Why Does Your Cat Purr and then Bite You?

You’re having a moment of pure love with your kitty, you are petting it and it is purring away like a small adorable lawnmower.

You are having the time of your lives and then suddenly, your small little bundle of furry joy starts biting at your hand and you are in utter shock – how did we get from the loving cuddles to the unflattering bites? Why does my cat purr and then bite me? We hope you find the answers you need below:

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Love Bites – The Great Conundrum of Feline Love 

Your cat biting at your hand and fingers after you’ve been petting it is a very common thing. Probably every single cat parent out there has experienced this, which is why this type of behavior has gotten its own name – love bites.

The name was probably meant to soften the biting and point out that it is still a positive thing. But why does it happen? Why does a cat start biting if it is having a good time?

Charlie biting me

To answer this question, we first have to understand what happens to your cat when you pet it. When you start caressing its fur, it responds by relaxing.

As you continue, it thoroughly enjoys the feeling and it becomes excited. It begins to purr, louder and louder, and you are both having a wonderful time. Purring has a beneficial effect on both you and your cat.

But after a while, this state of bliss turns into something else, which is not pleasant anymore – a state of hyper-excitability. This manifests with extremely intense feelings for your cat, which are no longer positive.

When your cat reaches this state, it experienced pain, generalized over its entire body and more intense in the area where you are still stroking it.

This is why it has to let you know that it is time to stop, so it starts biting at your hand or your fingers.

Why Does Your Cat Purr and then Bite You

You don’t have to feel offended, if anything, it is a compliment because your cat has had a good time, up to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore. If you stop, the state of hyper-excitability will also fade out and everything will go back to normal.

This is the general explanation behind love bites, but we have to go into the details of it to provide you with more helpful tips and tricks for coping with it.

Here are some frequently asked questions about love bites. If your question is not covered here, you can write it in the comments section below and we will answer you as soon as possible.

Are love bites painful?

Love bites are usually just a warning sign, so they are not painful. They are not the same as aggressive biting, so they are typically no more than small pricks.

However, love bites can get out of hand sometimes and they can turn into some serious bites. If this happens, you should start training your cat to stop love bites altogether.

Why Does Your Cat Purr and then Bite You Ragdoll Cat Charlie

Can love bites lead to serious bites?

Yes, they can. As mentioned above, love bites are warnings you are getting from your cat that the petting session is not pleasant for them anymore.

If you ignore the waning and continue the petting, your cat will experience even more intense pain and it will most likely bite you even harder to let you know that you really have to stop. It’s all a matter of miscommunication, but it can lead to some serious bites sometimes. If this is the case, you should teach your cat to bite correctly.

Should I let my cat bite me?

The answer is never. Even though your cat is biting you to let you know that it is no longer enjoying you petting it, you have to be authoritative and let it know that this is not acceptable behavior.

Under no circumstance does this mean you have to respond by striking your cat or with any type of pain. The correct response is to stop the petting as soon as your cat begins to bite and to put the cat down and ignore it for the next few minutes.

By letting your cat know that the petting session is over as soon as it bites you, it will understand that this type of behavior is not tolerated.

You have to trust your cat. It is smart enough to find another way of letting you know that you have to stop petting it. The biting could turn into light nibbling or meowing, but only if you make it clear that biting is not permitted.

Why Does Your Cat Purr and then Bite You Ragdoll Cat Charlie 2

What can I do if my cat becomes aggressive?

Love bites can turn into aggressive bites if your cat is experiencing sudden powerful pain. In this case, you have to touch your cat at little as possible. Pick it up, put it down on the floor and just let it relax.

If your cat shows signs of aggression, your best option is to grab it by the loose skin at the back of its neck (so that it can’t turn around and bite your hand) and put it down.

If this has never happened before, you may want to take your cat to the vet after it relaxes. On the other hand, if the love bites have gotten worse and worse in time and have now reached a point where they are painful, then your cat has a behavior problem.

You can fix this by training. As explained above, biting should not be tolerated. Every time your cat bites, you have to let it know that this type of behavior is not acceptable.

