Why Do Cats Give Love Bites? What Does it Mean When Your Cat Bites You!

Posted: October 8, 2020 by Anita

Why do cats give love bites? Is it cat love or a sign of cat aggression? Cat love bites can be annoying and a complete surprise when the biting comes out of nowhere.

My fellow cat lovers, Theo (my cat), and I struggle with this right now. Are cat love bites a type of feline bad social skill?  Or when a cat nips you, is it a sign of love? With Theo, I feel it is a bit of both. And it depends on his mood.

Cats biting their owners is a widespread complaint. A recent study reported that “27 percent of cats relinquished to shelters for biting and aggression”.

Do you have a mean cat or, as I tell Theo, a cat with asshole tendencies? So, what does it mean when your cat bites you? In this article, I discuss cat love bites:

  • Are love bites a sign of aggression, or is it love?
  • What type of aggressive cat do you have?
  • What to do about cat aggression?
  • What to do when attacked by a cat?

cat love bites

Why do cats give love bites?

A cat nipping you can be a complex situation. You might question your cat’s intention by asking, “why is my cat biting me all of a sudden?

Are love bites a sign of aggression?

Aggression is defined as “threatening or harmful behavior directed towards a person, another cat or other animals. When a cat bites you, it could be thought of as a form of aggression, even when there’s no other outward indication of it.

But even if you wanted to debate whether or not your fluffball was being a mean cat, it still is a behavior that’s not cool. I mean, no one likes being bitten by a cat (or dog), even when it might be considered playful or in the name of love, right?

It’s just a bit awkward.

You might feel like you’re the only cat lover in the world whose cat has bitten them in love or aggression, but interestingly enough, it happens kind of frequently. A recent study reported that “27 percent of cats relinquished to shelters for biting and aggression.

There are many reasons why cats become aggressive and bite. In the next sections, I discuss the different types of aggression in cats.

Play Aggression

I’m starting with the type of aggression that sounds cute, but really, it isn’t – play aggression.

What it looks like in your cat

You’ve seen it – play aggression in your cute but evil-acting-at-the-moment cat looks something like:

  • stalking you
  • attacking
  • biting you
  • clawing you

The “hunt” usually happens in the morning and the evening – which is primetime for a predator looking for prey. And guess who’s the prey?

Cat personality type

Play aggression usually occurs in cats that are:

  • young
  • high-energy
  • easily bored
  • short attention span

Why it occurs

You come home from work, and your cat has kicked over plants, knock the cereal off the top of the refrigerator, and left a path of scattered toys, paper towels, envelopes, and whatever else they can attack during the day in its wake.

Then your cat nipped you. Why? Your cat is starved for attention. He’s lonely and wants you to play with him.

This type of behavior usually occurs in young cats that are left alone all day with no contact with humans or other cats.

The solution

I know most of us would love to stay home and keep our cat entertained. But the real deal is for many of us (most of us?), not working is not an option.

So, here are some solutions to try:

  • Interactive play with your cat for at least 15-20 minutes, once in the morning and once in the evening. Invest in cat toys that your cat can chase; that look like fishing poles with strings on them with a toy tied on end. Theo’s favorite fishing pole toy is the M JJY Pet Retractable Cat Toy Wand. Click here to take a look at it on Amazon.
  • Be sure that you’re moving the toy wand like it’s a small prey so your cat can feel like the wild beast it is. The goal is to let him claim his prey (don’t make it too difficult – let him catch it every once in a while), drag it off, and reward your little tiger with a little treat. When I have my play sessions with Theo, I try to wear him out – especially during the evening play session.

Theo’s favorite treat is Meow Mix Irrestistibles, click here to get your cat some from Amazon.

  • Here’s one for the cat that has the ability to entertain itself and is food-motivated – (I didn’t have much luck with this one for Theo), the Cat Amazing Interactive Treat Maze. Click here to check it out on Amazon.
  • Do not use your hands as toys – your cat sees them as prey and will bite.
  • Do not rough house with your cat – it teaches them that it’s okay to scratch and bite you.
  • As soon as your cat crouches into stalking mode and wants to pounce on you – distract him with a toy. DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR CAT – remember this is a predator searching for his prey. Toss a toy to distract. I’ve invested in tons of toss toys for Theo, and they are all over the house for me to grab at any time – in all rooms.

Click here to take a look at some of Theo’s favorite toss toys

  • Be consistent and make some time for your cat.
cat love bites

Petting-induced Aggression

Your cat is biting you in a way that might seem passive aggressive because after all your cat just rubbed up against leg. Aren’t you suppose to pet your cat when they nuzzle you? It is also known as over-stimulation aggression.

What it looks like in your cat

Petting-induced aggression starts with a pattern of cat nuzzling when petted, and then the cat bites then lick.  Or the cat will lick than bite.  No one really knows the reason why some cats get irritated when petted. But it could just be as simple as your cat at that moment didn’t want to be petted.

Why it occurs

Maybe she’s hungry. And you responded by petting instead of filling the food bowl.

Or it could be his way of telling you that he needs something such as clean litter and that you need to figure out what it out and do it NOW! 

