Why does my cat bite me?

Cat "love bites" are real, but it seems like a bit of a painful way to show affection. It's time to get to the bottom of why your cat bites you, how common these bites are, and what you can do about it.

Some cats will give you little bites out of love and affection.
Some cats will give you little bites out of love and affection.  © 123RF/Alie04

There are a variety of reasons that can explain why a cat might bite its human. It can be out of boredom, out of stress, out of anger, or simply as a playful little nip that – believe it or not – actually expresses affection and love.

You've probably found yourself wondering how you can tell what kind of bite is what and whether your kitty is angry or in love.

In this cat guide, we'll get to the bottom of exactly that question. Why does my cat bite me, and when it does, how can I stop my cat from biting me? Let's take a look.

Why do cats bite you?

There are many reasons that can explain why a cat might bite you every now and again, and few are particularly concerning. For the most part, your kitty will nip you out of affection and playfulness rather than anger or discontent. In the same way that we show affection in some odd ways (come on, guys, hugging is a bit weird if you think about it), our feline friends have some quirks, too.

Here are a few reasons why your cat might bite you:

  • Anger: If your cat gets angry, it may lash out at you with both its claws and its teeth. In such a situation, it is worth giving it space.
  • Playfulness: Sometimes, when a cat plays, it will be imagining itself in a hunting situation. As such, it may latch onto you and bite as if it were wrestling with a mouse or bird. Don't worry; if it is playing, it likely won't hurt you too badly.
  • Accident: Cats can sometimes nip your fingers if you are feeding them by hand or they think that you are holding food. There are a variety of reasons why a cat may accidentally give you a little bite.
  • Love and affection: There is such a thing as a "love bite," a small little bite that your cat will give you as a sign of affection.

Different behaviors will always elicit different responses, and that goes for cats, dogs, humans, whales, and even goldfish. Be aware of your cat's body language and personality, and you'll be able to keep its biting in check.

Not every cat bite is aggressive, sometimes they are what we call "Love bites."
Not every cat bite is aggressive, sometimes they are what we call "Love bites."  © 123RF/Vlmediauhd

Why does my cat bite me gently out of nowhere?

A cat that's biting you gently, just a little nibble on the finger, is likely giving you what we call a "love bite." This is a generally harmless and discreet behavior that can be recognized when a cat lightly chews on the skin without exerting enough pressure to bite through the skin. It is a form of communication expressing closeness and attachment to the cat's human.

The affectionate gesture of a "love bite," which may involve a little pinching or tickling, can also be accompanied by pleasant purring and small head bumps from your beloved little fluff ball. However, in order to distinguish such a bite from an aggressive one, you should learn the signs that indicate a cat's anger.

If your cat shows the following signs, it is not a "love bite":

  • If your cat starts to scratch you
  • If your cat pushes you firmly away with its paw
  • If your cat is violently whipping its tail around
  • If your cat puts its ears back and looks furious
  • If your cat humps its back or stands up its fur

Cats have naturally learned to give their loved ones and those close to them little "love bites" as a sign of affection. It comes from their mating rituals, which regularly see each mate biting the other during the act, but it is not always a sexual or steamy activity to be partaking in – don't worry!

Just make sure to learn everything there is to know about your cat to help give you the tools you need to respect its boundaries. If you do that, you may find that most bites you receive from your kitty come from a place of love, not hate.

Why does my cat lick me then bite me?

This is a sign of love because licking-then-biting is a behavior associated with grooming and cat motherhood. It is how a mother cat looks after its kittens, licking and biting to help keep them clean. If your cat is doing this, it is likely very affectionate towards you and simply trying to look after you the only way that it truly knows how.

Why does my cat bite me when I pet her?

If a cat is not enjoying a petting session, or doesn't like being held, it might bite you.
If a cat is not enjoying a petting session, or doesn't like being held, it might bite you.  © 123RF/Mstockagency

If your cat bites you whenever you pet it, it could be a grumpy kitty, or there could be a health problem in need of looking into. It is best to be safe, though, so if your cat has suddenly stopped accepting pats and is instead constantly attacking you whenever you come near or try to touch it, go to the veterinarian as soon as humanly possible.

Why does my cat hug my arm and bite me?

Cats will hug and bite, likely while kicking, when they hunt and attack prey. As such, if your cat does this to you, there are two possible explanations: 1) Your kitty is playing with you, or 2) Your kitty is angry and is actively attacking you. In either situation, this behavior can lead to pretty serious harm, so you need to end it and get it off you as quickly as possible.

Cat bites can be painful and need to be cleaned, but they don't mean that your kitty hates you.
Cat bites can be painful and need to be cleaned, but they don't mean that your kitty hates you.  © Unsplash/Alberto Bigoni

How to stop your cat biting you

While cats are far more difficult to train than dogs are, you can still get them to follow certain rules and regulations through the use of positive and negative reinforcement. Sensitive and thoughtful kitties can be trained to recognize when a certain behavior is okay and when it's not, purely by how you deal with it.

If you want to stop your cat from biting you, try the following:

  • Stop annoying the ever-living crap out of your beloved feline friend
  • Follow its body language signs, including the way that it is moving its tail, and respond in kind
  • When it is a "love bite":
    • Give out a loud "ow" whenever it bites your hand, making it unpleasant for them to nibble.
    • Try to always offer it a toy instead so that it can chew on something that's dead, not alive.
    • Play with your cat, both in general and more specifically when it is giving you "love bites."
    • Distract your cat with a different activity, such as treats or time outside
  • Ignore your cat for a period of time after every bite, no matter what kind of bite it might be.
  • Never use your hands as toys, or they will associate them with play.
  • When bitten, push your hand forward towards your cat instead of away from it.

It is important to train "love bites" and other kinds of bites out of the habits of your kitties as quickly as possible. Human hands are not chewing toys, and allowing it will simply reinforce bad behavior.

It's normal for cats to bite their owners

If your cat has got into the habit of giving you little love bites here and there or gets grumpy every now and again and goes in for a nip, it's nothing to really worry about. It is a perfectly normal behavior and something that every cat owner has to contend with from time to time, no matter the personality and cuteness of their little bundle of fur.

Of course, if your cat starts to get particularly aggressive and is really "going for it" whenever it bites you, it might be time to go to the vet. Such behavior can indicate a behavioral problem, or even illness – so it's best to be careful!

Cover photo: 123RF/Alie04

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