Why Does My Cat Bite My Hand When I Stroke Her?
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Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2006
by Larry Chamberlain
You have settled into your favorite armchair, perhaps reading the final chapters of a gripping nov
One hand holding your book the other hand continuing to pet your mouser, you again get lost in your novel. All is well in the world with you and with your cat.
Suddenly your cat bites your hand!
Why did kitty do that? Why did she bite the hand that strokes her?
The experts don't agree on exactly why it is that some cats enjoy being petted, but end up biting. One thing that they do agree on is that when kitty bites at you, it's a sure sign that she has decided that she's had enough stroking.
Cats differ in the amount of petting they will accept, and not all cats respond by biting when they have had enough. Some cats simply jump from your lap and saunter off to investigate interests anew. But many cats will nip you and your animal is one of them.
Could you have known that a bite was on its way? Yes, there are often signs that cats give before biting. And, if you had not been so wrapped up in reading your novel, you may have paid heed to your little pets warning.
If kitty's tail begins to twitch, in a rolling flick, watch out! She's getting ready to chomp at your hand.
If your cats ears start turning towards the back of her head, or flatten against her head, that's a warning a bite is coming.
If your cat suddenly becomes restless, or stiffens and stares at your hand, she could be about to nip you.
If you noticed any of these signals, simply stop stroking your cat. Your pet will either stay on your lap or jump down and walk off, whichever happens you don't get bitten.
What you should not do is punish your cat for biting your hand. That simply does not work. Cats are more likely to identify the punishment with you rather than with their bad cat behavior. If you miss a warning sign and kitty manages to get her jaws around your hand, try to resist the temptation to pull your hand away or push your cat away. Simply freeze. Chances are that your cat will not sink her teeth in, she has got her message across, and you have stopped petting her.
If you try and push your cat away it is likely that she will fight with your hand resulting in skin punctures for you. (An animal bite can become infected quite easily, if your cat does draw blood clean up the wound scrupulously and seek the advice of your doctor.)
Why do some cats behave in this aggressive way? The degree of tolerance to petting may be genetic, or it may be learned behavior. If when your cat was a kitten you allowed her to chew on your hand in play, she learned that biting human hands was an OK thing to do. So, when she feels that she has had enough stroking (she's the boss remember,) she will bite at your hand to let you know - if you ignore her warning signals.
Some experts recommend the use of healthy tidbits, as a reward, in order to increase the time your cat will tolerate stroking. At the first warning signal offer kitty a treat, continue to stroke your cat gently for a time and offer her another reward. It is said that your cat will learn to connect petting with the tidbits and may, with patience, allow you to pet her for longer periods.
Larry Chamberlain lives in London, England, and has had a lifelong fascination with domestic cats. His web site
provides information about all that is best in cat art. Also pages about cat and kitten care and information on cat breeds and types.
This Article has been viewed 69,136 times. (Not updated in real-time.)More comments
» left by Amy Jane from Scotland 3 years 131 days ago.
When i lift my Cat up to go and take hhim somwhere, he will be in my ars comfortably n then he will just bite my hand randomly.?Also why when you stroke a cat near its tail, the back part of the body rises up?Hi Amy,Yes that happens. Likely your cat just has had enough petting, you have got to watch for those warning signs.I have to admit that I don't know why a cat's back rises when you stroke a cat near its tail. It seems to happen with most cats and is probably a perfectly natural reaction.All the best,Larry.
» left by Eva Ebenholdts from Sweden 2 years 159 days ago.
I have a similar situation with my cat. He is a three year old norwegian forest cat that I've had for a year. I've introduced him to the outdoors which is why I don't clip his nails incase of predators and a need to climb trees. He is a very happy forest cat and has been so for as long as he's been with me. He is also very loving and docile and loves to be coddled(sleeping in your lap, wanting to be picked up, sleeps on your chest, follows me everywhere even outdoors like a puppy) and have his tummy rubbed and oddly enough, he loves being groomed. Sometimes when he is being stroked he will wrap himself around my arm if I try to remove it and he starts biting and clawing. Sometimes quite hard, but it seems in his particular case to be a need to keep my hand there so he can cuddle it some more, it gets painful at times since like i said i dont cut his nails but i've managed to stop him by leaning in and kissing him in the cheek. he stops immediately and licks my hand in apology. Since every cat is different, just like every other person, i dont think there is only one particular reason for this biting behaviour.Hi Eva.
"Since every cat is different, just like every other person, i dont think there is only one particular reason for this biting behaviour"
I agree. Sounds like you have a great feline companion there.
All the best,
» left by Ella from Attic 2 years 143 days ago.
Thanks so much for this helpful wise advice on our relationship with these mysterious, complex, and often difficult to understand creatures- Always- Ella
We had a cat like you described for about six years (she died when the vet used a new anesthetic on her while cleaning her teeth). She bit hard and fast and with little to no warning. But the cat we have no bites for love and enjoyment. They aren't always gentle little love nips either. If I were to stop petting or brushing her when she bit me, she would be upset. In the beginning that is what I did and she would cry and complain that we were not yet finished (and yes, cats control our lives). She couldn't understand why I was rebuffing her offering of love. It took me a while to figure it out, but the pinned back ears and tail swishing that you mentioned were absent and I finally got it. Humans can be so dense!
I enjoyed your article and the advice you have given.
Here is a little bit of information about cats: When you are petting a cat, be careful not to pass your hand in front of their eyes, they Hate that! It is a sign of aggression to them. That will almost always trigger a biting reaction. Also, just because a cat is purring, doesn't always mean they are happy. Cats will purr when they want you to know they don't want you to hurt them, or even when they are sick or afraid.
That's a very good point you make about avoiding passing your hand in front of a cats eyes. Even with us humans, if something is suddenly flashed in front of your eyes it is a natural reaction to at lest blink and move your head back. And you would think it aggressive.
Good point about purring too, cats purr for many reasons.
All the best,
» left by David from Chicago 1 year 133 days ago.
Thanks man this really helped me alot. I have one more question for you. When im in my bed watching TV my cat jumps in with me, and I have no problem with that, but when I don't pet him he slowly bites my hand. Gently, but it still hurts a little bit. I can understand him bitting me if I was getting on his nerves, or pet him in a sensitive area, but I don't touch him at all and he still bites me. I don't know if he is playing, mad, or being agressive, because I know I haven't done anything wrong to him, and he's a good cat. What should I do?
» left by David from Chicago 1 year 133 days ago.
Hey man thanks very much! Your information helped me out a lot. I have one last question. When Im in my bed watching TV my cat jumps in with me, and that's fine with me, but everytime I stop petting him, he starts bitting my hand. Gently, but it still hurts. I could understand if he did it when I was bothering him, or getting on his nerves or, pet him in a sensitive area, but he just does it for no reason. Im not petting him or touching him at all, and then all of a sudden "Ouch!" Can you tell me why he does this behavior?
» left by Bev 336 days 10 hours ago.
I recently rescued a male cat from a local animal shelter. I don't know how old he is, but he is mature, and not neutered. He bites me, out of the blue, for no reason. This may occur whether or not I attempt to pet him. Sometimes he jumps up on the sofa with me and grabs my ankle, my leg, my hand, or my arm, anything that is exposed. He hasn't broken the skin yet, but has come dangerously close to doing so.
He held the soft part of the underneath of my forearm in his teeth so hard and for too long two days ago and it caused a very scary looking bruise. I have had this cat for two weeks. He has tried to bite me about a half dozen times just today. Except for this bad behavior, he is a very very sweet cat. I'm beginning to be just a little bit afraid of him. Please advise if you can.
» left by Ann Onnimus 310 days 20 hours ago.
It's really unfortunate that when breeding to create the domestic cat in history, we didn't go far enough to eliminate behaviors like this by breeding only cats that did not bite when petted, and now somehow consider it acceptable and try to work with it, when it actually makes many cats unsafe pets for kids who may not understand what the cat is doing, and for cats who are on the rough side. It would not be considered tolerable behavior for many other animals (would you tolerate this behavior from a dog?), but somehow cats, with their sharp claws and teeth with tips as fine as sewing-machine needles, get a free pass... How sad that our negligence when creating them is probably already leading to some cats that are unloved, shoved out of their homes, or given up to the pound... and thanks to the massive population of feral cats, it's too late to turn to the breeders and ask them only to breed the most pleasant, easygoing and non-bitey cats like we did with wolves/dogs (or even those foxes in that Russian experiment. That was initially all they bred for - a reluctance to bite humans!) So this is actually all our own fault...
My cat (a muttcat) has a nub tail that I can't usually see when petting her, does not flatten her ears, and gives little if any warning when she is about to bite, and she usually bites quite hard, sometimes grabbing the hand with her paws/claws and scratching to boot. She already hates having my husband touch her because he doesn't pet her "the right way", and isn't shy about letting him know that she merely tolerates his presence but not his touch. I don't know what we are going to do with her when we have kids... I haven't been able to discourage the behavior (she is 4yo and has known both of us her whole life) and encourage her to just WALK AWAY when she's done with the petting session, at all. I have some hopes that she will be entranced by and befriend the new human who is closer to her size than any of the others in the household, but if she hurts our child repeatedly, and we can't find any solutions, then someone's probably going to have to go... and it won't be the kid :(