Why Do Cats Bite Humans? Is It Love Or Aggression?

Why do cats bite humans? This is a common question asked by cat owners everywhere. You’re playing with puss when suddenly she sinks her sharp teeth into your arm.

What started out as a game has escalated into aggressive behavior. You may be wondering what you’ve done wrong and if your cat has started to hate you.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Your cat loves you unconditionally and would never harm you on purpose.

In this post you’ll discover some of the reasons cats bite humans. Some will surprise you, especially if you’re a new cat parent.

Reading a cat’s body language can be confusing unless you understand it.

There are several different types of cat bite. Gentle nips, playful bites, and defensive. We’ll take a closer look at these to give a better idea.

Your Cat Is Showing Love

If your cat gives gentle nips on your hand this is her way of showing affection. It’s like a show of love.

Take this a compliment as it’s one of many ways cats demonstrate affection. Other’s include head butting, purring, and kneading.

There are many people who question whether cats have feelings or not. Most have never owned a cat or class themselves as “dog people”

While dogs are easy to read, cats are much more subtle. In fact some of the signals cats give can be downright confusing!

She’s Had Enough!

why cats bite humans-she's had enough

If your cat gives a sudden bite on your hand while you’re stroking her, she’s had enough! This is quite common and you may have missed subtle signs.

These may include tail swishing and ears flat or pointing down. Remember, your cat can’t tell you she’s had enough.

Body language is all she has and if you can’t read her signals she’ll attack! Understanding a cat’s complex language takes time.

However, every cat is different just like people. They all have different personalities and needs.

The important thing is to respect that and not cross boundaries. While some cats enjoy being cuddled and petted, others allow it only on their terms.

Knowing when your cat has had enough petting can save you from the pain of bite wounds or scratches! However, if you’re unlucky enough to get bitten clean the cut immediately.


why do cats bite humans-overstimulation

Sometimes play sessions with a cat can turn aggressive. This is usually because they’ve become overstimulated.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of a cat grabbing your arm and sinking it’s teeth you’ll know what I mean. This has happened frequently with my cat.

The result was I ended up looking like I’d self-harmed! As I found out, the worst thing you can do is encourage rough play with a cat!

This is because it’s seen as a cue to up the game. Unless you take a step back your cat will become increasingly aggressive.

Cats have a strong prey drive, and once your cat becomes over excited she’ll bite. Actually, she’s not deliberately trying to hurt you, but acting on instinct.

Your hand or arm is seen as prey! Waving your arm about to try and stop the attack will only make it worse.

Pay close attention to body language and watch for signs such as dilated pupils or swishing tail. If you see this take a step back and move away.

Just like small children, kittens need encouragement where good behavior is concerned. Always reward good behavior with a treat or praise.

Diverting Your Cat’s Attention

If a play session starts becoming rough quickly divert her attention. This way you’ll avoid getting bitten or scratched.

I find the best diversion tactic is a laser pen. It never fails to work, and chasing the red dot seems great fun to a cat!

Another diversion idea is simply throwing a ball or favorite toy. This usually works and helps burn off your cat’s excess energy.

All cats have mad half hours or zoomies. This is completely normal and more frequent with indoor kitties.

If all else fails, take yourself out of the situation and go into another room for a short time. Your cat will soon calm down though she may come and look for you!

Fear Or Anxiety

cats bite humans when frightened

Are fearful or anxious cat may defend itself by biting. This could be in response to a trip to the vet.

Most cats fear being put in a pet carrier as it’s associated with going to the vets. Of course, desensitising your cat by letting help sleep in an open carrier is a good idea.

Cats are very sensitive and apart from visits to the vet, other fears may include flea treatments, being chased by other pets, or even spooked by sudden loud noises.

If your cat bites you out of fear don’t suddenly pull away. This could be a mistake as she may sink her teeth in further!

Instead, push your arm or hand gently towards her. This is totally odd behavior to a cat.

The reason being, you’re seen as prey and pushing towards a predator isn’t what prey normally do. As a result your cat will become confused and let go.

You can help avoid fearful aggression by taking a few simple steps. Firstly, identify what’s making your cat scared.

For obvious ones like fear of a pet carrier, place an item of clothing with your scent inside the carrier and let her wander in and explore.

Of course, make sure it’s something old and not your latest designer jumper! Your cat may even make an open carrier her favorite sleeping place!

If you’ve noticed aggression between pets, a good idea is to install a Feliway plugin. Most veterinary surgeries have them to calm patients.

This could reduce the risk of being bitten by your cat if she’s being bullied or fearful. Although it’s common for cats to playfight, aggression can quickly escalate.

Trying to break up a cat fight can easily result in a nasty bite. It’s often best to let them sort out their differences without intervening.

Pain Or Illness

why cats bite humans-if they're sick

As cats are so good at hiding pain it can be hard to tell if your kitty is unwell. Biting or attacking out of pain is a common response.

Imagine if you’ve injured yourself and some well meaning soul grabs the affected area! I’m sure OUCH! isn’t the only word you’d use!

Well, your cat can’t verbalise, so biting is the only way she knows. If you feel she’s injured herself, examine her very gently and look for any obvious signs.

A sick cat can feel very sorry for itself. Withdrawing from social contact is common, so petting is liable to end in a few bites.

Training Your Cat Not To Bite

If your cat has developed bad habits it’s not to late. While it’s best to start training your cat while she’s a kitten you can curb biting whatever age.

As I’ve mentioned many times, cats respond to rewards. While dogs are eager to please, cats take a different approach!

Your cat is far more likely to respond to a treat or praise for good behavior. Whereas shouting or yelling will either scare or make her more aggressive.

