Does your cat bite you even when you are showing it how much you love it? What does it mean when your cat bites you, especially when you think everything is going so well?
It is not difficult to misread what our pets are telling us from time to time. When I was a child our family pet Siamese mix once bit me on the nose.
This was one of the most painful moments of my life. I not only saw stars, but I took the assault very personally. Do your feelings become hurt by negative interactions with your cat?
There are several major reasons why cats may bite your face and your nose in particular. First, if your cat was separated from its mother early in life, it may latch onto your nose to substitute for a pacifier. The other causes are social messages from your cat to you.
Why do cats bite?
Kittens are often separated too early from their mothers.
Cats become separated from their mothers early in life for numerous reasons. Many cats are born to strays and the mother becomes focused on survival. Owners faced with unexpected litters may become anxious to get rid of the kittens.
Whatever the reasons for early separation from the mother, kittens can develop the lifelong stereotypic behavior of suckling for comfort.
They may suckle on a bunched up portion of a blanket or your finger or nose. Any protrusion will do. Cats often accompany this by kneading with their paws.
Discourage any suckling on your face or any other part of your body. Even if you have a very young kitten that you are trying to encourage to feed, do not allow it to latch onto you. It will become very unpleasant once her teeth grow in.
Cats are hypersensitive.
Cats are not wired to soak up unlimited affection and physical contact like dogs. Except for lions and during mating, cats are largely solitary.
They enjoy affection and it feels good to be massaged and stroked, but your cat will likely find a point where it becomes too much.
According to several veterinarians and Kitty Wire, this is petting-induced aggression, likely not much different from overstimulation.
It is not entirely clear whether cats simply become hypersensitive to touch or whether they have a low tolerance for discomfort.
What is clear is they often bite after various lengths of seemingly peaceful exchanges of affection. Cats may even initiate the contact and then lash out.
Cats are territorial and possessive.
Cats can try to mark you as their property. Cats may see your nose or chin as a vertical surface that they can spread their pheromones on to warn other cats away.
You may see the behavior crop up when you try to add another animal to the household or when you come home after working with other pets.
Your cat has a funny way of showing love.
A love bite is actually a real thing with cats. Some cats learn to express affection by nipping very gently. It is best to discourage a cat from ever biting you, even with affection. Let her know the session is over whenever she thinks of nibbling you.
Cats are fastidious groomers.
Cats occasionally groom each other to establish bonds. Pairs of domesticated cats that are good friends may have frequent grooming sessions. Cats also groom their kittens. A cat could bestow this honor upon you.
The problem with grooming is cats often chew to remove dirt and external parasites. They don’t think twice about it because they cannot feel it. Your cat may focus on your face and nose, especially after you eat.
When their incisors graze your skin, however, it does not feel good. Emphasize to your cat that you do not want this kind of attention by becoming busy with something else.
Cats may learn to roughhouse.
If you play rough with your kitten and allow her to think anything is fair game to attack and bite, you are effectively training her to be violent.
Many cat owners think it is cute to pin kittens with their hands and allow them to attack their faces. This is difficult to fix once it becomes a habit.
This is a great example of ill-advised play with a kitten, encouraging biting and pouncing upon the hand. It already is painful and this kitten is probably only 10 weeks old. Notice how the kitten is then redirected to the blanket.
Cats may also learn behavior such as biting your nose is a 100 percent effective way of getting your attention or a useful means to initiate play.
Who is the boss?
Cats are independent, but people sometimes make the mistake that they are also unsocial. When cats do come together, they need to establish a hierarchy to avoid conflict.
Cats show dominance and submission like dogs. A cat who bites your nose may be trying to establish her dominance over you.
Cats under duress can bite.
Cats, like any other animal, will bite when startled or threatened. They will instinctively target a sensitive area, like your nose. Why would your cat feel threatened? Some feel gazing in their cat’s eyes is a sign of devotion. Your cat will likely see this as an act of aggression.
Sometimes it is not you. If your cat becomes frightened by an animal outside or a new pet you are trying to introduce, his fear could manifest as displaced aggression.
What are some miscellaneous causes of biting in felines?
We see increased biting in cats that are declawed. Cats express themselves a lot with their paws and may feel threatened and socially diminished without claws.
Cats sometimes bite when hit with particular scents. Whether because the smell is acrid and offensive or whether biting is set off by a pheromonal reaction, you can try to determine if certain perfumes or aftershaves set your cat off.
Female cats that are not fixed may bite during their heat cycles and males in their proximity may become more easily overstimulated than usual.
Cats bite frequently during mating, likely due to hormonal fluctuations and the vulnerable state the act puts them in.
Cats who are ill or in pain will bite more than usual. Look for the source of any sudden changes in behavior.
How can you decrease biting in your cat?
Train your cat how to play early.
It is easy to be lax training both cats and small dogs. When they are young, they are so tiny we hardly feel their teeth or their claws. At six weeks of age, we think nothing of roughhousing that becomes more and more violent.
Utilize toys and string instead of your face and hands to engage your kitten in exercise and playtime.
Make sure your cat gets plenty of exercises.
There is also a prevailing tendency to neglect the exercise requirements of your cat. Felines need to exercise every day just like dogs to release excess energy and to maintain weight and muscle tone.
Many cats seem content to lounge all day, so often you must stimulate them to move.
Exercising and playing with your cat is a way to bond with him without the excessive stroking that can lead to overstimulation. Relieving pent-up energy may also reduce stress and decrease your cat’s desire to nip or bite altogether.
Specifically, cats need to hunt and capture simulations. Providing this type of play will lead to a happier cat through the satisfaction of her predatory drive, according to PetMD.
Cats, like most animals, will usually give you fair warning before they are about to bite. Cats are sometimes more subtle than dogs but more prone to attack. You may not have much time to read a signal before your cat lashes out.
- The tail starts to move differently – from still to twitching or gently waving to lashing
- The intensity of purring changes or stops
- Eyes become wider and perhaps fixated – targets could be your hand or your face
- Low growl
- Hissing – for whatever reason your cat feels threatened or annoyed; slowly move away
- Body tenses or your cat starts trying to put separation between you two
- Tapping or batting with paws – this is a strong indicator that a bite is imminent
- Licking – your cat could be “kissing” you or telling you politely to cease and desist
- Ears start to flatten
Punishment or retaliation is a counterproductive exercise.
Although you may be tempted to strike back if your cat hurts you, restraint is a must. Even if your cat aggressively bites you, to him, it is just a part of the dialogue. If you hit him back you will set your relationship and any future training back several weeks if not forever.
One or more of several scenarios could occur.
- You start an actual fight with your cat – this becomes an escalating case of one-upmanship until your cat possibly baits you into actually harming her.
- Your cat learns to mistrust you
- Your cat becomes increasingly violent in his future interactions with you
How do you deal with your cat who bites you?
- The best means to deal with your cat after he bites you is to verbally reprimand him and walk away.
- Learn how to read your cat. Felines, like everyone else, need time to themselves. How much affection they can tolerate at a petting session will vary among cats and even according to the day.
- If you feel your cat tensing up, you can also try to distract him by segueing into play. Grab a toy or ball of yarn that he can take out his aggression on.
- Remember to always reward good behavior when you can with a treat or extra playtime.