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Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Sleep? & How to Stop It

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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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It’s natural for cats to bite, and there are various reasons why your kitty might suddenly bite, seemingly unprovoked.

Cats are born with innate predatory instincts, such that aggressive actions like biting show up naturally during their play sessions. However, if your kitty starts to become feisty much more often, it constitutes a behavior problem that you need to address. While it is vital to allow and encourage this vital instinct for your kitty, there should be a fine line between participating in stimulating play and allowing aggressive behavior, especially when you are dead asleep.

So, why do cats nibble on their sleeping parents? What do they try to communicate by biting? Before addressing this, here are important terms you need to know.

  • Problem Behavior: Problem behaviors in cats are continuous behaviors that hinder relationships between owners and their pets. They include the tendency to violence, anxiety, scratching on furniture, biting, and deliberately avoiding the litter box.
  • Nibble: Small harmless bites.
  • Mouthing: Instinctive behavior that involves cats touching surfaces or objects with the mouth.
  • Crepuscular: Appearing to be active at night.

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Reasons Why Your Cat Bites You While You Sleep

1. Display of Aggression

While bites are a fact-life for pet owners, waking up to tooth marks on your skin should be alarming. However, the magnitude of the problem depends on the bite’s severity. While some bites can be subtle and harmless, it is an aggressive bite if it is deep and bloody and accompanied by other signs like hissing sounds and growls.

Research shows that felines are aggressive animals, and they could bite unprovoked. However, external factors like roughhousing, illnesses, and threats from other house pets could trigger some signs of hostility.

But why bite when sleeping? If it’s biting places like the feet when you are asleep, it’s because the feet mimic its enemies’ movement, prompting the cat to attack.

Abyssinian cat hisses_Slava Dumchev_shutterstock
Image Credit: Slava Dumchev, Shutterstock
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2. Demanding Play

Are you wondering why your cat is biting you? Could it be waking you up to play?

First, cat parents should understand that felines are crepuscular, meaning they are biologically wired to be up most of the night while everyone else is asleep. So, a cat that disrespects your sleeping schedule could be bored while you are asleep, wondering when you will wake up.

Being social creatures, kitties love company, and they could be looking for a playmate. You are most likely to see this act in kittens because they tend to be more dependent and energized than grown cats.

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3. To Alert You About Something

Interestingly, sleeping cats do not mean that they are “off the clock.” Felines are always on the lookout, even when they are asleep. This aspect makes them almost instantly aware of the slightest noise in the home.

Cats attribute this behavior to both their predator and hunting instincts-something they depend on to stay safe. Since these instincts are directly connected to a cat’s crepuscular nature, it is more likely to wake up before you during a commotion.

And, if it does, it may bite you in an attempt to call your attention to something. It is vital to watch its accompanying reactions to allow you to respond to the message it is trying to pass you. For instance, is it displaying agitation, restlessness, or trying to lead you somewhere else?

cat sleeping on bed
Image Credit: Adam Kuylenstierna, Unsplash
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4. Wants to Get Fed

Is your cat well-fed and happy? A hungry kitty will disrupt your sleep by biting your face to ask for more food. However, such bites are usually gentle, and it’s a sign of aggression if it’s hurtful. Deep bites are an indicator of an angry and not hungry cat.

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5. Showing Affection

While most people associate biting with negative feelings, cats might bite out of love. Love bites are different from fearful or defensive bites meant to hurt you.

Such bites usually feel ticklish and quirky, and your cat may do it until you snuggle or pet it. They may nibble or mouth on places like the hands when you stop petting, which indicates that it doesn’t want you to take your hand off it.

A young teen girl naps on the couch, hugging her cat
Image Credit: Simone Hogan, Shutterstock

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How to Stop Your Cat from Biting You While You Sleep

Your sleep is vital, and your kitty shouldn’t prevent you from getting quality sleep. Here’s how to prevent your cat from biting you when asleep.

Spend Quality Time with Your Cat

Kitties require much more attention than you might expect. While they often appear as independent creatures, they still crave attention, affection, and love.

One way of showing affection to your feline friend is by spending one-on-one quality time with it. As a responsible cat parent, take time to lap-cuddle, pet, stroke it from nose to tail, touch it, and massage it whenever you can.

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Feed it Before Going to Bed

Do you want your kitty to sleep through the night and allow you a peaceful rest as well? If so, feed it shortly before bedtime because, just like humans, cats are more likely to sleep after a nice satisfying meal.

Another way to minimize late-night interruptions is to invest in automatic cat feeders. You can set these items to release a handful of dry foods at specific times. Therefore, your cat will be able to reach out for food on its own if it wakes up hungry in the middle of the night.

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Make it Exercise in the Evening to Wear it Out

Most cats are usually bored out of their skulls, making cat owners end up with stir-crazy and biting cats at night. To avoid nighttime disruptions, it would be best if you used up the kitty’s energy reserves with plenty of activity moments before bed.

Think of activities such as playtimes and yard runs as a form of recreation, fun, a challenge, and an opportunity to spend time and bond with your feline friend. Engage it in its favorite interactive game, such as cat gyms with lots of climbing and clawing to exhaust it to its core.

cat running on exercise wheel_Shutterstock_Dmitri Ma
Image Credit: Dmitri Ma, Shutterstock
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Set Up a Camera to Document the Behavior

Keep a diary of your kitty’s biting behavior, or set up a camera to help you understand the cause and reason for this undesirable behavior. By so doing, you’ll be able to study your feline friend better, understand, and get a clear picture of what prompts it to bite.

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Leave Your Cat in a Separate Room

If possible, let your cat have a separate sleeping room and close your bedroom door to deny it entry at night. Cats are territorial, and the more you allow them into your bed, the more they take charge of it. This will make keeping them out when you desperately need to, difficult.

Giving your kitty a separate sleeping area will automatically make your sleeping space a cat-unfriendly area and save you from night bites.

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Offer Alternatives and Stablish Clear Limits

Be careful to watch out for biting signs in your cat, no matter how subtle they could be. It would be best to discourage such traits and never give it the impression that it is okay to bite you.

It’s vital to teach your kitty that biting is bad, especially at a young age, because it is easier to train and correct kittens’ destructive behaviors than adults.  Find toys for your cat to practice nibbling on and reward it for doing so to encourage the behavior on the toys. Biting is self-soothing, so the reward for biting the toys should only be given the first few times.

It’s equally essential to make it physically impossible for your kitty to deliver unprovoked hard bites. However, avoid punishing it because cats don’t always bite to hurt, but they could be communicating or demanding your attention.

Again, because biting is self-soothing, you should aim to establish the limits before this happens. Normally a cat that knows biting you awake is not ok, will not try to bite you in your sleep.  If you allow a cat to bite you when awake and moreover give your attention after the bite, the likelihood of this behavior repeating during your sleep when your attention is needed is actually very high. When it comes to bites, the message should be clear: it is not allowed and not ok.

cat training
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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Cat parents should always be on the lookout for aggressive traits like biting and find ways to contain them. It would be best to check with your vet to help if the behavior persists. Most importantly, find a doctor to treat your deep bloody bites.

The good thing is, it is easy to contain a kitty that bites you merely for your attention. Well, having a bite-free night shouldn’t be hard now that you have the solutions with you.

See also:

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Featured Image: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock