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Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Pet Him? 3 Reasons & Solutions

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	Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

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

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Cats aren’t always the most predictable creatures. Sometimes, they adore your pets and practically beg for your attention. Other times, they get irritated and bite you during the petting process. Why is that? More importantly: what can you do to stop the biting?

In this article, we’re going to look at the top three reasons that your cat bites you when you pet him, as well as some solutions to help resolve the issue.cat face divider 2

The 3 Reasons Your Cat Bites You When You Pet Him (With Solutions)

Here are the top 3 reasons your cat bites you when you pet him:

1. You Touched a Sensitive Spot

Just like humans, cats have certain parts that they don’t usually like to be touched. Cats do not prefer being pet in areas that are considered vulnerable, such as the stomach, back, or tail. Even if these spots aren’t necessarily sensitive, cats generally don’t like being pet there. In older or injured cats, certain body parts can become sore from scratches, growths, etc.

a red domestic cat bites its owner's hand
Image Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock

The top way to stop a cat from biting you for this reason is to avoid the sensitive spots entirely. Focus on petting your cat in areas that they like. Cats typically love being pet at the base of their ears, around their cheeks, and under their chin.

If your cat has a sensitive spot, you should take him to the vet. If you feel any growths or sores out of place, get them checked out and treated accordingly. During the process, make sure to be gentle and kind to your cat. He doesn’t like being handled when he is injured.

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2. He Is Stressed or Irritated

If your cat is incredibly stressed or irritated by being pet, he might bite you as a sign of aggression. This is likely to happen whenever the cat is afraid of humans or is not used to being touched. Given that cats are so much smaller than humans, it makes sense that they would be scared of us.

petting a cat
Image Credit: Pixabay

If your cat is biting you because you think he is scared or stressed, the first thing you need to work on is getting him more comfortable around you. Always be kind and encourage your cat to trust you. Like in any relationship, trust takes time to build. Taking care of them, providing healthy food, water, interactive playtime with toys and the occasional healthy treat are all ways of strengthening your relationship with your cat and building trust. The cat will learn you are a positive factor in its life, but this takes time, so be gentle and patient.
If your cat begins to trust you more, you can start acclimating him to being pet. It is recommended that you pet them for short periods. Begin with petting once a day and stay under 4 strokes, focusing the petting area around the ears and under the chin. Offer a piece of its favorite treat right after you pet it and then stop touching it. Never pet your cat with shaking or scratching motions.
You should be aware of the signs and notice whenever your cat is starting to get stressed or irritated. Sometimes, your cat may enjoy it, but at other times he may hate being pet. Look for signs of irritation so that you can stop petting him whenever he feels uncomfortable. Just like you, your cat might not always be in the mood, and that is ok! Sometimes they only like a little bit and you should not push the limits. It is better to give space and no attention (including no looking at or talking to a moody cat) than too much.

Here are some common signs of irritability in cats:
  • Flattened ears
  • Growling
  • Hissing
  • Rolling to his back
  • Sitting in a hunched position
  • Slanted or squinted eyes
  • Twitching tail
  • Whiskers that are held back
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3. It’s a Love Bite

When you hear the phrase “love bite,” you probably think that it is an affectionate response. This is not the case. A love bite is your cat’s way of telling you that they don’t want to be pet anymore. You can think of a love bite somewhat like a warning sign before he gets angry. He wouldn’t give you this sign if he didn’t love you!

Love bites typically are not aggressive. Sometimes, love bites are completely unintentional because they are part of your cat’s grooming habits. So, they rarely break the skin. If you don’t stop petting the cat after their love bite, they will likely aggressively bite you to force you to stop.

a tabby cat biting owner's hand
Image Credit: Alie04, Shutterstock

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to discourage love bites since it is a natural response. You can look for signs of discomfort to know when your cat is beginning to get irritated. For example, if you notice that the cat is twitching its tail or ears, stop petting him.

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Don’t Physically Punish Your Cat

Since we are talking about cats that bite, it is essential to note that you should not physically punish your cat after they bite you. Physically punishing your cat includes hitting, kicking, slapping, or throwing the cat about.

You shouldn’t physically punish your cat because it can hurt him. Even a slight push or shove can injure his delicate bones. In addition to potentially hurting your pet, physical punishment will likely make the biting issue worse. As you become physical with him, he will likely become fearful of you, causing him to retaliate more aggressively.

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All in all, if your cat bites you while you are petting him, it is likely because he doesn’t want to be pet anymore. Even if he absolutely adores your attention, cats don’t want to be pet all the time. This is easy to understand since we, as humans, also don’t want to be touched all the time.

To prevent your cat from biting you, look for signs that he is irritated. These signs will tell you that your cat doesn’t want to be pet anymore, allowing you to stop before the situation escalates. If your cat does get to the point that he bites you, never use physical force to teach him a lesson.

Find out more about cat biting behavior:

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Featured Image Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea, Shutterstock