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Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Pet Her?

July 07, 2020

Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Pet Her?

Why Cats Bite When You Pet Them & What To Do About It

You have settled into your favorite armchair, perhaps reading the final chapters of a gripping novel. 

Suddenly you are aware of the imploring stare of your cat sitting at your feet. You invite her onto your lap. 

Gently you begin to stroke her and your cat signals her appreciation with an audible purr.

With one hand holding your book, you continue to pet your cat with your free hand. All is well in the world with you and your cat.

Suddenly your cat bites your hand!

Why did kitty do that? 

If this is a common frustration in your home, read on to find out why your cat bites you when you stroke them - and what you can do about it.


Why Do Cats Bite When Petting Them?

Unfortunately, experts still don't agree on exactly why some cats bite when you pet them even though they seem to be enjoying being petted. 

One thing that they do agree on is that when kitty bites at you, it's a sure sign that she has decided that she's had enough stroking.

Cats differ in the amount of petting they will accept, and not all cats respond by biting when they have had enough. 

Some cats simply jump from your lap and saunter off to investigate interests anew. But many cats prefer to bite their owners rather than leave their comfy spot.


How To Tell If Your Cat Is Going To Bite You

Could you have known that a bite was on its way? Yes, there are often signs that cats give before biting. 

One issue can be that if you are multitasking (such as reading a book, looking at your phone, or chatting to someone), you may not be able to pick up on these cues quickly enough.

Here are some of the most common signals cats give to their owners to let them know they’ve had enough petting:

  • If kitty's tail begins to twitch in a rolling flick, watch out! She may be getting ready to nip at your hand.

  • If your cat’s ears start turning towards the back of her head or flatten against her head, that's a warning that a bite is coming.

  • If your cat suddenly becomes restless or stiffens and stares at your hand, she could be about to nip you.

If you notice any of these signals, simply stop stroking your cat immediately. 

Your pet will either stay on your lap or jump down and walk off. Either way, you’ll have managed to avoid getting bitten!


What To Do If Your Cat Bites You When You’re Petting Them

The most important thing to remember is that you should not punish your cat for biting your hand. That simply does not work. 

Cats are more likely to identify the punishment with you rather than with their bad cat behavior. 

If you miss a warning sign and kitty manages to get her jaws around your hand, try to resist the temptation to pull your hand away or push your cat away. Simply freeze. 

Chances are that your cat will not sink her teeth in as she has got her message across.

It goes without saying that you should never try to carry on stroking your cat if they bite you. That will only make them more frustrated and could even result in a rather unpleasant injury!

If you try and push your cat away it is likely that she will fight with your hand resulting in skin punctures for you. 

(An animal bite can become infected quite easily, if your cat draws blood, clean the wound very carefully and seek the advice of your doctor.)


Why Does My Cat Bite Me Unprovoked?

Why do some cats behave in this aggressive way? 

The degree of tolerance to petting may be genetic or learned behavior. 

If, when your cat was a kitten, you allowed her to chew on your hand in play, she will have learned that biting human hands is an OK thing to do. 

So, when she feels that she has had enough stroking (she's the boss, remember) she will bite at your hand to let you know - if you ignore her warning signals.


How To Stop My Cat From Biting Me

Some experts recommend the use of healthy tidbits as a reward, in order to increase the time your cat will tolerate stroking. 

At the first warning signal offer kitty a treat, continue to stroke your cat gently for a time, and offer her another reward. 

It is said that your cat will learn to connect petting with the tidbits and may, with patience, allow you to pet her for longer periods.

 This can be an effective way to bond with your cat by increasing the amount of quality time you spend together.

It’s also worth remembering that cats, like people, have their own unique personalities. Your cat will have certain preferences, and part of the fun of owning a cat is figuring out what these are.

Don’t worry too much if your cat is not a huge fan of being petted. They may enjoy playing games with you instead. 

Purchasing a few new toys to encourage your cat to play with you can be another enjoyable way to spend time with your cat.


We hope you’ve found this quick guide to why cats bite you when you pet them helpful. 

You might also enjoy How do cats purr and why?


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