Assertive pet can become too loving… show this cat who’s boss

Dear Dr. Spiegel,

I have recently adopted my very first cat, a two year old neutered male, who seems to like me very much. The problem is, I think he likes me too much! When I’m lying in bed reading, he likes to join me, lying on my chest, kneading his paws against me as I stroke his back… and then “OUCH!” He bit me!! And then he starts moving his hips. What am I supposed to do? This supposedly fixed cat keeps trying to mate with me!?! HELP!!
J.S., Wilmington
Dear J.S.,
“Fixing” or neutering male animals, though generally helpful in decreasing the incidence of sexual behavior, often does not eliminate it entirely (as you have experienced first hand). And while it may be true that he likes you very much, this is probably not the only reason he is pursuing you repeatedly. Cats by nature are territorial creatures. Some cats can be very strongly territorial, while others may exhibit few or no signs of it; most cats will fall somewhere in the range between the two extremes. You have probably adopted a very self-assured and highly territorial cat who, like a male lion taking over a pride, is actively asserting himself to get what he wants in his new environment. After all, sex is a very pleasurable behavior for all animals.
To prevent repeated episodes:
The next time he jumps up on you, stop reading and pay attention to what he’s doing. You probably do not want to discourage him from jumping on you or sitting in your lap, as these are generally desirable behaviors for cats. However, the biting and pelvic thrusting are going too far. Kneading is often a sign of affection, comfort and security in cats going back to its origin in nursing kittens. Some cats will do this just prior to settling down and getting comfortable. If this is something your cat does with regularity prior to the more ritualized sexual behaviors of biting and thrusting, stop petting him when he starts kneading and he will probably settle down. Your petting (positive reinforcement) only encourages him to continue the behaviors he is moving towards. If he should bite you again, you want to scare him with a loud, sharp, startling noise with the desired result being him running out of the room.
You can also, very simply, remember to keep a blanket between you and the cat, in which case it will be very easy to move the blanket rapidly to send the cat off you and the bed in an instant.

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