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Why Does My Cat Bite Me?

Cats have many behaviours that humans don’t understand. In this blog I’ll share with you possible reasons why your cat is biting you and how you can get them to stop.

Cats are sentient, sensitive beings and my job as a Holistic Cat Therapist is to help their guardians understand them. It brings me so much joy to re-connect cats and their humans.

It is so often a misunderstanding that has caused an issue between the two species.

Sadly, this is mostly due to the human! We want our cats to be a certain way, or to stop doing behaviours, or we just don’t understand them.

What we must realise is that we are asking another being to live with us, we are asking another species to adapt to our way of life. In my opinion in any good relationship there must be compromise – on both sides.

So, in order to be a good cat mum or dad we need to look at, understand and cater to our cats needs.

How do they communicate with us?

The primary method of communication cats use to share with us how they feel is their body language. Of course, there are those cats who are vocal and meep at us when we say hello, or yowl when its food time. But in essence cats use their behaviour and body language to communicate with us.

That means we have to become experts at reading our cats and interpreting the messages they are sharing with us.

Biting is a key form of communication, but why does your cat do it?

Biting is a key form of communication, but why does your cat do it?

When we look at a cat’s behaviour and try to de-code it, we need to look at the whole picture. As a qualified behaviourist I have learnt (sometimes the hard way!) that you can’t just look at the behavioural act in isolation. You have to consider the situation, set up, persons involved and motive of the cat.

For example, if you are walking up the stairs and your cat swipes at your ankles their motive here is going to be different to a cat that bites your hand during play time. Let’s delve into these a little more.

Let’s set the scene;

When we look at a cat’s behaviour and try to de-code it, we need to look at the whole picture. As a qualified behaviourist I have learnt (sometimes the hard way!) that you can’t just look at the behavioural act in isolation. You have to consider the situation, set up, persons involved and motive of the cat.

For example, if you are walking up the stairs and your cat swipes at your ankles their motive here is going to be different to a cat that bites your hand during play time. Let’s delve into these a little more.

Cat biting my ankles:

The cat is trying to get your attention and engage in playtime.

Cats are creatures of joy; they thrive on connection and engagement. If your cat is biting your ankles as you walk up the stairs, stop walking for a moment and reach for a handy toy to dangle for them. Pause your human jobs and take a moment to enjoy the playtime with your cat. Have fun!

Cat bites me when we play:

Play time with cats is crucial for many reasons. It supports their physical, mental, and emotional health. A key point to note: DON’T USE YOUR HAND AS A TOY!

Cats are hunters and need to act out their innate prey drive cycle. They hunt, pounce and kill their prey. If this is your hand, then that’s on you!

Make sure you use a wand/ball/fish/soft toy to direct your cats’ instincts towards. Give them prey to play with. Also, if you are using a laser pen you MUST give your cat a toy or treat after a couple of minutes of play. It is essential for their mental health that they complete the prey drive cycle.

Stroking my cat and it bites me:

Cats have something called an excitement threshold. This means that your cat could go from enjoying cuddles, strokes and love with you to attacking your hand and have a touch of the devil in them!

This means that the cat has essentially become over stimulated and has passed this threshold point so they switch into hunter mode.

Some cats will have warning signals they are reaching this point such as low ears, dilated pupils, flicking of their tail or faster movements. Others will be Jekyll and Hyde and just switch in a millisecond.

Either way – this does not mean your cat is a bad cat. They have reached a boundary line that has been crossed. You shouldn’t shout at them or tell them off. Simply stop the activity you were doing when this moment happens, keep your hand still and talk to them calmly and in a soothing tone.

Let them ‘come back down’ from this point of excitement.

Cat bites my other cat:

This could be as an act of aggression, to instigate play or to release energy. Again, look at the whole picture.

Was cat A blocked from using the litter tray or cat flap by cat B? Was cat B in a playful mode and cat A is engaging with that? Was cat A fast asleep and cat B pounced on them?

Cats will guard key resources and are territorial animals so if you have any of the examples above, look at the resources you have for your cat(s). If you have the third point where one cat is asleep and the other attacks, look at how much energy and playtime you are giving your cats.

Cats are sentient beings and will create what they need. If they need to play to release energy, they will instigate it. If they need to guard resources and defend what is theirs, they will.

Why does my cat bite me?

In conclusion when you need to figure out why your cat is biting you (or other cats in the home) look at the context around the behaviour.

Don’t rush to label the behaviour as bad, it isn’t. It is your cat’s way of communicating.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog. It is my mission to give cats a voice. If you know of any friends, family members or colleagues who would enjoy this blog share it with them using the share buttons below.

Julie-Anne, Leo and Max xx

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Thumbnail image credit: Photo by Crina Doltu.

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