I am seated quietly on one side of the couch. My nine-month-old cat, adopted just a couple months ago, is laying on the other side, and I have reached out a hand and am rubbing his head and neck. This goes on quite nicely for several minutes.
Ah, but I seem to have made a mistake. Maybe I tickled too hard or for too long, or wasn't reading the signals right. It doesn't happen a lot, but often enough. I'm trying to learn, but for now I have eight tiny hypodermic needles embedded in my wrist, and four powerful incisors massaging my knuckles. It hurts, and there is a little blood. It is clear that his intent is simply to send me a message- he is not actually trying to tear me apart.
While the pain is intense, it is bearable. I am calm enough to not shout, nor try to immediately pull away, as that would just deepen the wounds. I try to get the scruff with my other hand, but he spots the other hand approaching and switches his attack. I suppose I just have to wait it out, keeping as still as I can, until he lets me go.
This story is slightly exaggerated for purposes of this site, but there is a kernel of truth within. While adjusting to a new cat and being taught the proper way to share affection with this cat, how can one most effectively free oneself from the lesson being learned?