Do You Let Your Cat Bite You?

| March 14, 2015 | 40 Comments

Charlie biting meDo You Let Your Cat Bite You?

First published May 30, 2012

My mom told us never to let our cats or dogs bite us and said that if we allowed it we would only be encouraging that behavior.Β  This is true, of course. I have no problems with it and would encourage that anyone practice such a thing.

HOWEVER, I lived with a guy for 5 years that allowed his cat to bite him…and so I fell into the trap. I love it when Charlie, Trigg or Murphy bite me when they are in a playful mood. Caymus just won’t – but I’d let him. Murphy is funny because he’s my mom’s cat and won’t bite her (he knows he’s not allowed), but doesn’t hesitate to bite me when given the chance.Β  I remember a year or so ago that my mom saw Murphy biting me and she was surprised that he would!

They’re gentle/playful bites though and I don’t do this with cats I don’t know – as you’ll notice – I only do it with my mom’s cats and mine.Β  Wouldn’t dream of doing it to another cat that doesn’t know me. So it begs the question, “Do you let your cats bite you?”

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Category: Ragdoll Cat Behavior

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About the Author ()

Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. Lisa Staffa says:

    I only let my Louie bite me. He loves me and only me πŸ™‚ and loves to ‘box’ with me all the time and if he thinks he is losing, he will try to playfully bite me in the process….he will grab me with his paws (no claws) and nip at me or put his mouth around my hand or wrist and not apply any pressure at all. My hubby is jealous that Louie won’t do this with him. LOL

  2. Eszti & Phineas says:

    I don’t let my Phineas bite me, I did not let him when he was really very young nor do I let him now (he doesn’t even try anymore). Because he is the only cat in my household, I am the only living creature who he can bite and while it is cute in kittenhood, I am not sure I would be happy with a lets say 22 lb cat biting me πŸ™‚

    I did alot of research before bringing him home, and I am really glad that I did. Kittens among each other kind of “teach” each other what is acceptable and what is not (what bite is too strong, etc), and I did just that. They do so by, when being hurt (by a stronger bite lets say), they also bite back harder, this way the other kitten feels that it was too much and will retreat. Puppies do it same way; which I knew already, but I was not sure if it works with kittens as well :).

    Now some will think I am some horrible person who hurt the kitten, but it was not anything like that. When he bit me (and in the first days he bit me hard sometimes, playfully), I simply made a sound of being in pain, and caught his thigh for example, and pinched it just as much that it felt uncomfortable for him (I bit him back, like his siblings would have done). He understood it after 2-3 days that it causes me pain when he bites me, and he never ever did it anymore.

    He is really a very smart cat. πŸ™‚

  3. Shelbie says:

    I’ve tried not to encourage it but Bourdeaux has other ideas. He is the first cat I’ve EVER had that actually tries to bite my face. He gets a very specific look on his face and I know it’s coming. I can usually stop him but I don’t always catch it in time. Usually though he goes for my shouder. He also HATES when I laugh or talk on the phone. For whatever reason those to actions just make him MAD. I try to be firm with him but he still does it. I seem to think that when he’s playing he just gets over stimulated and doesn’t know when to stop. I attribute it to the fact that when he was still a kitten with his cat mom he’d been sick and I got him at less than 12 weeks (10) so he probably didn’t get enough proper socialization and discipline from mom.

    • Jenny says:

      Ha ha! “Bourdeaux has other ideas”. I know this probably isn’t funny to you, but also hilarious, “He also HATES when I laugh or talk on the phone. For whatever reason those to actions just make him MAD” – almost spit my tea onto the screen!

  4. Shelbie says:

    LOL, it is pretty funny and I try not to laugh…because that just makes him MORE mad! I can’t win! HAHA

  5. Tina says:

    It’s so funny that you should posted this, I was talking about this with some friends. George is my 14 month old ragdoll and my first cat. I have had him since he was 7/8 weeks old. He playfully bites me all the time. I also seem to think that when he’s playing he gets over stimulated and probably should have spent more time with his littermates for proper socialization. He will go after my hands, feet and ankles. Recently he nipped at my neck while I was sleeping. He is relentless in the morning. He bites at my hair and pulls on it until I wake up to feed him his wet food. I no longer need an alarm clock. On Sunday one of my girlfriends came over and George was sniffing her hand then began to lick it followed by a nip. He was definitely playing but I was surprised. I have never seen him bite anyone else except for my boyfriend who he is very familiar with.

