Why Does My Cat Bite Me?

You may have googled this and found a huge amount of different answers and responses. While we know cats can bite out of love, fear, anger, or just out of being playful, the annual number of cat bites each year in the US is 40,000! So what gives? Ailurophobia (fear of cats) is more common than you may think and I believe it comes down to the fact that cats can bite for many reasons. In an effort to cover all aspects of cats biting humans, I will break down each reason with a logical explanation. I hope this brings you closer to your feline friends and you gain a better understanding of just why they may bite!

Fear

When a cat bites out of fear, it is likely because they feel trapped or in danger. This happens a lot with stray and wild cats. They may feel they are in danger by you and will strike with their paws and even bite or snap at your hands.

Fear biting can happen with an indoor cat as well. This can happen if you suddenly startle your cat or someone they don’t know tries to be friendly with them. Cats are a lot like humans with trust which is why it is important to understand that mistrust and fear go hand in hand.

Mistrust/Abuse

Cats who do not trust you or someone else tend to have an underlying reason why. A lot of the time, it stems from abuse. A cat who was abused by one human may have trouble trusting another or any even. This can also be the case with a specific sex. Some cats will have trouble trusting men, while others may struggle trusting women. Children may be an issue as well. One small mishap with a child and the cat might never look at them “small humans” the same again.

Territory

Territorial biting happens when you are invading your cat’s private space. Some cats will have a preferred time to cuddle and play, so when you want to and they don’t, you are crossing the line. They will likely give you warning signs before this happens so be sure to listen for belly growls, watch for a strong tail wag, and be cautious of raised paws.

Love/Play

Cats will often use their mouth to show affection as well as to play. These “love bites” don’t typically hurt but if your cat grew up as a kitten viewing this as acceptable behavior whilst playing, they are more likely to bite harder.

You will often see cats doing this with each other during play. It can look pretty rough as if they are hurting each other but most of the time, they are not. If one is getting hurt, it will back off.

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Pain

Some medical issues can make certain parts of your cat’s body sensitive. For an example, arthritis in the legs or paws can make them so sensitive, even getting close to them will make them bite. Don’t take it personally. If you had stomach pain and someone was going to poke you right in the gut, you would be on edge too!

Sensitivity

Just like us humans, cats have sensitive spots. Some will not like their tail being touched, or their belly. A trigger spot may even be their ears or getting too close to their eyes. Think of it this way, if you have an extremely ticklish spot and someone goes to touch it, you will jump and feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean you are mad but you would warn them to stop, right? This is a warning bite that they don’t want that area touched. Plain and simple.

Hormonal

Cats who are not fixed will go through raises and drops of hormones. This can cause them to be over playful, over paranoid, or overly aggressive. Some pregnant females will actually become so aggressive or on edge, that they will attack their owners for getting near their food, bed, or their nesting area.

Cats who are not fixed and also trapped inside can become frustrated as they are wanting to mate and unable to have access to other cats they can smell outside.

Dominance

I bet you didn’t know dogs aren’t alone with this one! Back, neck and tail biting from one cat to another is a dominance bite. If you see one cat jump at another and bite its back aggressively, it is telling the other one that they are above them and this area is their own. Did you know they will do this for you too? This can be the face, arm, leg, foot, or hand biting. It is a quick strike bite that is pretty hard. They don’t always growl or moan but their tail will be in an aggressive manner.

While those are the main reasons for biting, it can happen for no reason at all. Feline depression can cause a cat to bite, or one who has separation anxiety, heck even a bipolar cat will bite! For more information on depression and how to spot it, read our post: 6 Signs of Depression in Cats

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Rudolph Zerliner

Hi guys and thank you for the article! I am currently researching a lot about the topic, since my wife and I have quite a “physical” cat…but not in the good sense. Joey bites us almost on a daily basis and we have no idea why! It does sometimes happen during playtime, and we do experience the same “playtime” bites as you have described in your post. Sadly, these quickly evolve into real bites! One thing that has really stuck with me over the past 2 days and that I wanted to ask you about is the following: I read… Read more »

Anita

We fell in love with our little ball of fluff the moment we saw her. Although I was told she was 6 1/2 weeks. I seriously had my doubts when we brought her home. She was in starvation mode and was constantly looking to nurse. She was very aggressive to the point of biting hard out of anger when she could not nurse. I soon realized this kitten was taken to soon from her mother. These people were just in the business of making money and here we were with this little one and I had to be her momma.… Read more »

Alexandra

I know this is an old comment, but I just need some advice. I have one cat, Lucy–she’s very sweet and loving, and she’s about 12. In February, We got a second cat, Simon. He’s just under a year and is the sweetest little bundle of fur–usually. One moment, he’s head-butting your chin and purring, and out of the blue, he’ll start jumping up your leg or grabbing your arm and biting, using his claws to help you stay put. I figured that this was just him being a kitten and I haven’t minded it too much-until earlier today. He… Read more »