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9 reasons why your cat bites you (and how to stop it)

Has this scenario ever happened to you? One moment you’re gently petting your cat, and the next, she’s playfully nipping your fingers, hands, or even your nose. Cats bite their owners without drawing blood for a variety of reasons, and in this Waldo’s Friends article, we’ll get to the bottom of all the possible reasons why they do it. 

But before we list the reasons, it’s important to note that the causes of biting are usually different between kittens and grownup cats. A kitten’s biting is often connected with socialisation (or the lack of it) and exploration, while a grownup cat’s biting may be done to respond to a threat or stop unwanted actions. Either way, biting is a form of cat communication that gives your cat what she wants.  

In this blog post, you’ll find out:

Here are more specific reasons why your kitten or cat bites you:

1 Your kitten is teething.

From two to six weeks of age, your kitten’s baby teeth will start to break through the gums and cause discomfort or pain. Expect her to look for things to chew to reduce these painful sensations until after her permanent teeth come out. This usually happens by the time she is 6 to 7 months old.   

2 Your kitten is still learning how to interact.

Biting and mouthing are natural gestures for kittens who are beginning to socialise with others. With the help of their mother and siblings, they learn how to interact correctly through love licks and play bites, and apply the right amount of biting pressure without causing real pain. Through these interactions, kittens learn two forms of play aggression from each other: the attack-retreat behaviour (one attacks while the other retreats) and the predatory play (stalking and pouncing on their prey). If they’re separated too early from their litter, some kittens miss out on learning these important social techniques. 

3 Your kitten/cat is exploring her surroundings.

If you’ve just taken home an adopted kitty, there’s a huge chance that she is still getting used to her new environment. Give her time to familiarise herself with her new home. She may choose to bite and even scratch people, items, and furniture to get to know them better.

4 Your kitten/cat is playing with you.

Kittens or cats may use finger, hand, or nose nibbling as a form of communication, letting their owners know that they would like to play. When this happens to you, redirect their unwanted habit by letting them play with commercially manufactured or homemade cat toys that are safe for biting.   

5 Your cat wants your attention.

Instead of meowing, some cats prefer to bite their owners to command their attention. If she has done this before and elicited the desired response from you (giving her food or playing with her), she will most likely repeat the action. 

6 Your cat is telling you to stop petting her.

No two cats are the same. When petting a cat, it’s important to observe her body language and let her go before she becomes overstimulated and hits her tolerance level. If you miss out on the telltale signs, you might end up suffering from a cat scratch or bite.  

7 Your cat is asking you to stop doing something. 

Similarly, your feline pet may be pointedly telling you to stop performing a particular action. If you previously tried to trim her nails, received a bite, and stopped trimming them, she may repeat the biting to prevent you from doing it again.   

8 Your cat is grooming you.

Some cats lick and bite while they groom one another, extending this habit to humans they adore. Don’t get offended when they simultaneously lick and harmlessly nip you to reach a particular area of your body. It’s just their way of saying you’re part of their family!   

9 Your cat may be demonstrating aggression. 

Cats can show aggression through biting. It can be caused by fear, genetic disposition, a health condition, environmental change, asserting her dominance, or a threat to her territory. If you notice that your cat’s biting behaviour has passed the point of playful nipping and is accompanied by hissing, growling, and clawing, take her to see the veterinarian. The doctor can run tests to see if she has an underlying medical condition that needs attention. If she is in the clear, he may suggest effective ways to modify the aggressive biting behaviour.  

What to do if a cat’s bite becomes a flesh wound:

If your cat accidentally breaks your skin, follow these steps:

  1. Press on the area. Let out some blood to help flush out the bacteria. 
  2. Wash the area immediately with mild soap and water.
  3. Apply antibiotic cream.
  4. Place a clean gauze or adhesive bandage over the area.
  5. Observe for signs of swelling, pain, redness, oozing, infection, or fever. If any of these symptoms occur, visit your doctor immediately. 

How to stop your kitten or cat from biting you:

Biting is an unwanted cat habit that can be lessened through proper and consistent techniques. Help your cat unlearn this behaviour by:

  • Determining and removing the unwanted reasons for biting. If it is caused by an external factor, find ways to eliminate it or decrease your cat’s exposure to it.
  • Getting another kitten, if possible. This way, they can practise their aggression on each other instead of on you and other humans in your household.  We highly recommend a trial period before you make any commitments.
  • Redirecting their energy and biting habit towards feathery flyer-type toys and rolling balls toys, instead of your body parts. This will help satisfy their need to “catch and kill” their prey.  
  • Providing an appropriate response when they bite you. Give your cat a “time out” by removing her from the situation and placing her in a room (but still with access to food, water, and a litter box). Reward positive non-biting behaviour while petting with cat treats or catnip.   

When it comes to dealing with your cat’s biting behaviour, make sure that everyone at home is on the same page so that your feline pet will get the clear message that play biting is not appropriate. Also, never shout, hit, or chase your cat to stop her from biting you.  

In conclusion

Kittens’ biting habit peaks by the time they turn four months old but decrease by the time they turn one year old. With proper care and consistent guidance, your cat will break the habit of biting your fingers, hands, nose, or legs, and learn to communicate with you in more savoury ways.  

If you’re considering adopting a rescue cat (and would love to discover all her feline quirks), we have all the information you need right here! You can also read up on other cat-related guides and adoption stories on our blog.

About the Author:

A freelance editor based in the Philippines, Mimi Tiu is a proud paw aunt to a family of Terriers and a Ragdoll-Persian cat. When she isn’t creating meaningful content for Waldo’s Friends, she finds pleasure in chronicling her ice cream discoveries and coming up with meticulously detailed plans for her next getaway. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nicetomitiu.

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