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

Posted: October 8, 2017 by Anita

cat love bites

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Cat love bites

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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.

Are cat love bites a type of feline bad social skill?  For example, when I have guest over Shrek, who always loves the attention of others, always comes out of my room and greets folks with a whiny meow and a rub against the leg…it’s the cutest thing.

Read my article on living with cats by clicking here.

Then, out of the blue Shrek will turn and gently bite the hand that pets him.  Not a hard bite.  But unless the person is well versed in cat behavior, Shrek’s love bite can be misunderstood as cat aggression.

The cat haters of the world  (people who don’t like or understand cats) say “Aha, cats can’t be trusted” It’s hard to make an argument against that statement since my cat just bit them.

cat love bites

Cat Love Bites versus Aggressive Cat Behavior

So, what does it mean when your cat bites you? Cat bites when petting is sometimes called “cat play biting”.  Play biting can be observed between kittens when they interact or play with each other.  Cats are natural hunters so this type of play is how kittens hone their skills as predators.

However, this type of playing by your cat is not cute when it comes to human contact.  Although, you might know that a nip means “my cat loves me”, it is a form of cat aggression.  The correct term for cat love bites is petting-induced aggression.

cat love bites

Petting-induced Aggression

Petting-induced aggression starts off with a pattern of cat nuzzling when petted and then the cat bites then licks.  Or the cat will lick then bite.  This type of behavior is not socially acceptable.

This type of biting is a signal that your cat is showing you who’s boss or in control of the present situation.

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

Click here to see what cat litter box is my favorite.

cat love bites

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 love bites

  • 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.

cat love bites

  • 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.
For more information on pet care and cat love 
bites, read "Cat Love Bites: A Unique Form of 
Communication".

Play Aggression

Petting your cat after he overstimulated after playing or wrestling with another cat can cause the cat to nip you.

Rough-housing or catfighting can lead to re-directed aggression in cats If your cat is angry at another cat but can’t or is unable to act out the aggression on the intended target, your cat could act out on you.

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. But sometimes it doesn’t matter who it is – anyone that gets too close to their territory will get attacked.

cat love bites

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.
  • Build up your cat’s tolerance for petting – For instance, start out petting your cat for 5 seconds. Stop before your cat gets irritated.  Then increase the time by 2 more seconds if this is tolerated by your cat. Praise your feline munchkin and give a treat. Keep increasing the time.
  • Reward good behavior – give cat treats and praise.

cat love bites

  • 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.
  • Make sure 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.
Are you using the best cat litter box for your 
fluffball, read my article on cat litter boxes 
by clicking here.
  • Re-direct the aggression –  Engage your cat in some type of interactive play; use a toy that simulates hunting.  Play with your cat for at least 30 minutes or two 15 minutes each.
Recommendation: Go Cat DaBird feather toy

cat love bites

Never…did I say 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.

Instead of your appendages, I recommend catnip-stuffed 
chewy toys to deal with unprovoked 
aggression in cats.

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 behavior modification techniques and stay consistent.  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.

cat love bites

Not sure what cat furniture to purchase?  Read my review of the Curious Cat Cube!

 

Are your cats fighting each other?  Read my post “Cats fighting? What should I do about it?”