Ow! The Cat Bit Me!

Sep 15, 2012

Most animals will bite at one time or another, but sometimes it seems like your cat may bite you for no reason at all.  Or, maybe there is a reason...


It’s a pleasant evening, and you’re sitting back relaxing, gently stroking your favorite cat. Suddenly paws grab your wrist and hand, and you get bitten! Maybe not hard, maybe not enough to break the skin, but still it’s a surprise. What happened? Why would a cat unexpectedly become aggressive toward its human who is gently petting it or playing with it?

In the past two weeks, three different cat owners have asked me some version of that question. I’ve had the same sort of experience with my own pets - it’s not uncommon for cats to “bite the hand that feeds them”. But do they really mean it as an attack?

There are several reasons why your cat may bite. In some cases it may be your pet’s way of saying it has had enough petting and it wants to be left alone. You also see this “back off” attitude when one cat asserts its dominance over another, and it’s usually preceded by some body language - specifically the tail. If you see your pet’s tail twitching in a jerking motion, it’s probably an indication that your furry friend is overstimulated. Consider it a warning sign that your cat has reached its petting tolerance - and you need to retrieve your hand before it becomes a target.

Another possibility is that your cat is bored and wants to play. And some cats can play a little too rough. In this case, more play time may be in order – but with something like a cat fishing pole, for example, rather than your hand or foot. After your pet uses up that excess energy playing, it may be ready for some T-L-C from you.

The more serious reasons that cats bite are fear and pain. Consider the possibility that your pet is hurting and you may have inadvertently touched a tender spot. If you think that may be the case, get your cat to the veterinarian right away, as it may have a medical problem that needs treatment.

Understanding your cat will make you a better owner, and may help to keep those hands safe from your feline friend who really didn’t mean to hurt you, when you’re speaking of pets.