Why do cats bite?

Why do cats bite?

Have you ever been bitten by a cat and wondered why, well you're not alone! It would seem that this would be another way your little feline friend is trying to communicate with you. Cats bite because they are fearful, stressed, or frustrated.  What would you do if you couldn’t communicate?

I remember the first time I was bitten by a friend’s cat, we were sitting on the sofa catching up and I was gently petting his cat, out of nowhere he suddenly turned around and bit me!  I was in complete shock, I have never been bitten by a cat before but it was its way of telling me “I’ve had enough”. I was surprised to discover how common this can be in the feline world and oddly enough, most cats that suffer from this type of aggression actually enjoy social interactions.

This bite was different to the little nibble you might get whilst playing with your cat because when this happens they are expressing their natural hunting instinct.  It occurs often with kittens when they get over-excited and it may be because they’re expressing their natural hunting instinct. To stop this behaviour, you could try rewarding them with a treat for gentle play, and discourage biting by ending the playtime. You could also encourage the natural hunting instincts in other ways by providing outlets for the cat to bite or claw – like a toy. When you see them engaging in this behaviour with the toy, reward them.   

Your cat loves to be touched and it should be easy to tell the difference between excited nipping and aggressive biting. Love bites generally start as licks and graduate into gentle nips and nibbles that don't break the skin. But there may also be other signs if your cat is in an aggressive mood, like their tail held erect or their ears being pinned back.  It is important to stop aggressive biting from cats, and they should learn this behaviour early on, with positive reinforcement of gentle play. If your cat does appear to experience aggressive displays, try to avoid allowing them into situations which cause these, like territorial disputes. 

So how do you prevent your cat from biting, well it is important to learn your cat’s body language and determine the areas where they like and dislike being touched.  As mentioned above ears being pinned back is a good sign that they have had enough.  You might notice a flick or lash of the tail, skin might twitch, they may vocalize which is different to purring, their pupils may dilate or look like slits or they may even start looking at your hand or gently raising their paw.  Each cat is different so once you notice these signs it will be easier for you to determine when they have had enough.

It’s important to remember that your cat has the right to decide when they want to be touched, where they want to be touched and for how long.  If we respect their boundaries there will be no need for them to bite us.

However some cats behave aggressively because of a medical condition or complication so it is always advisable to work with your local Veterinarian to give your cat the best chance of explaining why they are biting you.  Remember cats never bite without reason.

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