Seal Point Ragdoll Cat Samuel love biting Cynde
Samuel love biting Cynde

You have to stop petting it altogether and ignore it for a few minutes, even if it comes asking for attention. Don’t yell at the cat, instead, you should ignore it completely. In time, it will understand why.

Are love bites a sign of love?

While a lot of cat parents seem to think that love bites are a more extreme way that their cats are expressing their love, they are not a signal of something positive. In fact, they are quite the opposite. They are a sign that the petting is getting too intense and it not pleasant anymore or that it is painful altogether.

Milo loved by Angela Why Does Your Cat Purr and then Bite You IMG_4212
Angela writes, “This Milo. When he’s in a really amorous mood, he’ll bite and suck on my finger. Love him to pieces.”

Why did my cat bite me and then lick me?

Love bites are impulsive reactions. Your cat is surprised by the reaction it is having to your petting and it is telling you to stop immediately. Some cats realize that biting is not something they are allowed to do.

In this case, they might lick your hand as a sign that they are sorry and that they have no aggressive tendencies towards you.

As you can see, love bites are misinterpreted reactions. This miscommunication between people and their kitties has led to bites and bruises, hurt feelings and hurt fingers, and quite a bit of bickering. But now that you know why it happens, next time it happens, you will know what to do.

Does your cat give you love bites? Are they painful or just prickly? Tell us your love bite stories in the comments section below. We’d love to head all about them!

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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. Cynthia Cronkhite says:

    Excellent explanation, thank you. It would be great to also include signals your cat is likely giving before resorting to biting, such as ear and tail movements. Once I learned how to pick up on those more subtle cues, I could stop before things escalated. There is one humorous, albeit painful, exception though; my female cat enjoys sleeping on a blanket in my lap, and she sometimes enjoys a vigorous session of biscuit making before settling down. That occasionally starts with her chomping down on the blanket without realizing that my leg is underneath! lol

  2. Sherron Laurrell says:

    Thank you for this article. It is very timely for me and my cat Spencer. Spencer is 11 years old. He starting “love biting” about 2 years ago. He breaks the skin on my hands and lower arms if I don’t see the signs. It is very upsetting and I do get mad at him. It hurts!!! Your description of the process is exactly what I’ve observed. He’s purring. Rubbing all over the bathroom counter. And then BAMM! If I pay enough attention, I catch his subtle change and pull my hands away.

  3. I have a 1.5 year old Ragdoll that will just be sitting on my lap (I’m not petting) and he’ll look up at me and bite my cheek!

    He’s gotten better since I’ve started pushing him away when he does that (it hurts)!…. Other than that he’s such a sweet boy.

    I’ve never had a cat do that before and I’ve had a lot of cats.

  4. Thank you for this in-depth explanation! I’ve had cats all my life and I never knew stroking could get to intense for them but it makes sense. After all, too much excitement can be overwhelming for us humans too. Only one of my three cats is a biter, though. The other two either simply pull back or gently push my hands away with claws retracted which is one of the sweetest things ever. The biter kitty does it the opposite way: she licks first and then bites. But it’s rarely needed, their body language and facial expressions are usually enough to let me know they’ve had enough petting.

  5. Kim Abrams says:

    We have a 3 month old male. If he is going to sleep or just waking up he is very loving and will allow me to carry and cuddle him. I may not even be petting him and all of a sudden he will turn and go for my arms…claws and teeth. If I shake my finger at him with a stern NO he just attacks more and harder. My forearms are really carved up, some marks will scar for sure.
    Our last ragdoll was a girl and I don’t recall this type of behavior. Is this a male kitten trying to be the alpha? What action can we take before the adult teeth come in?

  6. Super PAWESOME & FABULOUS POST, Jenny honey! LURVED!! TYSVM!!! Yup, we get them from Miss PSB and respect what she is telling us when she’s had enough, etc… 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & blessings!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 😉 <3 <3 <3

  7. Cynthia Ray says:

    Very true. If Samuel has a good grip i always say no and like a baby i put my finger thru the side of his jaw and he will release. My question is the hype excitement is painful to him?

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