  6. Karen says:

    My 10 mos. old Ragdoll bites me first thing in the morning. He usually goes for the face, shoulders or collarbone area. I’m usually half asleep and don’t catch him in time to stop him. I’ve had to shut the doors to my children’s rooms so they don’t get bitten. Looking for advice on how to stop this behavior before my body is filled with scars. I usually grab him by the scruff of the neck or ear to make him stop and end up shutting him out of my room in the morning. I’m hoping he will grow out of this. I have noticed more licking than biting, lately….

  7. artzzee0ne says:

    Yes! I allow both of my Kittens/Cats to playfully bite me. I adopted both around the same time last year. Both were about 3 months, one from a neighbor that was feral and one from a shelter they are both very sweet and respectful when they play with me and don’t use their claws or bite hard. It’s the highlight of their day and they don’t do it with anyone else. Sounds like the Cat that bites at the face has issues and needs intervention….

  8. Jessy says:

    I don’t because once, years ao, my Siamese cat Karma bit me for real (while I was asleep!) and it got so infected that I almost wound up in the hospital. Ever since then I’m afraid of cat bites and tend to jerk my hand away when they threaten to bite, it’s just playing. My raggy Lucy is so gentle that she doesn’t even bite. If she wants to express ‘enough with the petting!’ she opens her mouth as if she might bite and that’s enough of a warning for me. And my other Siamese, Squid, will actually wake me up with light bites but I don’t encourage it. Karma has never bit me since – it was a bit of a fluke. She’s the only one I’ll even play with like that – mainly because she’s 15 and she and I have a weird bond; she’d never do it again. Plus she has almost no teeth left!

    • Jenny says:

      YUCK! Sounds miserable – I wouldn’t continue if they broke my skin as I know how bacteria ridden a cat’s mouth can be.

      • Jessy says:

        Yeah, it was 3 little punctures (one fang was broken) – she got me good. It was so infected, it was swollen like there was an egg under my skin. I had one antibiotic shot, and the next day my arm was red down to the wrist and I could barely stand up, had a fever, etc. So I went back to the doctor, and they gave me 2 great big antibiotic shots, at the same time – one in each butt cheek! If that didn’t do it the next step was IV antibiotics in the hospital – but fortunately those 2 shots knocked it out. I was sick for a week. I still have the little scars. Cat bites scare me now.

  9. Susan Smith says:

    Two of my 3 cats are biters and only 1 of them ever bites for a reason that isn’t play. Oscar bites playfully and though I don’t like it, my husband will allow him to bite so long as he doesn’t chomp down hard. Rubydee has a disorder (the one where her skin involunraily ripples and she thinks her tail is out to get her) and her biting often goes beyond what is play. I don’t allow her to bite me, so she hisses instead and then rubs against me. She bites my husband all the time and he’s okay with it. I know when she’s going to change into “psycho kitty (should be a David Byrne song) – she gets that wild and crazy look in her eyes and they practically cross and then she sinks her teeth in! Sassy (a good old girl of 17) never bites – never has and never will. But, she knows how to give the other cats and selected humans “The Look” so she has never had to resort to biting for any reason.

  10. Teresa says:

    You are so funny and I love the questions you ask because I think about them too. When Grace first arrived, she was only 12 weeks old and was used to kitten play so, she knew the “rules” about biting. As we started to play more, she was getting a little rough and I used the method of saying “ouch” when it got too hard. She is very perceptive. Also, she seemed to be teething and needed something to bite, so I got her a little round stuffed animal and when she laid on her back, would throw her the toy for her to catch and bunny kick and she enjoyed biting that for all it’s worth. She is now 26 weeks old and is still biting her little stuffed toy. She lays on her back with all 4 feet up in the air waiting for the toy to catch. It has become a really fun game. Just lately, she has started waking me up to say she is hungry by softly biting me on the nose. She seems to know that it hurts and is very very gentle. I love it and play like I’m asleep so she will continue to do it while I secretly laugh to myself. Aren’t they wonderful?

