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Why Does My Cat Bite Me Unprovoked? 5 Vet-Approved Reasons for this Behavior

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on April 29, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand

Why Does My Cat Bite Me Unprovoked? 5 Vet-Approved Reasons for this Behavior


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

There’s no secret—cats try to get our attention, whether it’s good or bad. Because your little kitties have fangs, it won’t feel too good when they sink them into your flesh. If your cat is biting you for no real reason you can see, you might wonder what’s going on and how to stop it.

We’re going to go over why your cat might be biting and offer solutions to deter the behavior—if it’s unwanted. There are always ways you can train your cat to act like a gentleman or lady. Take note that other factors come into play, which can vary from cat to cat.

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The 6 Reasons Your Cat Bites You

1. Attention

Are you paying enough attention to your cat? Well, they might not think so. What your kitty may want is simply your attention. It’s their way of tapping you on the shoulder, saying, “I could use some head scratches.”

They usually replace meowing with nibbling—and sometimes it can hurt! But it’s truly all in good fun, especially if it’s accompanied by purring and other favorable body languages.

2. Play

We’ve all been there before—minding your own business, and all at once, your kitty is ready to play, and they’re coming at you full force. You might get a bite as an invitation to partake in a duel. Do you dare to challenge the cat?

Rather than letting them use your skin as a chew toy, try to rewire their focus toward something else that has no pain sensors.

3. Startle Response

Your cat might have an extreme startle reflex. If you spooked your kitty, it might cause them to bite. This issue won’t happen for all cats since it’s usually a personality trait. Some felines can be finickier than others about when they want to be touched or how quickly you can approach them.

If your cat requires some boundaries, it’s best to respect their space.

4. Love Nibbles

Isn’t it so sweet that our cats can show their love in such painful ways? Much like kneading, love bites are a sign of affection, and all your cat wants is the same emotion reciprocated. Don’t bite them back, of course—that wouldn’t go over so well.

But understand that when your kitty is grabbing you with their paws and giving you a light squeeze with their teeth, it’s their way of showing you how much they care.

bengal cat being stroked by man's hand and purring
Image By: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

5. Aggression

Has your cat been extra moody lately? If they haven’t been acting quite themselves, this bite might actually be an aggressive action. Angry biting needs to be nipped in the bud right away because cat bites are no joke. They can cause infection, scarring, and even cat scratch fever.

Sudden aggression usually has a precise cause, so make sure you consider bases both medically and emotionally.

6. Reaction to Pain

If your cat starts to bite suddenly when touched, it could be pain-related. Maybe they have a scratch, sore spot, or something deeper going on. It could be flesh sensitivity or even deep in the muscles or bones.

If they are biting due to pain, you must get them to the vet right away for an evaluation. You won’t want something slipping under the radar. Lots of different health issues can cause pain with touch, so it’s crucial to find out what’s going on since some reasons are time-sensitive.

cat biting owner's fingers
Image By: Crina Doltu, Pexels

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Tips to Prevent Biting

Let’s face it—getting bitten isn’t much fun. No matter if your cat is playful, sassy, or lovable, you want them to learn good habits. Since cats respond much differently than dogs to punishments, here are some things you can do instead.

Tips for preventing bites from your cat:
  • Never, never, never swat or hit your cat. Cats do not respond well to physical punishments. If you’re trying to make behavior better, you should never strike your cat thinking it will help. If anything, that will make the situation much worse than it is.
  • Don’t react in screams or with sudden movements. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is respond too dramatically or too quickly. Your cat might mistake this as engaging in play, or they might know they got the best of you.
  • Buy lots of toys for playtime. Your cat should never think your hands are prey they can attack. You can get some severe puncture wounds, even from playing games. Make sure you have many types of toys for them to choose from so you can focus their attention on an object rather than your toes.
  • Make sure your cat is getting enough care and stimulation each day. Lonely cats can exhibit poor behaviors like biting. If your cat is getting aggressive with no indication of what could be wrong, consider the time they spend alone—it might be a cry for attention.
  • Respect their boundaries. Maybe you want to cuddle, but your cat doesn’t. If they bite when you touch them without invitation, some cats don’t appreciate it. If you’re doing something your cat doesn’t like, you need to respect their space and give them room to breathe.
  • Visit the vet. When nothing else seems to work, it might be time for a vet visit, especially if you think it could be pain-related. If you reach down to pet your fluffy kitty and they snap back when you touch a particular spot, there could be an underlying illness or hot spot.

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Final Thoughts

Mouthing is one of the many gestures our cats use to communicate their feelings. If something is off, or if they’re feeling extra ornery, you might get bitten. Whether it’s done positively or negatively, there are ways you can avoid the biting.

If you have to channel that energy, but you aren’t sure how to—that’s why animal professionals are so helpful. Discuss the concerns with your vet so you can enjoy your cat without worrying about fangs sinking into your flesh.

Featured Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

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