Why Do Cats Bite?

Ann Roberts
Kitten biting

It's not always easy to pinpoint why cats bite because there are numeous reasons why a cat may strike out at a person, fellow pet, or an article of clothing or furniture. You really have to go back and think about what was happening just prior to when the bite occurred. Some cats are more prone to this habit than others, so your main concern should really focus on the frequency and severity of the biting.

Reasons Why Cats Bite

Cats in their wild, non-domestic form must hunt for their survival. This sort of hunting can range from using their jaws and sharp teeth for the main attack, or merely clawing fish out of the water. Feral cats and big cats in the wild spend a great deal of their lives in attack mode. The adrenal glands of a mature lion are much larger than those of a crocodile due to the intense alertness and readiness of the feline personality, although both species are inborn hunters. This nervous, attack-ready nature of wild cats is present their domestic cousins. Even indoor cats can display a quite frightening fit of hissing, snarling and biting when they feel threatened.

Which types of behavior threaten the common domestic kitty? An unknown house guest with a penchant for petting cats is always a primary target. Although many cats enjoy being petted, the majority of these animals prefer to be petted by someone they trust, and it can take quite a while for a cat to adjust to strangers. Unfortunately, some humans who enter a household and spot a cat are so confident in their trustworthy nature that they fail to grant that cat an adjustment period. Any seemingly friendly attempts to stroke this adorable feline will be met with hostility and, at worst, biting.

Curiously enough, cats will actually bite their beloved owners, even after a very satisfying petting session. This action can be a complete surprise to the unwitting owner, since kitty seemed purringly contented only a few minutes ago. In this case, the cat is communicating that the petting session is over. Most cats do not want to harm their owners, but biting is merely a signal for "enough is enough".

Fear and impatience are key motivations behind many episodes of cat biting, but not all biting indicates negative emotions. There are some instances where biting is used as a positive form of communication. Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize their pets' true intentions.

Play Biting

Cats also bite as a form of play. Kittens love to gnaw on people, siblings and just about anything that can be taken for "play prey". If you have ever owned a small kitten, you're probably familiar with how kittens may play-attack your hands or even your feet. Your kitten does not know that its sharp claws and teeth can be incredibly painful weapons. Instead, he believes that your attempts to guard your hands or victimized feet are simply part of the game.

Many kitten behaviors, such as fishing in a water bowl and carpet kneading, continue into adulthood. Your cat's play biting is also likely reminiscent of its youth.

Dealing With Anxiety Prone Animals

Some felines are particularly anxiety prone, and although they love their masters dearly, anything from a car alarm to a vacuum cleaner may induce attack mode. This can be a real challenge for pet owners since cat bites can be more than petty nips to your hands or body. Some cat bites can be quite severe. Unfortunately, in these cases, a cat is relying on its inborn instincts and such behavior can be difficult to suppress. Cats cannot reason with the same capacity as humans, so when you have a feline that is extremely anxious, it is an easier solution for you to control the stress-inducing aspects of its environment than to change the cat's behavior.

If these biting fits become severe and result in serious injuries, it is time to call a veterinarian. Some extreme fits of aggression may be symptomatic of a neurological disease or an underlying illness. Any and all distressing behaviors exhibited by a house pet are always worthy of discussion with your cat's vet.

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Why Do Cats Bite?