Why Does My Cat Bite Me Gently?

Cats undoubtedly have some of the weirdest ways to communicate with their humans; they are known to scratch, bump, or even bite their owners to communicate something. 

Cat bites can be quite painful, especially when you least expect them. You may be playing with your cat, and suddenly it will decide that it is time to chomp on your hand. These little behaviors seem quite weird, but generally speaking, your cat doesn’t bite you without reason. There are a few major reasons for a cat to bite someone, and in this article, I will be describing each of them in detail. 

Let’s look at them briefly.

Major reasons for a cat to bite someone

Biting to communicate

Cats can bite lighty to communicate something; you will have noticed that you get bit most quite commonly when you are petting your cat. This happens as a result of overstimulation. 

When you are petting your cat, it may start to feel overstimulated, and as a result, it will bite you as a reflex or communicate that it does not want to be petted anymore.

Such bites are not very painful as they are only meant to send a message. Of course, your cat will stop biting you once you stop petting it or interacting with it. 

In order to avoid overstimulating your cat, you should avoid petting their sensitive areas like their underbelly. 

cat bite
Image credit: Photo by Herman Delgado on Unsplash;

Biting as a reflex

This is the other major category. Cats can bite reflexively when they are playing or when they are feeling threatened. 

These reflexive bites are most commonly observed in kittens as they are still immature.

Kittens play quite aggressively when they are young, as it is a very effective way for them to improve their hunting skills.

Mature cats may also bite while they are playing, but that is not as common. However, adult cats may bite when they feel threatened or afraid. This reaction usually only happens when your cat is cornered and is feeling threatened as a result of it. 

Now that we know why cats bite, let’s take a more detailed look at all the different reasons for a cat to bite someone. 

Play biting

This is perhaps the most likely reason that your cat is biting you. Cats often practice their hunting skills while they play. They will pounce, use their claws, and bite while playing, and their ‘prey’ can be anything from a toy, furniture, or even you. 

This behavior is mostly observed in kittens, who most commonly practice hunting while playing. Once the kitten has grown up, they tend not to play as much because they do not need to practice their hunting skills more. 

Indoor cats will also tend to bite more often while playing than outdoor cats. Outdoor cats get to hunt while they are outside and tend to get their skills from there. 

Indoor cats do not get as many opportunities to hunt as outdoor cats, so they end up having to practice on you in order to keep their skills sharp. 

This behavior is not ideal in cats, as they can get used to biting while playing. To avoid that, you start training your cat not to bite from a young age. 

While playing with your kitten, make sure that you also let them catch the toy that they are chasing around and trying to ‘hunt.’ This will make them feel like they have successfully hunted their prey after biting it once instead of having to bite it very often. 

Another way of doing that is to take your hands away from your kitten if it starts to bite a lot when playing. Occasional bites are not a problem, but if your kitten starts to bite a lot, then you should try to give it a little break. 

Love biting

This is also a prevalent reason for a cat to bite someone. Love biting is when a cat will bite you as a way of showing affection. Love bites are generally not painful and can be considered to be more like a nibble rather than a bite. 

Cats love to bite most often while being petted. This behavior is also instinctive to cats, and kittens practice love biting more often than adult cats. 

Adult female cats that have had litters before are also more likely to love to bite as compared to an adult cat that has not had any litters before. This is because mother cats groom their kittens and will also bite them lightly while grooming. 

When they practice this behavior on humans, it is thought to be a sign of affection as they are affectionately biting their human’s hands or feet. 

How can you tell that the bite you just received was indeed a love bite? Well, if your cat was purring while biting you, then it is very likely that your cat was giving you a love bite. 

Usually, cats will not purr while they bite you during play because they most commonly bite to practice hunting for their toys or companion.

Biting when overstimulated

Cats also bite when they are overstimulated. They can get a little overwhelmed while you are

petting them, and they will try to avoid getting more pets. Their natural response to overstimulation is to bite you in order to make you stop. 

This isn’t an attack but rather a sort of warning to make you stop. Of course, if your cat is biting you while you are petting it, then you should try and give your cat some rest. 

If you find that your cat tries to bite you when you try to pet certain body parts like their underbelly, then you should avoid petting them in that area. 

