Why Do Cats Bite While Getting Petted?

shutterstock 395786362

It is not uncommon for cats to nip at their owners when they try to pet them.

If your kitty has started biting your fingers, it will help to know why they are doing it.

This will help you maintain the best possible relationship with them.

Love Bites or Aggressive Behavior?

There is a big difference between the little love bites that cats give their owners sometimes, and truly aggressive behavior. If your cat’s biting breaks the skin, they are acting aggressively. If they are just nipping at you, it is most likely playful behavior. It is important that you are able to distinguish between the two.

Common Reasons Cats Bite While Being Petted

1. They Don’t Want to be Petted

The simplest explanation of cats biting while getting petted is that they are tired of being touched or handled. Even cats that love a good petting can grow weary of it after a while. If this is the case, you should just stop touching them for a while. Cats are known for being unpredictable animals, so there is no telling when they will react this way.

2. They Are Being Playful

There is also a possibility that that your cat is biting you as a way of being playful. This is fairly common behavior in kittens, and it is something they naturally do with their litter mates. Your cat could be interpreting your petting it as an invitation to play.

shutterstock 1191775663

3. You are Getting in the Way of Their Grooming

Another possible explanation is that you got in the way of your cat grooming itself. This is something that cats do a lot, so you have to be careful if you are petting yours. They sometimes use their incisor teeth for grooming.

4. They Are Overly Stimulated

If you are petting your cat’s tail, you might end up getting nipped. This part of their body is known for causing these animals to become overly stimulated. It’s also possible that you just touched it one too many times. This reaction happens quickly, so it can be fairly difficult to avoid.

5. Territorial Behavior

Cats are intensely territorial animals, so there is a chance that you got bit because they just want you to know that they are in charge. It is just a (not so) friendly reminder that you should heed. It’s also a reminder that your cat is the real master.

6. They are in Pain

Touching a part of your cat’s body that is very sensitive or causing them pain could mean getting bite. If they also emit a yowl or crying sound, there is a good chance that this is the case.

shutterstock 1442157722

Tips for Responding to Your Cat’s Biting

The appropriate response to your cat’s biting depends on why they are doing it in the first place. You will need to carefully consider this before doing anything.

Stop Petting Them

Whatever the reason is for your cat’s biting, you should stop petting them immediately. Give them a little time to themselves before you touch them again. Every cat needs a break from their owner’s affection once in a while.

It is a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend petting your cat to reduce your chances of getting bitten. Some cats are okay being petted for hours on end, while others become annoyed after just a few minutes. Consider your own unique personality and temperament when deciding how long to keep petting them.

Look for the signs

There are certain signs that you should look for in your cat that might suggest a bite is coming. If you are petting your cat and it keeps squirming away, don’t try to force affection on it. This will only end badly for you.

You should also take notice if your cat’s ears are pinned back or their tail begins thrashing around. These are both sounds of aggression or irritation.

Don’t Punish Your Cat

It is important that you not punish your cat for biting, even if it truly aggressive behavior. This will only make the problem much worse. You should, however, reward your pet when it doesn’t bite you. Positive reinforcement can go a long way towards stopping this behavior.

Also, keep in mind that negative reinforcement can cause your cat quite a bit of stress. Do not spray them with water or yell at them if they do this. It will only serve to make your cat even more aggressive than it already is. This could result in your cat causing some serious injuries with their teeth and claws.

Seek the Help of a Professional

If your cat is biting you because it is aggressive, you might want to think about hiring a trainer/behaviorist. There are plenty of professionals who work with cats that are aggressive. Take the time to find someone who is very experienced. This should help a lot with getting noticeable results with your kitty.

Take Care of any Injuries You Sustain

It is a good idea to clean any wounds you might sustain from your cat’s biting. Clean it with soap and water before applying an antibacterial ointment. This will reduce the chances of infection.


  • A cat’s biting can be a sign of aggression, which you will need to address before it gets worse.
  • Many cats bite their owners while being petted as a way of letting them know it is time to stop.
  • You should refrain from trying to force your cat to be petted.
  • If you notice your cat yowl or cry out in addition to biting you, it could be because you touched an area of their body that hurts.
  • Light biting is often just a result of your cat being playful, which is perfectly normal behavior. This is especially true with kittens.
  • Pay attention to signs that your cat has had enough while petting it, including squirming around or a thrashing tail.
  • If your cat is exhibiting truly aggressive behavior, you might want to consult with a professional behaviorist.
Was this article helpful?