As many cat owners know, occasionally our feline friends will nip us for no apparent reason and without warning. Have you ever stopped to wonder why does my cat bite me?
Often, your cat bites you as a display of dominance or in response to a perceived threat. Basically, a cat will bite to show you who’s boss or because it feels endangered. Biting is also a way in which cats communicate or attract attention – it might be angry or ready to play.
We’ve used a lifetime of experience as cat owners to bring you full explanations of many reasons why cats bite along with the best ways to deter each.
Why your cat bites you and what to do about it
Though it may seem like it at times, cats don’t really bite their owners for no reason. It may seem to be the case, and you may have done nothing to deserve it, but there will always be grounds to bite you as far as your cat is concerned.
If your cat bites you, there’s no point in scolding it. If you raise your voice at a cat, all you do is scare it and it might bite you even more. It will certainly lose trust in you at the very least.
What you should do if your cat bites you is try to ascertain the reason and make that reason stop or take yourself out of biting range. In time, if you don’t reward your cat for biting you by lavishing it with attention, it should stop doing it.
Here are four common reasons why your cat bites you and how you can deter them from doing it:
Biting can be as sign that your cat is trying to dominate you. It’s similar to territory marking by spraying urine or rubbing its scent on things.
Your cat may bite you to show you it’s the boss. It genuinely thinks it’s in charge.
To stop this behavior, don’t shout and get angry. Don’t drop your cat to the ground in a harsh manner. Never be tempted to bite it back!
Instead, move away from your cat. If it’s on your lap, stand up slowly, letting it drop gently to the floor. If you’re holding your cat, bend and lower it gently to the ground.
Doesn’t like something you’re doing
If your cat doesn’t like something you are doing it might let you know with a nip. If you ignore this warning you might find the next bite is harder.
An example of when this type of biting occurs is during a grooming session. If the brush snags on a knot and pulls your cat’s fur, it will let you know it wants you stop by biting your hand.
Stop whatever you are doing and let your cat calm down naturally.
Cats can have days when they just feel angry. They may communicate this by biting you even if you were not doing anything to deserve it.
Misdirected aggression can result for various reasons such as your cat spotting a strange cat through a window and biting you out of frustration.
Again, move away and let you cat unwind in its own time.
Wants something from you
A cat may nip at you if it wants your attention, or thinks you should feed it or play with it. If you respond you are effectively training your cat to keep up this behavior as it gets results.
If your cat bites when it wants food, prepare its food in a room it can’t enter, place the food down and then let your cat in to eat.
When a cat bites and seems playful, ignore the behavior and instigate play a little later so your cat doesn’t make any association with biting you to get you to have a game with it.
Gentle cat bites
Have you ever thought why do cats sit on our laps and nibble at us?
A cat bites gently as a sign of affection. There’s a whole world of difference between a loving bite and the not so affectionate type.
A gentle bite is short and soft, and doesn’t hurt or leave teeth marks. Your cat might do this when you are petting it and it’s extremely content.
Be careful not to let soft bites progress to painful ones. If they ever do, slowly stand so your cat has to leave your lap.
The reason why a cat bites when it’s being affectionate is to leave its scent on you. Basically, you are being marked as part of your cat’s territory.
If you don’t like the idea of your cat biting you for this reason, gently put it on the floor each time it does it and you should break the habit.
Your cat might progress to biting your face as the two of you enjoy a cuddle. Your might even nibble your nose! Again, it generally does this out of love.
Your cat might suddenly but your face or nose because something has hurt it. For instance, you may have snagged your fingers on a knot in its coat and tugged painfully at its skin. This is something to bear in mind.
Never bite your cat back!
People ask if they should bite their cat back. The answer is an emphatic no! If you bite your cat back after it bites you, you are simply teaching it that biting is a method of communicating.
If you bite your cat, you could also really hurt it which is cruel. You would be deliberately inflicting pain on a small, defenseless animal. Remember a cat doesn’t bite you with causing pain in mind.
I don’t know a cat owner who hasn’t had their feet pounced on beneath the bedclothes at night. It can be quite a rude awakening when a cat sinks its teeth and claws into your tootsies.
There’s a good reason why cats bite feet. Your cat likes to hunt at night and your feet moving under the covers can easily be mistaken for prey.
There’s only one sure-fire way to top a cat biting your feet – stop wiggling them. If you can’t manage this, you may have to shut your cat out of your bedroom at night. This is easier said than done for a cat lover.
Why kittens bite
Poor treatment from birth
It is very important to begin to handle kittens regularly from two weeks of age and to keep doing this until they go to live with their new owners. This ensures they are used to people.
Without the correct socialization, kittens can be timid of people and react by biting when held or petted.
The way a kitten is played with can affect its temperament. You may have noticed how some people place a hand on a kitten’s tummy as it lies on its back to give it a playful tickle and shake.
The kitten’s instinctive reaction to this is to clasp all four paws (and sets of claws) around the hand and bite at it. It teaches kittens to bite at an early age. Always use toys and not your hand to play with a kitten.
More reasons why cats bite
Changes to home life
Cat’s can be sensitive or stressed because of changes to their home environment. For instance, bringing home a new pet may not go down too well.
If you have a baby your cat may be inquisitive and want to get a closer look, but it is very rare for a cat to harm a baby if unprovoked. Most incidents occur because of the baby’s sudden movements, so you should always be vigilant. To be safe, never leave a cat and a baby alone together.
A senior cat can become a little cantankerous, just like old people can. To save yourself from being bitten, learn when your cat doesn’t want your attention and respect this.
Just like us, cats of any age can have grumpy days. On days like this, a bite is your cat’s way of saying leave me alone.
If your cat is cornered it may bite. For example, if you make a sudden move towards a cat in the corner of a room it may feel threatened and bite as it feels it has nowhere to retreat.
A cat can be provoked into biting if it is continually poked or prodded. For instance, if a child grabs at a cat’s tail because they think it’s funny, don’t be surprised if the cat eventually reacts by biting or lashing out.
If your usually affectionate and docile cat is uncharacteristically biting you, it could be feeling ill or in pain. If you believe this to be the case, you should make an appointment with your vet for a check-up.
Stop stroking me
The fact is, we probably enjoy stroking cats more than they enjoy being stroked at times. Look for signs that your cat feels over-petted such as tail wagging, lack of purring, ears going flat and low growls.
These are sure signs that your cat doesn’t want to be fussed anymore. Take note of these signs and save yourself an injury.
Why does my cat bite me? – Conclusion
There are varied reasons for a cat to bite. You will have to become an expert interpreter of your cat’s mood to understand why. Cats aren’t malicious and don’t harbor feelings of hate for their owners. They don’t bite out of spite, there is always a reason – you just have to work out what it is.
The more you get to know your cat the more expert you will become at understanding its unique foibles. Another of our articles details 11 ways to stop your cat from biting if you need a little more help.
Always be kind and caring to your cat. Never punish it for biting as it won’t understand and will just become afraid of you. Learn when your cat does or does not want your attention and hopefully, you can live in pain-free harmony.
Of course, if you keep getting bitten by your cat, you may find a cat owner’s survival kit invaluable.
Finally, the ASPCA provides plenty of helpful information about many common cat behavior issues.