office, circles around the chair and nips me on the calf. I don’t know why it’s getting earlier each day. It’s probably a brazen campaign for dinner, but I have been steadfast in feeding them no earlier than the S of six.

“It’s a love bite”, I say, distractedly rumpling Martok’s fur in a way that is probably over-familiar for most cats but he seems to respond to. He purrs.

“I know”, replies Ingrid, “but I’m not sure it’s right that he does.” Aside from whether there is a moral code that you can hold cats to, I don’t disagree. We have to hope that one day our nieces and nephews will be able to visit us again, and we won’t necessarily want a cat who communicates with his teeth, no matter how affable the intent. I think young children might interpret Martok’s nips a little differently to Ingrid and myself.

I know that our other cat Nerys lacks our concept of a love bite. She finds all Martok’s attempts to express affection (or otherwise) somewhat irritating. Their relationship is like that of most siblings: usually ok, occasionally fractious. I often wonder if perhaps I should just chase Martok around the house when he nips me. Perhaps that’s his motivation? Of course, ascribing motivation to a cat is a fool’s errand. It’s an enterprise in which you repeatedly get suckered by observing correlation rather than causation.

· Cats, Behaviour, Statistics, Twenty

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