Cat Behavior: Why Cats Bite

why cats bite

Have you ever been sitting beside your cat petting her and suddenly she bit you?  You may think your cat didn’t give you warning before biting, but it’s possible she gave you warning signs you didn’t understand.  There are several reasons why cats bite, here are some of them:

To Stop You From Petting Her  

Overstimulation

Although cats often enjoy being petted, if it’s done for too long and overstimulates them or if the area is sensitive due to arthritis, they will give warning signals, and if not heeded biting may be the end result.  Cats are very sensitive to touch, and so it doesn’t take too long for them to become overstimulated.

Certain Areas May Be Painful To Touch, or Just Doesn’t Feel Good

Sometimes, there are certain areas of the body a cat doesn’t like to have petted.  For example, a cat may be fine being petted on the head, but not enjoy being petted on her back.  Think of it like this, if you are ticklish in a certain spot on your body, and someone touches the spot, it doesn’t feel good and you will ask the person to stop.  If that person continues, don’t you usually take measures to end the tickling?  The same concept applies for cats.

A cat will give warning signs that she’s not enjoying the touch.  Usually it will be sharp flicks of the tail or ears going back.  Watch for these signs, and if you see them, stop petting the cat for a few minutes to give her a chance to relax.

Thinking Hands Are For Playing

Often, cat guardians will use their hands or fingers to play with their cat.  If this becomes a habit, the cat will come to equate hands and/or fingers will toys and bite them as they would a toy.  Rather than use your hands as playthings, redirect your cat to interactive toys so they learn what is appropriate for play.  Wand toys are recommended rather than any type of toy you might hold in your hand.  Cats get pretty excited when playing, and if you’re holding a toy and she accidentally bites your hand when trying to grab the toy, she may not understand that biting your hand was wrong.  Using the wand toy takes that confusion factor out of the picture.

Lack of Mental Stimulation

Does your cat chase and bite your feet when you’re walking?  This may be due to a lack of stimulation.  Cats are hunters at heart that like to stalk their prey.  If they don’t have appropriate outlets for that hunting instinct, they may find it by stalking your feet.  Think about it, your feet are a moving target and your toes are just the right size for a cat to think of as prey.  If your cat exhibits this behavior, try scheduling play sessions using a wand toy.  Look for a toy that resembles a small bird in size to maximize the enjoyment of the hunt for your cat.

If you’re in the midst of a play session and your cat bites you, stop play. Ignore her for a few minutes rather than reprimand her.  This will show her that biting is not good and will end play time.  If she bites you to try to renew playtime, say “no bite” and ignore her.  When she seems to be calm, reconvene the play session.  If she bites again, stop play and ignore her for a few minutes.  It won’t take her long to figure out if she bites, play will stop.  No self-respecting kitty wants play to stop!

There are many reasons why cats bite. These are some of the most frequent, but may not be all inclusive. If you watch your cat’s body language, it’s often possible to nip the bite in the bud.

Written by Karen

Karen

Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.

4 Responses to "Cat Behavior: Why Cats Bite"

  1. My Sassy girl is a biter! Thankfully she gives us growling warnings when she’s about to strike. The smallest thing will set her off – like if she’s on my lap, and I move (sometimes even just to readjust my position an inch or two), I usually get the warning growls and sometimes a hiss. She’s bossy and doesn’t like it when things aren’t exactly the way she wants them to be! 😉

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    1. I’ve heard female cats have more tendency to be “grumpy” than males(your Sophie is an exception), that’s why I’ve always had males.

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    1. Hmm….does it always happen at the same time, i.e. after you eat, after you’ve taken a shower? Cats are so sensitive to scents, wondering if your cat picks up a scent and likes it.

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