Why Cats Bite & How To Stop It

Communication is key in any relationship, including the one with your cat.

Cats communicate mostly through body language, so cat parents need to learn how to “read” their cat by their posture, facial expression, and tail movements.

While we strive to communicate clearly with our felines, sometimes things get lost in translation.

The ASPCA states that “cat body language is more subtle than dog body language and can be harder for people to interpret.”

Photo: Pixabay/ivabalk

They encourage cat parents to familiarize themselves with common postures seen in aggressive cats.

Aggressive Cat Postures

Cats will exhibit a couple or many of the following body positions:

  • Crouching
  • Direct stare
  • Stiff tail or tail curved around the body
  • Fur standing up on back (hackles up)
  • Ears back
  • Striking out with paw
  • Growling, hissing, yowling

Now that you can recognize when your cat is agitated, the next step is to figure out why they are feeling this way.

5 Reasons Cats Bite

Too Much Petting

Photo: Pexels/Nadiye Odabaşı

Some cats don’t mind being petted, carried, and loved on, but others will signal when they had enough with a “love bite”.

These types of bites don’t usually break the skin and are more of a warning. However, if the petting doesn’t stop your cat may bite harder.

Remember, sometimes less is more.


Photo: Pixabay/Jon Pauling

Kittens play rough and biting, swatting, and scratching is part of the fun. This is a common reason why owners are bit by their cats.

As the saying goes, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt…”

In Pain

Photo: Pexels/Lucas Pezeta

A cat in pain or discomfort can act out by biting. “A number of medical conditions can cause or contribute to your cat’s aggression, including toxoplasmosis, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, abscesses, arthritis, dental disease, rabies, trauma, and sensory decline or cognitive dysfunction in older cats,” said ASPCA.


Photo: Pixabay/Gerhard G.

Cats, just like dogs, are territorial over their home and sometimes their people. A cat displaying territorial aggression may stalk their opponent or simply attack them.

A new cat in the household, a recent move, or a new person in the home can all be triggers.

Redirected Aggression

Photo: Unsplash/ Erik-Jan Leusink

Oftentimes when a cat bites their owner for no apparent reason it is due to redirected aggression. Cats can become agitated by a stray cat or other animal in their yard and react by biting and attacking. It can occur long after the intruding animal has left the area, so it is essential to read your cat’s body language before approaching.

How To Stop Cats From Biting

Once you have figured out why your cat is biting you can start to work on ways to redirect the undesired behavior.

Don’t punish your cat for biting warns ASPCA because it could only make matters worse.

Photo: Pixabay/yvonneschmu

Less is more

If the cause is petting, you must watch for signs of discomfort and immediately stop petting your cat before Fluffy responds with a love bite or worse.

“Biting owners during petting is one of the most common behavioral problems of cats,” Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, veterinary behaviorist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, Chicago, told PetMD.

Photo: Unsplash/Paul Hanaoka

She recommends short petting sessions and pausing frequently to observe your cat’s reaction and interest. “I also recommend that people always invite their cat over to interact, rather than approaching and handling a sleeping or resting cat. And focus petting on areas that cats generally enjoy, such as around the ears and under the chin, and avoid petting cats on their bellies or near their tails.”


A playful kitten nibbling at you can be easily remedied by providing interactive toys, a scratching post, or by adopting another kitten as a playmate.

Photo: Unsplash/Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

Vet check

If you think your cat may be in pain from a medical condition, make an appointment with your vet and have a thorough examination done.

Give Them Space

For all other reasons, the best approach is to give your cat space and allow them to adjust to the new environment or calm down before approaching.

If the biting continues, it is time to find an animal behaviorist who can help you and your cat communicate better.

Photo: Unsplash/Cyrus Chew

In conclusion

Cat aggression is a common problem but one that can be solved by watching, listening, and properly responding.

Cats are independent, want things on their own terms, and demand food, but these are all reasons why we love them. Just like in other relationships, you must compromise. Respect your cat’s space and allow them to tell you when they have had enough attention.

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