As pet owners, we think that when our cat nuzzles us or rub up against our leg, it’s a sign for us to touch. However, sometimes we misread the signals our cats are trying to communicate with us.

Cat personality type

  • petting-induced aggression can occur in any cat
  • cats that suffer from anxiety or fear

The solution

It’s not always easy to figure out what mood your cat is in, but sometimes we can gain clues by what is going on with their body language. To avoid cat biting due to petting-induced aggression, it is important to look for some visual cues from your fluff ball:

  • Consult a veterinarian to ensure there’s no underlying condition that is causing your cat to react to petting by biting.

Save money on visit to the Vet by getting pet insurance from Pets Best! Click here for more information.

  • Read the body language – tail lashing furiously, quickly whipping its head towards your hand, ears flattened – all could be signs that your cat doesn’t want to be touched. Respect your cat’s boundaries by not petting her.
Infographic by That’s Meow

Here are some other causes of petting-induced aggression:

  • Separated from mama cat as a kitten –  Kittens separated from their mothers early never learn the proper way to socialize.
  • Limited human contact as a kitten – Kittens who have had limited contact with humans, grow up with trust issues.
  • Cat doesn’t like the spot you’re petting – Most cats are picky when it comes to where you can touch them.  Stray off course to one of their off-limit spots on their bodies, and you might get bitten.
  • Bad timing – your cat might not be in the mood for petting.
  • It just might be a cat love bite  – How do cats show affection?  Some cats (not all obviously) show affection by giving a little nip.  It could be a sign your cat loves you and establishing a strong bond with you. But remember, it’s still a sign of aggression.

Re-directed aggression

Your cat’s angry at someone or something else, but you catch the backlash cat biting from your fluffball.

What it looks like

Rough-housing or catfighting can lead to redirected aggression in cats.  For example, your cat, sitting in his favorite position by the window, gets riled up after seeing a stray cat. Your cat suddenly bites you even though he really wanted to bite that stray cat he saw outside.

Look for signs of agitation such as dilated pupils, tail swishing back and forth, ears flatten or facing forward, growling.

Why it occurs

After he overstimulated emotionally after seeing another cat or playing, your cat attacks or nips you. (This sometimes happens with Theo and me after interactive play).

Cat personality type

Redirected aggression usually occurs in cats that are:

  • riled up and agitated after interactive play
  • high-energy
  • easily bored
  • short attention span

Solutions

  • Redirect your cat’s attention by removing the object of irritation and avoid petting your cat until it’s in its right mind (calmed).
  • If possible, darken the room. I recommend spraying Feliway Cat Calming Pheromone in the room. Click here to check it out on Amazon. I use the diffuser, which infuses Feliway Pheromone into Theo’s room – click here to check it out. I have to admit that it works begrudgingly – but it takes time before it kicks in – like a few months.

cat love bites

Territorial Aggression

Cats are territorial animals by nature.  However, some cats take it to a whole new level.  Most of the time, territorial aggression is acted against another cat.

How to Calm an Aggressive Cat

  • Get to know your cat – Determine the cause of the biting. Look for signs that your cat has had enough petting. Learn your cat’s body language. Here are some signs to look for: body gets tense, tail twitches, ears flatten, rippling back.  Immediately stop petting your cat if you see them reacting negatively.
  • Provide a quiet place for your cat – Your cat needs a safe, quiet place to chill out and relax.
  • Reward good behavior – give cat treats and praise.
  • Stop petting immediately if your cat gives you a love bite  shout “ouch,” walk away, and ignore your cat.  They will learn that you don’t tolerate the biting and eventually will stop the love bites.
  • Ensure your cat’s basic needs have been met – a consistently clean litter box can go a long way in changing aggressive behavior. Cat’s are very finicky and, for the most part, creatures of habit.  So make sure that you’re feeding your cat properly and that he has access to clean water.
  • Re-direct the aggression –  Engage your cat in some interactive play; use a toy that simulates hunting.  Play with your cat for at least 30 minutes or two 15 minutes each.
  • Never use your finger, hand, or toes as a play toy.  Don’t be surprised if your cat gets confused and bites your finger in utter joy because, in his mind, your finger, hand, or toes has become entertainment.
cat love bites

What To Do When The Cat Love Bite Turns Vicious

If the aggression and biting become vicious, it’s time to seek help from your Vet to discuss other options such as behavioral medication.   Cat aggression medication sounds over the top, but it might be the most sympathetic way of helping your cat.

And as a cat lover, you shouldn’t be subject to painful attacks from your cat.  The first thing you want to do if you sustain a cat bite, wash the wound with clean water and apply an mild antiseptic.  Then, seek medical advice from your doctor.

Conclusion

Cat aggression is not acceptable or cute and for outsiders (non-cat lovers who don’t quite understand cat behavior) it could be deemed scary.

Be patient and stay consistent.  Try implementing the behavior modification technique.  In time your cat will get the hint, and the love bites should lessen.

If behavior modification doesn’t work or the bites intensify, seek help from your cat’s veterinarian.


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