Ouch! Experiencing a bite from your cat can be painful and distressing. It’s best to avoid the situation altogether, if possible. You might be thinking, My cat randomly bites me … so how do I figure out why my cat bites me?
While the bite might seem unprovoked to you, your cat is likely trying to communicate with you. As such, there are usually some warning signs that precede the actual bite. If you know what to look for, you can prevent the bite from happening.
In order to help you understand what to look for, we’ll start by identifying the top reasons why cats bite in the first place. Then, we’ll let you know what you should do if your cat bites you.
Top 6 reasons why cats bite
If you find yourself thinking, My cat keeps biting me, know that this is a somewhat common occurrence among cat parents. There are a number of different reasons that explain why your cat keeps biting you. Let’s look at the top six reasons!
While it would be fantastic to communicate with your cat with words, we don’t speak the same language as cats. Instead, we have to depend on the cues they give us, and biting is one of their communication tools.
Cats use biting as another way to communicate with us, especially when it comes to getting our attention. While it’s an effective form of communication for cats, it can be painful for whomever is on the receiving end.
If your cat bites as a way of getting attention, you can train your cat to communicate in different ways. Instead of responding positively to your cat when he or she bites you, simply walk away. This will teach them that biting you does not result in their desired outcome. The hope is that they’ll stop biting you as frequently, if at all.
Pain or medical condition
As mentioned above, when your cat bites you, it's typically a way to communicate his or her needs. This method of communication can also be a sign that your cat is in pain, which could even lead you to discover that he or she has a medical condition.
Cats are more likely to bite you when they’re in pain. As a pet parent, you’ll likely be able to identify changes in your cat’s biting behavior and notice if something isn’t right. If your cat begins biting or scratching more frequently, it could be a sign of poor health.
This is especially true if your cat bites you when you touch, pet, or rub a particular body part. Take note of the sensitive area on their body and then reach out to your veterinarian to get to the bottom of the cause behind their pain. For example, arthritis in cats is chronically undertreated.
Cats can become overstimulated very easily. One minute your cat is enjoying you petting them, and the next, they need you to stop petting them, which they communicate by biting you. The sudden change in preferences is the result of your cat experiencing a shift in their emotions caused by overstimulation.
Cats have a love-hate relationship with being touched. It’s hard to know if your cat wants to be pet or not, so just be wary about your cat’s preferences and respect how they feel at any given moment.
Just like children stuck inside on a rainy day, your cat can be temperamental and become bored very easily. After all, there’s only so much they can do to pass time, especially if they are left alone for hours on end.
Humans can turn to TV, food, or media consumption when they’re bored. But when your cat is bored, he or she doesn’t have the same options to resort to: This can result in your cat taking their frustration out on you by biting you.
The good news is that you can cure your cat's boredom by creating an enriching indoor environment for them. Climbing pyramids, towers, scratching posts, caves to hide in, food puzzles, laser pointers, and other toys or furniture pieces are some of the many ways you can help your cat overcome boredom and stop biting you in response.
Anxiety and stress
Have you noticed a change in behavior when your cat is experiencing anxiety or stress? While you might not always be able to pinpoint why your cat is anxious, the easiest way to understand their stress response is to watch how they behave when going to the veterinarian.
Has your normally calm and sweet cat suddenly turned into a biting nightmare? While your cat isn’t doing this on purpose, you’re putting your cat into a situation that is new and scary. During these times of heightened awareness, your cat is more likely to bite.
Take a look at your current situation if you're wondering why your cat bites. Has anything changed suddenly? New home? New family member? Being aware of how the changes in your life and your home can cause your cat to feel anxious and stressed will help you get to the root of your cat's biting behavior with the goal of calming your cat’s fear.
Last but not least, cats bite when they play. This behavior typically arises when your cat is a kitten. But sometimes, adult cats will still bite in a playful manner, especially if your cat is an indoor pet. That’s because indoor cats don’t get to practice their hunting behaviors outside.
Instead, they pretend their family members are prey and exhibit behaviors of biting when they’re playing. If you notice that your cat is biting you playfully, try to encourage them to bite their toys instead of you or your family members.
Is it normal for my cat to bite?
We hope this information has helped any of you who’ve been wondering, Why does my cat gently bite me? or Why does my cat aggressively bite me? Your cat is biting you as a way of communicating or playing with you, so it is actually normal behavior. However, if your cat’s biting behavior has increased recently, it could be indicative of pain.
If your home has been noisier lately or you’ve moved recently, your cat is likely biting in response to stress. And if your cat is biting you while playing, they’re exhibiting natural and predatory behaviors. All of these bitings are normal, and they can be addressed once you understand the exact reason behind their bites.
What to do when your cat bites
Once you’ve determined the reasoning behind your cat's biting behavior, you should be able to understand warning signs and work to prevent their behavior altogether. But sometimes, it’s not that easy, and your cat might bite you regardless.
If your cat does bite you, understand that the bite can be dangerous and cause infection if you don’t treat it promptly. Cat bites can introduce harmful bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or Pasteurella, into your body.
Follow these steps to ensure that you’re properly treating your injury.
- Flush bacteria from the wound. Press on the wound with a cold compress to flush out the bacteria stemming from the cat bite. This will likely lead to additional bleeding, but it will also help you remove bacteria introduced by the bite.
- Wash the wound. Next, you will want to use soap and water to wash the puncture. Use a clean cloth to dry the wound.
- Go to the doctor if the bite is severe or if symptoms develop. Your doctor will likely want to prescribe antibiotics or even give you a tetanus booster if it’s been a while since your last tetanus shot. They will examine the injury and likely rewash the wound as well as provide you with follow-up care to keep the wound clean during the healing process.
While this can seem stressful to pet parents, it's important to remember not to take your stress out on your cat. Most importantly, never punish your cat for biting you. Try to remain calm so as to not escalate the situation any further.
Punishment, like squirt bottles, yelling, or physically hitting your cat, has been proven to be ineffective when trying to teach cats not to bite. Cats are unable to make the connection between the punishment and the biting.
So instead, focus on praising them for their good behavior and work with your vet to determine if there are any underlying issues that could be causing your cat to feel pain or experience increased aggression.
Get to know your cat
While this seems simple, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Getting to know your cat on a better level and understanding the warning signs can help you understand why your cat is biting you as well as how you can possibly prevent it.
Biting is your cat’s way of communicating with you, so be open to their body language and listen intently to the signs. Additionally, providing your cat with lots of toys and a clean litter box will help keep your feline happy.
Even automating your cat's feeding schedule with a Feeder-Robot can keep a semblance of normalcy to your cat's daily routine! All of these tips can lead to less stress and fewer bites overall.
If your cat bit you and it breaks the skin, you should seek medical attention to get rid of any bacteria that has entered your body. Common symptoms include fever, chills, fluid build-up, pus flowing from the wound, and swollen lymph nodes.
Your cat is unable to make the connection between biting you and being punished for biting. Instead of disciplining your cat in a negative way, focus on positive reinforcement to help your cat correct the bad behavior.
Your cat could be biting your furniture out of boredom or out of curiosity, especially if it is a piece of furniture that you recently added to your home. However, cats also chew furniture if they are lacking the nutrients that they need, so be sure to feed your cat an appropriate feline diet on a regular basis.
Cover photo by Herman Delgado on Unsplash