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Why Do Cats Bite? 4 Likely Reasons & How to Stop Them

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

black cat playing with woman hand and biting finger

Cats are playful creatures, but they can also bite and scratch, and it can be quite painful at times. Cats can go from purring and rubbing up against you and suddenly turn to start biting you. It may also hide before jumping out and biting your ankles while you walk into the next room. Most often, your cat is only playing or trying to show affection, but there are times when it’s trying to send a clear signal that it doesn’t want to be bothered or is in pain. Keep reading while we look at a few reasons why cats bite, why your cat might be behaving this way and what you can do to prevent it.

The 4 Reasons Why Cat Bites

While no one knows for sure why cats act the way they do, observing them can often help you figure out what’s behind their behavior.

Here are some of the reasons why cats may sometimes bite:

1. Your Cat Is Practicing Hunting and Fighting

Your cat is a strict carnivore and has developed strong hunting skills through its long line of ancestors. In the wild, cats must eat several small meals a day to get the calories, protein, and other nutrients they require to stay healthy. Since they usually need to stay sharp, it’s not uncommon for a cat to practice honing its skills during downtime. For a housecat, it’s all downtime, so your cat might just be doing something it feels it should be doing. Even though you provide all its food, its breeding requires it to hone its skills.

cat chewing finger
Image Credit: SerPhoto, Shutterstock

2. They’re Expressing Love

Cats have limited recourses for expressing themselves, and a gentle nibble is a sign of affection in many cases. Cat’s groom themselves constantly and will often groom each other as well. If they like you, they will often try to groom you. Licking will often accompany this type of cat biting. The cat will lick a few times and then bite, and it will often hold you with its paws while doing so.

3. Redirected Aggression

Redirected aggression is when the cat is mad at something else, most often another cat, and is taking it out on you. Quite often, if cats aren’t getting along, you will see this behavior manifest. The less aggressive or submissive cat will bite their owners because it cannot win against the dominant cat.

cat biting woman's chin
Image Credit: Goncharov_Artem, Shutterstock

4. Your Cat Has a Medical Issue

Cats that are experiencing a medical issue might be in pain, which will cause them to bite. Anything from a toothache to a belly ache can put your cat in a biting mood, especially if you are trying to pet it or pick it up. If your cat’s behavior is something new, it could signal a medical condition, especially if the cat is getting advanced in age.

How to Stop My Cat from Biting?

Go to The Vet

If your cat’s behavior has recently changed, it could be a sign of a medical condition, especially if the cat is getting older. More than 50% of cats over the age of 4 are beginning to show signs of a dental problem, and we all know tooth pain will make anyone mad enough to bite. If you suspect a medical condition is behind your cats biting, we recommend taking it to the vet immediately so it can get looked over and receive the treatment it needs.

vet checking cat's teeth
Image Credit: PRESSLAB, Shutterstock

Separate the cats

If you suspect that one of your cats is bullying another, which in turn is causing the bullied cat to bite you, you will need to separate the cats to prevent this behavior. Keep the cats in separate rooms and only allow a few minutes of supervised visitation each day to break up any disputes over territory that might be going on. Separation is especially important if the second cat is a new addition to the family. It usually takes a while for the original cat to learn the scent and accept the new pet, especially if they are both males.


Several commercial brands make synthetic pheromones that mimic those produced by cats. Humans cannot smell these pheromones, but it’s a big part of how cats communicate and mark their territory. Synthetic pheromones can help calm your cat and neutralize an area to prevent territory disputes reducing your cat’s desire to bite.

Don’t Use Your Hands for Play

Many people don’t realize that they may be encouraging the biting behavior by using their hands to play with the cat. Doing so can often result in painful scratches and bites, but what’s worse is that it teaches your cat that hands are play toys and it’s ok to bite and scratch them. We all like to rub our cat’s belly, but you should try to avoid this behavior, especially if your cat is prone to biting. Laser pens, rope, and other cat toys are much more suitable and will get your cat running instead of biting.

Leave the Cat Alone

If your cat is behaving in a way you don’t like, the best thing you can do is put the cat down and leave the room. If it chases after you and bites at your ankles, close the door behind you and leave it alone for a few minutes. Doing so will usually send a strong signal to the cat that you will not tolerate the behavior, especially If you do it every time. Cats don’t usually like to be alone, so this method works quite well. You should never yell at the cat or act in a hostile manner because the cat won’t understand, and it will often have the opposite effect, causing the cat to see you as an enemy and biting you more frequently.

cat on the table
Image Credit: Pixabay

Give It Time

Sometimes cats don’t like some people, and the best thing to do in this case is to ignore it and let it come to you. Attempting to pet the cat or force it to like you will most likely be seen as an act of aggression by the cat. Cats are curious creatures, and if you keep some treats in your pocket and ignore it unless it comes near you, the cat will begin to see you are not a threat and trust you more. Once it likes you, it is less likely to bite.


In our experience, we found that cats usually bite when they are playing especially as kittens, and there is no real cause for alarm. Using a laser toy, rope, or rolled-up paper ball to play will often keep your hands safe and get them more exercise, which they often need if they stay in the house. If hissing or meowing accompanies the biting, it could be a sign that something more serious is wrong with your pet. We recommend separating the cat from other pets and even family members until it calms down, or you can make a vet appointment.

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Featured image credit: dashtik, Shutterstock

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