Bites are a fact of life for cat owners. Sometimes, it will feel as though your cat is biting you for no reason. Cats always have a reason for biting. It makes sense to a cat, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.
Check your cat is not afraid. If your cat is calm, it may be playing. Kittens separated from their litter to soon do not learn the limits of biting. Cats also bite when overstimulated to halt petting, or for attention if feeling ignored. Check your hands don’t smell of food.
No matter the reason for the bite, just consider it to be a learning opportunity. If you were bitten due to your actions, you know not to repeat these behaviors. If the bite was due to bad conduct, training is the key.
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Why is My Cat Bite Me for No Apparent Reason?
If your cat is biting you seemingly at random, there will be a reason for the behavior. Only then can you take the appropriate corrective action. The most common reasons for cats to bite for no reason include:
- Misguided play
- Mistaking hands for food
- Dominance or aggression
Whatever the reason for the bite, do not react with anger. Scolding your cat will encourage further biting.
Play is a critical part of a cat’s development and remains pivotal throughout a cat’s lifespan.
As kittens, cats use play to learn social cues. As cats grow older, they use play to stimulate hunting instincts.
This provides valuable exercise and prevents many cats from hunting wild prey. As eating mice can make cats sick, this is never a bad thing.
As American Zoologist explains, cats play together most between the ages of 4 weeks and 4 months. At this stage, a cat will play with its siblings from a litter. Biting is a big part of this play. The cats teach each other how hard biting can be before it grows painful.
If a cat is separated from littermates too soon, it will not learn this lesson. This becomes problematic, as cats see humans as fellow felines. The cat will bite an owner, potentially to the point of drawing blood.
If your cat bites you as part of play, never respond in anger. The cat will not understand what it did wrong. It may assume that all play is bad behavior. That is a miserable way for a cat to live.
Instead of reprimanding the cat, make a high-pitched, “ouch” sound and remove your hand. This is how another cat would respond to being bitten too hard. Your cat will understand your meaning. Pet your cat, making it clear it is not in trouble. The cat will avoid biting so hard in the future.
If you play with your cat, you should use toys wherever possible. This serves two purposes. Most toys imitate the appearance and movement of wild prey. In addition, it protects you.
Consider the most popular cat toys on the market. You’ll likely think of laser pointers, fishing rods, and wind-up mice. These toys all have one thing in common. They keep your hands a safe distance from the cat. This is because the cat stalks, pounce upon, and bites the toys.
If you use your hands to play, your cat will think of your hands as toys. This makes biting appropriate in a cat’s mind. Your cat could pounce and bite you at any moment. As far as the cat is concerned, it is just playing. Train your cat out of this behavior using safe toys.
Sometimes, a cat will bite you to gain your attention. This will be a last resort. Your cat will attempt to gain your attention in other, softer ways first. Signs that a cat wants your attention include:
- Following you around the house
- Walking in circles around your feet
- Rubbing against your legs and shins
- Sitting on whatever is distracting you
- Verbalizing to excess
If none of these behaviors get a response, the cat will resort to biting. This will start with a gentle nibble, and gradually escalate to a more painful bite. The more your cat feels ignored, the more it will feel justified in biting. Nothing else has worked.
This can be avoided by getting your cat into a routine. In most cases, cats want attention because they worry their needs will not be met. If you can establish a schedule for your cat, it will be more relaxed.
Routine ensures that your cats know that particular events will unfold at certain times. The most important things are playtime and food.
Greet your cat as soon as you get home, making sure you make sufficient fuss. Set aside around twenty minutes every day for play. If you do this twice, even better. This gives your cat the one-on-one attention it craves. Ensures that food is served at consistent times each day.
If you meet these requirements, your cat will learn to be patient. It still pays to notice if your cat wants attention at other times, though. Your cat may want to tell you something. There could be intruders on your property, or the cat may hear rodents in the walls.
If your hands smell of food, your cat will grow confused. The cat may not know where your hand begins the food ends. This can be especially common when offering small treats.
Cats are naturally long-sighted. This is an evolutionary trait handed down from feline ancestors. In the wild, cats need to spot danger from distance. They also stalk prey from afar. As cats have excellent hearing, they can keep their distance from other living things.
This means that a cat’s close-range vision is very poor. The spot directly below a cat’s nose is a particular blind spot. Cats use their whiskers to feel their way around. A cat’s sense of smell then detects food.