    • Jenny says:

      Cute! What other questions do you think of? It can help me with blog post ideas.

      • Betty says:

        Suggestion: Does your cat give “hand hugs” ?

        When we stroke his chest between his front paws, Andy wraps his front paws around the hand and hugs it to him, while pressing his forehead in to the hand. It is a very affectionate gesture and reserved for favorite people. I have never heard of, or experienced, anything like.

    • Teresa Reid says:

      Love reading back to see how Grace has changed from when she was a little baby! She only play bites me when I am playing and tickle her little belly. Illaria does the same thing and both of them seem to enjoy it and know when to stop. Now, Miss Mariposa is another story since she is a rescue, she has trouble with social queues so I don’t do that with her and only give her lots of positive reinforcement. Only after being here for almost 9 years, she has just begun to run and chase the girls actually playing instead of being aggressive. At first, I scolded her for being mean to the babies, but then after watching her more, realized that she is no longer being aggressive and is enjoying herself! Finally! So, treat her very carefully and don’t do anything that she would misinterpret.β™₯β™₯β™₯

  11. A.M. Stewart says:

    I guess it depends on what “bite” means. I would never suggest any activity which prompts an animal to break your skin, but I see no harm in allowing a nibble or nip if done in play. Most cats like to roughhouse, and as long as they understand there are limits you are fine. If they bite you harder than you’d like, make a loud sound (“OWWW!”) like a child and they generally get the idea it hurts. Do NOT strike them back, but rather scold them and get them to associate too-rough play with disapproval.

    Claws are a different thing. Even the most benign cat can accidentally cut a human’s relatively vulnerable skin, so I recommend keeping your kitty’s claws cut to a reasonable length. NEVER get them declawed – which is the equivalent to taking a human’s fingers off at the knuckles! It is cruel, unnecessary and can be downright dangerous if the cat should get outside and have to defend itself. If you are concerned about the cat scratching the furniture, get multiple scratching posts and strategically place them in the offending areas. Cats can be trained to do anything – it’s humans who are too lazy to make the effort. Also don’t trim their claws back too far, as they can bleed quite easily and be uncomfortable as well.

    In regards to claws, I just make it a habit of not pulling my hands away quickly when playing with my cats, as claws are designed to grasp and hold in that situation. Cats also have an instinct to kick (disembowel) with their back legs, so be careful in that scenario. If they start to get too worked up, stop and let them calm down a bit.

    For those who don’t want to take any chances, I highly recommend getting a simple stick with a elastic line and toy on the end. Cats LOVE to chase and pounce, and this gives them a great release as well as bonds them to you in a pleasurable exercise.

    One other warning – watch your eyes and face. I have one kitty who will bite you in the face, which even when done playfully can be risky. I know his mannerisms and when he goes “tomcat” on me I just move him away from my face. He’s not really trying to indure, but even retracted claws swiped again the eyes can scratch the cornea.

  12. Eric says:

    Yes, I let my nine year old Ragdoll cat Nikki bite me when she plays with me. But after she bites my arm gently, she immediately starts licking me afterward. She is a wonderful cat and I adopted her a year ago. Always loves to play with me (and all of her toys) and is very loving and sweet.

  13. lisa staffa says:

    Oh I forgot to add that Louie also likes to nip the bridge of my nose when he licks my face. He does this to me (and he is soooo gentle about it) and he does it to my older son James. We both think we are pretty special since he only nips our noses and we both laugh when he does this.