Aggressive biting 

Aggressive biting is quite different from all the other forms of cat bites. Other forms of cat bites are a way of showing affection or a method of communication. 

On the other hand, aggressive biting occurs when the cat is angered or feels threatened. 

Generally speaking, aggressive biting is kind of a last resort for a cat. If your cat is feeling frustrated or threatened, it will become quite apparent from their body language

Tense cats are easy to identify. Of course, they will hiss and have a more defensive posture. 

Cats do not bite aggressively for no reason. Of course, usually, it is due to a direct result of the cat feeling threatened or afraid. This usually happens when your cat feels cornered and has no way out. 

Naturally, when this happens, your first response should be to give your cat some space to relax.

Do not try to interact with it for a little while so that it has a chance to calm down. 

Once your cat has calmed down enough, you can offer it some food to make it feel more at ease. 

Bad habits

This is quite rare, but it can be a real possibility for some cat owners. Cats could pick up a habit of biting people if they were not trained properly. 

As with all bad habits, the story starts from a young age. As I mentioned in the article, kittens bite quite a lot when playing. If this behavior is not curbed in the early stages, then it can become a habit. 

In order to prevent your cat from getting this behavior, it is essential for you to not to let them bite you too often during playtime. When they are chasing toys, you should try to make sure that they get to catch the toy every so often. 

How to identify other reasons for biting

Not all cat bites are supposed to convey a message or to be playful. Sometimes cats can show a sudden change in behavior and start biting excessively. 

This can be a sign that your cat is in severe pain or distress, and the biting can be due to a sharp pain response or a way to express frustration. 

It could be entirely possible that your cat is suffering from a skin condition that makes its skin very sensitive, and they feel a lot of pain when you touch them. 

In such cases, it is also important to distinguish between aggressive biting. When a cat bites aggressively, it is either feeling threatened or is tense. Their emotions will be pretty evident in their body posture.

A tense cat will have an arched back and a fluffed-up tail. It will also hiss a lot at you in order to warn you. 

If you notice that your cat is completely calm before you touch it and then gets really tense or aggressive afterward, then there’s a pretty good chance that your cat may be suffering from some medical condition. 

Naturally, you should immediately visit a vet and get your cat checked for illnesses. As cats are really quiet animals, it is entirely possible that your cat was suffering from the medical condition for quite some time and only started reacting when it could not bear the pain anymore. 

It is better to get your cat checked immediately in such cases so that you can get the issue identified and resolved as fast as possible. 

How to respond to bites?

Generally speaking, there is no real need to react a certain way if your cat bites you. Cat bites every once in a while are nothing to be alarmed about. They are a natural behavior for cats. 

If your cat bites too hard or bites too often, you may want to do something about it, and you can respond by letting your cat know by giving them a vocal sign.

Alternatively, if your cat bites way too often while playing or petting, you can discipline your cat by simply not interacting with them for a little while after they bite you. 

Doing this while your cat is still young is quite essential. Like humans, cats also retain most of their habits and behaviors from what they had learned while they were very young.

Check out also our article about Ailurophobia, fear of cats

Final Thought

Cat owners often wonder why their cats bite them so often. And the reason is not always so simple. 

Cats will often bite to convey a message to their owners. This can be anything from asking for food to letting you know they are feeling overstimulated. 

The other major reason for a cat to bite you is to do it reflexively, cats are hunters, and they need to keep their skills sharp in order to be successful at catching prey.  They do this by practicing hunting a lot during their playtime. They will try to stalk, chase, and bite their ‘prey’ while they are playing. 

However, cats can also bite when they are feeling threatened or afraid. They might feel like they are in danger and have to get out of a certain place, and the only way for them to avoid that danger is to chew their way out of it. 

Should you be worried if your cat tends to bite you? Well, it depends. Generally, it is not something to be concerned about. 

But if your cat suddenly starts to bite a lot and particularly when you try to touch it, then that may be a sign of a medical condition. In such a case, you should immediately get your cat checked by a vet to identify if it is suffering from any illness. 

You may also feel like your cat bites you too often for no reason. You will need to discipline your cat to control its behavior in such cases. You can read the whole article to learn more about how to do that. 

And that was it for this article; I hope the information provided here was helpful to you and you were able to learn something new about your feline friend!

References and Further Reading

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