If your hand is in a resting position after handling food, the cat will smell this and explore. It will then approach, and possibly bite you.
This is an honest mistake. Your cat thought that your hand was food. Older cats may be particularly prone to this action. The vision of a senior cat grows progressively worse with age.
Upon realizing its error, the cat will cease the biting. It had no intention of hurting you. Instead, minimize the risk of the problem occurring in the first place. Keep your cat well fed and wash your hands when you handle food.
All cat owners will be able to share a universal experience. A cat will be purring contentedly and enjoying petting, then suddenly bite without warning. This can be a baffling behavior.
The reason for your cat’s change in demeanor is overstimulation. Cats have fine fur and soft, delicate skin. This means that petting can turn from pleasure to pain in a matter of seconds. If the cat is petted too long, it will invariably end in a bite.
Cats have preferred points of contact when being petted. These are the body parts that can sustain the longest contact without discomfort. Anthrozoös recommends focusing petting on the temporal region, chin, and around the tail.
Avoid feline anatomy with exposed skin. These body parts are invariably sensitive. Some cats will bite at the first threat of you touching its belly. In addition, only stroke a cat’s fur in the direction of growth. Petting in the opposite direction is uncomfortable and painful.
Most cats will give a warning if petting has gone on too long. The cat will fidget, and possibly even growl. Learn your cat’s body language cues and release if it seems unhappy.
Do not assume that a cat is contented because it is purring. While cats purr to denote pleasure and relaxation, they also purr to self-soothe. The cat may be tolerating discomfort, using purring to remain calm. Eventually, the pain will grow too much. The cat will then bite the hand that strokes it.
Cats are easily frightened by any number of things. Loud noises, strangers, and unique smells will always rouse a cat’s suspicions. As cats are governed by survival instincts, they’ll do whatever it takes to stay safe.
Cats will often find their amygdala hijacked in times of high stress. This is what provokes the so-called fight-or-flight response. During an amygdala hijack, the rational part of the brain is overridden by instinct.
If a cat thinks that it’s in imminent danger and escape is not an option, it will bite. The cat is attempting to subdue an enemy, permanently is necessary. If your cat misunderstands your intentions, you could be on the receiving end of this bite.
Vets often experience cat bites under these circumstances. It is possible that you will frighten your cat too, even if you don’t intend to.
A common explanation is picking up a cat that does not want to be handled. Most cats prefer to keep all four paws on the ground. Older cats, who may experience muscular and joint pain, are particularly averse to being picked up. If the cat panics at the prospect of handling, biting becomes likely.
Dominance in cats is less frequent than fear. Cats consider themselves equal to humans in social standing, but they are also smart. Cats acknowledge how much larger we are, and typically avoid attempting to aggravate humans.
It is possible that a cat will use aggressive behavior to demonstrate dominance, though. This is likelier in formerly stray cats. The Welfare of Cats explains that stray and feral cats arrange themselves in hierarchal colonies.
Biting is the most common example of dominance, along with clawing. The cat is basically being a bully. It is reminding you that it can hurt you whenever it sees fit. Cats demonstrate dominance over other cats this way.
Your cay may also be displaying territorial dominance. Once a cat assigned a location as its territory, it may guard this territory jealously. That means attacking anybody that attempts to intrude. If your cat has its own room, do not enter unless the cat is absent.
If your cat is acting with dominance, speak to a pet behaviorist. Dominant cats do not respect boundaries, and the behavior will only grow worse.
Consider if you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may have been a victim of redirected aggression. This means that the cat grew frustrated and took it out on you.
Repressed hunting instincts are the most common explanation for redirected aggression. The cat may have spent hours watching birds through a window. Fish in a tank can have a similar effect. The cat will watch this potential prey, growing increasingly excited.
When the cat cannot take anymore, it will want to hunt. Naturally, a windowpane or glass fish tank will prevent this. This will leave the cat with a lot of energy, and nowhere to direct it.
If you happen to pass by at this time, the cat may bite your ankles to release the tension. It had to hunt something. You just happened to be there, providing a moving target.
If you see your cat growing agitated, remove access to the visual stimulus. Close the drapes or toss a towel over the fish tank. This will break the spell that has enraptured your cat. It will then calm down and go about its business.
Your cat will never bite you for no reason. It may bite for reasons that make no sense to you, but that is a different concern. Think about your cat’s behavior immediately before they bite and consider why it happened. This way, you can prevent the same mishap from occurring again.