Clicker training can often be an effective tool. In fact, you can actually download a cat clicker training app on most smartphones.
It works by making a sound audible to your cat. The idea is to get your cat to associate the sound with a treat.

Sometimes ignoring your cat if she bites can work. As we all know cats are crafty and soon find what works to get your attention!

However, bear in mind, she’ll soon find an another way! This could be anything from pawing your arm to meowing loudly.

Set aside time each day to play with your cat. This not only helps bonding, but may reduce aggressive biting if it’s attention seeking.

Reward your cat with a treat after each session as long as it doesn’t turn aggressive. This will help encourage good behavior.

Are Cat Bites Dangerous?

Although cats have sharp teeth most bites will be just small punctures in the skin. As long as you keep up vaccinations you should be fine.

If you live in the UK, rabies is virtually non-existent. However, in many other countries your cat will need a rabies vaccination.

The only time you’d need medical help is if the wound becomes swollen or painful. However, that being said, if for whatever reason a stray cat bites you then you should see a doctor.

Final Thoughts

I hoped this article has helped you understand why do cats bite humans. In most cases it’s a result of over stimulation.

Learning how to read your cat’s body language can help prevent biting. As I previously mentioned, all cats are different.

While some will happily endure petting for hours, others are less touchy feely. In fact it’s no different to people.

For example, I always hated being hugged by well meaning relatives as a child. I still don’t like it, but would never bite lol!

Also, some cats play gently and never get over excited. On the hand, some like mine will soon take it to the next level.

If your cat starts biting for no reason keep an eye on her. There’s always the possibility she could be unwell.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful please share. Feel free to share this pin on your “pets” board.

Also, if you have any questions or would like to share experiences, leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)


14 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Bite Humans? Is It Love Or Aggression?”

  1. This review, of what cat bites mean will help ith distinguish what they mean so we can help identify if they are made happy or sad. We are learning every time we come to this website and can share it with other that are going to benefit from t.,


    • Hi Mathew and Deloris, glad you found this post useful:) Being able to work out why your cat bites can save a lot of problems. Thanks for stopping by:)

  2. Thanks for the information.
    Overstimulation seems like a logical reason why our cats bite us. I can recognize this now that you have pointed it out.
    Pushing towards our pets when they are biting works. This is a tactic I’ve used before. And as you say, it does seem to confuse them.

    And yes, The laser pointer always works…..
    Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • Hi Andrew glad you enjoyed this post and found it useful:) Also, good to hear you find pushing towards your pets work if they bite. Yes, laser pointers are a great way to distract a cat from mischief!

  3. Hi, Kathy. I can’t thank you enough for all those tips and explanations.

    I have a cat and she bites me most of the time. After reading your article, I understand better why.
    She bites me but not in a rough manner. Sometimes I see my finger stuck in the middle of her teeth but not hurting me. I cannot explain that behaviour. But cats are smart. They know how and when to hurt and when not to.

    • Hi Warren, glad you found this post useful:) Yes, my cat does that sometimes. It’s certainly not aggression, more like a way of showing affection:) Cats are indeed very smart and know exactly how to get what they want lol!

  4. Hi Kathy,

    What an interesting article! Cats are aliens, and it’s complicated to understand them. I love how clever your tips and tricks are when it comes to avoiding fearful aggression, and this is why I found great value from this post. Especially for the tools you mentioned, both Feliway and Clicker. 🙂

    Your shared information did help me know more about cats, so next time I will have a chance to find out whether cats have sickness or not.


    • Hi Matt, glad you enjoyed this post:) Yes, cats are hard to understand at times. Feliway is excellent for calming cats, though not all are sensitive to it. Clicker training can work well as long as provide plenty of treats! Thanks for stopping by:)

  5. Thanks for this article. My cat will sometimes very gently squeeze his teeth on my arm. I am assuming that’s a sign of affection. Although, it may lead to a rather hard bite if I keep my arm by his mouth too long. I will read him better and try not to make him too aggressive. Your tips on how to occupy him were very good. I always enjoy reading your articles.

    • Hi Nina, yes, it’s definitely a sign of affection:) Cats don’t understand how fragile human skin is. It’s common for litter mates to bite each other in play and this is probably carried through into adulthood. As cats have a thick covering of fur it’s rare for them to hurt each other. Aggressive play is quite common as well, but try distracting him with a toy. Thanks for stopping by:)

  6. This is a highly informative post. Some parts were quite hilarious too. I’m a cat lover myself, and I’ve often heard of the odd biting story. I’ve never really given much thought to preventing the bites until now.

    “The reason being, you’re seen as prey and pushing towards a predator isn’t what prey normally do. As a result your cat will become confused and let go.” This made so much sense to me, I wonder why people haven’t really given it a thought.

    Although I don’t look forward to being bitten, I definitely am in a better stead now to handle such situations better. Thanks for the brief education. I look forward to learning even more.


    • Hi Femi, glad you found this post informative:) Yes, pushing your hand gently towards your cat if she bites definitely works. I think once you’ve tried this a few times your cat would start to get the idea! Also reward your cat for good behaviour with a treat.

  7. This is a must-read article for anyone who has a kitten or grown cat that bites and doesn’t know why! I have two cats and luckily have not had issues with them biting except for when we’re playing. I learned when they were young that you should never play with your cats with your hands because then they’ll learn that your hands are toys as well and this forms a bad habit!

    • Hi Haley, good to hear your cats haven’t given you any problems! You are so right, as once you make the fatal mistake of letting your cat bite your hand it’s not forgotten! Cats have excellent memories and as you rightly said, your hand can soon become a toy! Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed this post:)


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