  14. Betty says:

    I discourage it. Andy used to do it as a kitten. He never broke skin but he did it to let me know he was tired of being touched or brushed. There are other ways for him to let me know and he has found them. I did not want him feeling that he was free to be bratty – with me, but more importantly to others who might not be as confident of his self-control.
    I knew a mom who could not get her daughter to stop biting other kids when she felt ignored. She worked on it for over a year. Finally, Mom bit daughter – hard. Daughter stopped biting. Andy learned faster – and easier! Smart fella! πŸ™‚

  15. Susan Pike says:

    no never it’s a bad habit they get in to and if something ever happen to me they might try on someone else and in the shelter that would get them killed if they bit someone

  16. Beth says:

    My Ragdoll boys weren’t biters. Sammy Mouse, my grey short-haired tabby, never knew his mother. He was found newborn in a ditch and bottle fed practically from birth. Adopted babies are really a different breed of cat πŸ™‚ Sammy washes my husband and me a lot. Sometimes he’ll bite when he plays but the bites are very gentle… and if we act like it hurts, he’ll start washing us apologetically instead.

  17. Coinneach Fitzpatrick says:

    My Charlie gives lovebites, very gentle nibbles that wouldn’t break a baby’s skin.

  18. sam says:

    My kitten, nunu was 8 weeks when I got her. She was a little reserved but now she happily jumps about, she’s 10 weeks now. I remember, when I first got her she would scratch me all the time, but I managed to fix that. I would shout ‘NO’ and leave her in the living room, or blow in her face, or hiss at her. She stopped scratching but now she bites. Her bites are different, like when she’s playing she’ll take my finger between her teeth and bite but without pressure. Then when I say ‘Ouch’ She begins to lick it. Though sometimes she gets rough and bites the crap put of my feet and even my hands and won’t stop. Not sure when she’ll stop. But I’m determined to make her stop because I was freaked out by the thought of a kitten initially, and just got used to her. But if she grown up and with the way she eats, she’s going to be a beast, she will kill me with he bites. By the way I’m trying to give her small amounts of food, and do more chasing after mousey, her pet.

  19. Jessy Walker says:

    I’ve read that when they bite or scratch, you should just walk away: End of play session. Be consistent about it – 1st bite or scratch, just walk away. I did that with my raggie and my tortie point and they both are quite gentle now.

  20. amleia says:

    my cat bella does not bit me unlessshe is playing becuse she likes her belly tikkled but also likes pretending to be a big cat and she never actualy butes she just holds my arm in her mouth and holds my arm with her paws wile its in her mouth

  21. Lisa says:

    yes my Ragdoll Murphy bites when he plays.I thought all kittys did that at play he gets a little carried away but not mean just play.Hes 17 months of true Luv.He has little tantrums sometimes it seems he usually thinks twice about being to mean or bratty cause he knows we all luv him so much .He can be very loyal.I just leave him alone if hes mad then he realizes im ignoring him so he turns into a manipulating luv ball again.HES JUST TOOOOO SMART AND TO CUTE IM GONNA CHASE HIM ,CATCH HIM AND AT LEAST KISS HIM 5 MORE TIMES.HUH HUH.Got a love a RAGDOLL

  22. Samantha Mueller says:

    Jenny,
    couldn’t sleep, so I was scanning your site again as usual πŸ™‚ and came across this post. I was wondering if anyone else out there let their cats play bite. I have a friend that lets his 2 year old play bite and he’s never injured his owner. I also let my 3-legged, 3 year old play bite. For her, it’s really the only way she can play with me since she’s only got one front paw. My ex was against it when I first started letting her do it because he didn’t want the cat to hurt our daughter, which i totally understand. Luckily, she is very gentle and has never broken my skin to injure me. Unfortunately, she’s been without her front paw since she was about 5-6 months old, so its really all she knows. In order for her to play with me or a toy she has to grasp it with her one remaining paw, and her mouth.
    When I brought home Denver, my Ragdoll, she didn’t play bite at first, but after noticing that I let my other cat do it, she has started to. She’s 5 months old, I’ve had her since the second week in July, and I’ve noticed that letting her play bite keeps her from using her claws when we are playing; something I’m more than ok with. She is even gentler than my other cat and seems to respond well to a gentle tap on the nose if she starts to get too rough. Neither of the girls will play bite my daughter, if they go to open their mouths I will quickly tap their noses and hand my daughter a toy to distract them, so far we haven’t had any issues. I was worried that people would give me a hard time for letting them do it, but as long as its under control and no one gets hurt, I don’t see an issue with it. πŸ™‚

  23. lrunning says:

    I think Emily’s original owner let her bite him and played a little rough with her with his hands as she can really chomp down and will whip around and bite someone who’s been petting her nicely just a few seconds ago. So, I’ve been working on eliminating that behavior. Putting her down and ignoring her is the worst punishment you can give her as an attention monger!
    I’ve been diligent about no hand-playing with the new kitten, Hunter, and it’s really paid off. Even visitors get the reminder “don’t wiggle your fingers at him!”. I give them a toy instead. So, we’re working on no biting in our house!

  24. Christy says:

    NO, I definitely don’t let him bite!

    However, I totally would if he could control himself. His gentle nibble (which isn’t really gentle but it’s his version of gentle), escalates to a hard chomp faster than I can make a cookie disappear!

    Typically in the morning as I’m waking up he’s purring madly, flouncing his bum in face, immediately turning around to do it again and to spy exposed skin to start biting. As soon as I hear him coming down from his tree I make sure I’ve got a sheet up to my chin (he’s never tried to bite my face) to try to dissuade him from the biting.

    A couple of times I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with his upper body under the covers and his biting my arm or hand. Oftentimes when he’s in the midst of his morning routine I remind him verbally not to bite me and so he’ll sniff, lick, rub his whiskers against me but ultimately he can’t help himself and he bites.

    When he first got here, he would attempt to bite me a lot when he was mad or worried. I feel like in his past, for a variety of reasons, he must have used biting as a message, warning or protection and it’s taken him a long time to decide he doesn’t need to do that anymore but his crazy fast escalation when he’s affectionate is still a problem. I really don’t feel like the escalation is out of anger just a lack of control.

    One thing that he does that has me stymied is that when he begs to be pet and I do he often whips his head to the other side of his body and furiously starts grooming. If I stop petting him, he stops grooming and resumes begging to be pet. I do and he repeats the process.

    I feel like he grooms as a way of controlling his true desire to bite me? I’m thinking he wants to bite me as a show of affection but he knows I don’t “allow” him to and so he tries to distract himself? Is that a crazy conclusion? Any ideas?

  25. Deb Smith says:

    My kitten was a proper biter when she was teething so was hissed at by me and barked at by my mostly silent dog. Blood was seen on many occasions! Mostly mine. Following Jenny’s suggestion I played with her ’till she was exhausted and left her with some “yummy” chicken wingtips to bite on at bedtime. Now she has her adult teeth she only bites when vexed, luckily as I am the god of food, she’s never vexed with me. Interestingly I’ll allow my Bull Terrier to play bite me, but she’s 10 and gets my body language better than my 8 mth kitten does. Oh and the kitten still gets wing tips for supper every night – she loves them!

  26. plmcat says:

    one of my cats will bite me but it’s .. well not exactly gentle but not enough to break the skin. he only does it if i am ruffling up his tummy. i’ve been bitten really hard by a cat once that was protecting her kittens and man you don’t ever want a bite like that from a cat. they get horribly infected and it’s very painful. gentle bites is ok with me but i certainly don’t encourage it and i always let them know if it’s too rough. i read somewhere that if they are biting you gently it actually means they are loving you. don’t know if that’s true or not.

  27. Nyeca Bacon says:

    I don’t like when MaiTai bites me. She will nip at me when she’s had enough petting time. My husband will play with her and let her hold onto is arm while she bunny kicks and bites at his fingers. I worry that she will see my hands and bite me so I stop touching her when she bites. Sometimes I think “geez I just wanna love you” lol But I let her have her way.

  28. Patti Johnson says:

    Miss Pink Sugarbelle gets super feisty every once in a while and will try to bite our hands but we give her a firm no and she stops. Now, there are the times when I’m grooming her or petting her and when she’s had enough of that activity she will give me a quick nip to say “That’s enough, please.” I don’t reprimand her for those so perhaps that makes me a bit of a hypocrite I suppose…She never really bites down hard enough to hurt us as she’s such a gentle soul.

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle πŸ™‚ <3

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