We’ve received a lot of questions about cats biting their owners. It’s totally understandable that this could cause some concern for pet owners, especially if your cat is biting you very hard – sometimes hard enough to draw blood or break the skin.
It’s highly unlikely, however, that your kitty has any malicious intent whatsoever. We hope to help you understand why your cat may be biting you, and what you can do to stop it from happening.
Play-fighting is very important for cats; it’s a way in which they communicate, burn off extra energy, and work on their innate hunting skills. Cat communication so to speak.
Unfortunately, humans don’t have the thick coat of fur that cats have to protect them from the bites and scratches that come along with play aggression and rough play. Your cat, however, doesn’t understand this and is really just trying to play with you!
A good remedy for this situation is to play with your cat using toys, starting from a young age. When they’re kittens we often let cats play with our hands and feet since they can’t do much harm, but as they get older and stronger this isn’t safe anymore its always smart to stop a cat from biting young.
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If a cat attacks your hands and feet, distract him with a toy and eventually, s/he’ll learn that your body isn’t for playing with. Also, try to factor in set periods of playtime every day – at least two periods of ten minutes.
If you don’t play much with your cat or if s/he’s alone a lot, it’s likely that s/he will build up a lot of restless energy from lack of playing. This will cause him to be very aggressive when playtime actually comes around and he or she will start getting a custom to rough play.
The formal term for this is “petting-induced aggression.” It can be confusing when your cat suddenly bites you while s/he was seemingly enjoying the attention! This is most likely because you’ve been holding or petting her or him for too long and s/he feels overstimulated.
Pay keen attention to your cat’s body language! Ears flattened backwards, a violently swishing tail and a tense body are three common warning signs. If you notice any of these behaviors, stop petting your cat immediately and give her some space to calm down.
Some cats simply have a low tolerance for petting – which may be caused by high sensitivity to touch – so don’t continuously pet them when they’ve clearly had enough! Look at you cat behavior and make an educated guess.
If a cat bites you out of nowhere, with no indication of being playful or angry, it may be a sign that your cat is ill. Cats sometimes bite when they’re confused or in pain. This is especially true for cats with dental disease, arthritis, or a nervous system condition. So if the cat in question starts to attack their owners remember it might not be the cat’s fault!
The older your cat is, it’s more likely that illness could be the cause of random biting. Whatever your cat’s age, though, take him to a vet if his biting is spontaneous and frequent enough to cause worry.
Always be aware of your cat’s needs and body language. Remember that they can’t verbally tell you what they’re feeling, so actions are a huge factor in the way they express themselves and communicate with us. Biting is a recurring concern for cat owners, but is one that can be prevented!
Like learning about cat behavior? You might enjoy this book: CatWise: America’s Favorite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behavior Questions
What tips or ideas do you have about why cats bite?