Why does my cat bite me?

Posted by Argos, April 20th 2022.

Cats are complex, curious creatures and there are many reasons why your cat might bite you – but believe it or not they’re not all negative. Cats can’t speak to us (obviously), but sometimes they want or need to, so they use biting in its different forms as a way of communicating.

If you have a pet cat,  it has probably bitten you at some point, either in a serious or playful manner. Whether it is a love bite, play bite or aggressive bite, have a look at the possible reasons your cat bites you below to better understand your pet.

Why does my cat gently bite me?

A bite might not sound very friendly, but cats often bite to show affection. When a mummy cat cleans her kitten, they gently bite them and this is called a love bite. Cats replicate this on humans to either show us love and affection or to get our attention. Cats can be very loving creatures and we’ve written about the 10 things cats do to show you they love you to give you a better idea of these loving behaviours.

Why does my cat lick me then bite me?

Similar to the above, if you watch your cat groom itself or another cat, this often involves both licking and biting. If your cat licks and bites you, they are likely simulating grooming, and this is a positive sign in your relationship. Cats will only groom other cats within their group, so this means they feel like they have a good bond with you.

Why does my cat bite me when it’s purring?

While cats purring can mean that they are happy and relaxed, they also use purring as a way to calm themselves if they are stressed, anxious or upset. As pet owners we want to shower our pets with love so we stroke them, and that makes them happy so they purr, but when they’ve had enough interaction and the stroking overstimulates them, this is when they may bite.

There are other cat behaviours that you should look out for to suggest they’re not very happy, such as flicking or swinging of the tail, flat ears and dilated pupils. These can all indicate your cat isn’t happy so maybe avoid cuddles at this time!

Why does my cat grab my hand and bite me?

Cats are natural born hunters so if your cat grabs and bites your hand, it is replicating hunting behaviour and pretending your hand is the prey. Often, they wrap their front paws around your hand, scratch with their back feet and then bite – this is how they would kill their prey in the wild. They don’t want to hurt you so don’t worry, they are just acting on their natural animal instincts and being playful.

Why does my cat bite me unprovoked?

If you have a pet cat then you will have probably experienced an unprovoked attack from them at some point, often whilst you’re petting them or when they’re in their favourite spot. One thing to note is that you shouldn’t take this behaviour personally, a bite is simply your cat’s way of communicating with you.

If your cat bites you whilst you’re stroking and cuddling them, then this is their way of telling you that they are overstimulated; they have reached their sensitivity threshold and they’ve had enough human interaction now. If you are stroking them whilst they’re in “their space” (a quiet place, such as their bed or scratch post) then they might bite you because you are in their territory, and they want to take back control!

If your cat bites you unprovoked and this behaviour is highly unusual for your cat, it might be a sign that they are in pain so it could be worth checking with your vet.

Why do kittens bite?

Kittens are born with the urge to hunt, they’re naturally curious and they often lead with their bite to suss out their surroundings. As a kitten, they don’t yet know the difference between a toy, their prey or a human foot, they just want to practice their pounce and hunt anything that moves. Kittens biting is perfectly normal behaviour, but it is a good idea to encourage your kitten to bite the right things at an early age.

Play with your kitten a few times a day using a variety of toys such as plush toys that mimic different types of prey, wands with teasers that they can chase and catch, tunnels where they can hide etc. Your kitten won’t play alone and needs a moving target, so it is important that you move the toys for your kitten and encourage playful behaviour. After your kitten catches the toy, reward them with a treat to satisfy their hunting experience and encourage this good behaviour.

How to stop a kitten or cat from biting

Whether you have a kitten or a cat, there are things you can do to stop your cat biting your hands and feet rather than their toys!

A kitten will always have a playful energy so as an owner, you need to direct that towards toys, not hands or feet. If your kitten starts play biting your hand or foot, say no sharply and disengage from the play, but give them a toy to play with in place of your hand. This will help them understand that when they want to play, they should play with their toys.

Similarly to a kitten, if your cat bites you either aggressively or during play, it is important you let them know that this behaviour isn’t ok. Don’t shout at your cat or hit them, this will likely upset your cat and cause stress which will lead to further misbehaviour. When they bite, say “no” or “ouch” and stop playing with them for a minute. If you react the same way every time then your cat will soon realise that playtime ends whenever they bite you and eventually, they’ll stop. You can reward your cat when it is playing with its toys to reemphasise that this is the best way to play!

Cats biting is part of their nature, so when we tell them not to hunt or bite our moving, prey-like hands, we are asking them to do something that feels wrong to them. It is important to be patient with your pet, understand their different behaviours and moods and follow the above tips when needed so that you have the best relationship with your pet cat. Have a look at our We Talk Pet blog for more information and tips about cats.

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