When Cat Nips Turn into Cat Bites: Understanding Feline Behavior
If you had sharp, pointy teeth, wouldn’t it be a shame not to use them every once in awhile? This could certainly answer the question “Why does my cat bite me?”, but to truly understand this common feline behavior, we must look beyond boredom or entertainment. Indeed, the reasoning behind cat bites can vary inexplicably from one moment to the next.
The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center welcome you into the always mysterious, never boring world of catty quirks.
Most cat owners nod when asked if their cats have ever bitten them, but that doesn’t mean they know why. Cat bites can be the result of stress, fear, impatience, boredom, or anxiety, but they can equally occur out of playfulness, curiosity, or even affection.
A frequent episode that ends in cat bites typically starts with a pleasurable snuggle or grooming session. Your cat may seek attention, and loves the petting and touches, but when he or she has had enough, the teeth come out. It might seem like Fluffy’s lashing out for no reason, but chances are he or she has actually displayed subtle warning signs.
Don’t take it personally; these nips are just your cat’s way of saying he or she has had enough.
Keep an eye out for the following red flags that one or two cat bites are on the way:
- Flattened ears
- No purring
- Tail lashing or thumping
- Twitching skin
- Looking at your hand
- Increased vocalization
Also, pay attention to any places on your cat’s body that evoke strong reactions. Avoid those places and pet him or her in a more neutral area, like the top of the head.
Preventing Cat Bites
One of the best ways to protect yourself from cat bites is to start training early. Kittens and even adult or senior cats enjoy tuning to their primal instincts. This can include ambushing your ankles when you walk by, or attacking your feet beneath the bed covers. Many owners will use their fingers, hand, or feet during play, but unless you want to get bitten for years to come, discourage this behavior during your cat’s youth.
Play aggression usually includes biting, but if you use toys instead of your fingers you’ll have long-term success.
Caution Paired with Play
Your cat may become overexcited during playtime. Keep sessions on schedule, with regular start and end times. This will give kitty the ability to anticipate when you expect him or her to calm down and chill.
If your cat doesn’t get the hint and continually attempts to bite you, redirect play or stop altogether.
Even though your cat may not intend to hurt you, his or her sharp teeth can do sizable damage. Always disinfect any bite marks or punctures, and keep an eye on signs of infection.
To reduce cat bites inflicted upon children, make sure your kids always know how to respect your cat’s space and boundaries. If cat bites persist, an underlying medical condition may need to be addressed. Likewise, a professional feline trainer or behaviorist may be enlisted.