Petting Aggression in Cats: Biting the Hand They Love

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Guest post by Harry Shubin

This stuff always seems to come in clusters. This post  wasn’t going to be about petting aggression, not even after I spent some time counseling the first foster about why his cat was biting him. This post wasn’t going to be about petting aggression, even after I spent more time counseling the second foster. This post wasn’t going to be about petting aggression, even after I worked with the adopter, having the same issue. It finally took Jackson Galaxy’s My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet doing an episode where every cat bit his or her person, for me to see the, ah, cat scratches on the wall. Or bites on my arm.

How does petting aggression happen?

Let’s start with full disclosure – I have a cat with “petting aggression.” “Aggression” isn’t really the right word, though that’s what it’s generally called. It’s not really aggressive – nor is it mean, nor is the intent to actually hurt someone.

Most people know how sensitive a cat’s whiskers are, and wouldn’t be rough with that spot on their faces. What people don’t realize is that while the muzzle contains the greatest number of whiskers, cats actually have them all over their bodies, on their paws, head, back… They’re smaller and finer, so not as easily seen, but if you look closely, they’re there.

Just as some people aren’t ticklish, some cats aren’t particularly sensitive about their whiskers, or about being touched. For some cats, however, their whiskers are ultra sensitive, and not just on their faces but everywhere. Imagine that you were incredibly ticklish, and that someone – for the sake of argument, someone you even liked a lot – wouldn’t stop tickling you. You’d be screaming “stop, stop,” right? Well, imagine now that you only spoke Urdu, but your tickler spoke only French. And because he didn’t understand, he wouldn’t stop. Eventually, what would you do – if he weighed 10 times what you did and you couldn’t get away? Right. You’d bite him, or hit him.

Those not-very-ticklish cats, they’re the exception. Those are the ones you can roll over and give belly rubs to. I have one of those, also. He’s a limp dishrag when you handle him, and he loves it. The extremely ticklish cats, they’re the exception, too. Most cats fall somewhere in the middle. The ones that exhibit petting aggression – they’re usually the friendly ones, the ones that seek out petting. And it’s not surprising that fosters and owners are surprised when the affectionate cat suddenly snaps and takes a bite out of the hand they love…

One of the intriguing things about cats is that they’re not dogs. You can pet a dog, all day, and he’ll only bite you if you stop. Cats… the sensitive ones… have a threshold. And, you have to understand how they tick, if you’re going to change their behavior. Dogs, they’ll modify their behavior because they want to please you. Cats, on the other hand, to change their behaviors, you have to convince them that they want to change. And that’s another difference between the species – discipline that works on a dog – is the wrong approach for a cat.

Understanding how cats communicate

Before we talk about changing feline biting behavior, though, you need a little Urdu to French translation. When a cat becomes overstimulated from petting, she is actually telling you that she’s had enough – if you speak her language.

The most obvious sign is the tail. Dogs beat their tails back and forth when they’re happy. Cats give a slow flick of just the tip of the tail. When the whole tail becomes involved, swishing back and forth – that’s a warning. Also, watch the eyes, A calm, relaxed cat’s pupils will be narrow. When they dilate, the stimulation tank is full. Watch also the fur along the back and the back of the head. If a ridge stands up – or her skin ripples – the cat is also telling you, in cat-speak, she’s done. It’s like someone one time said to me after watching the Amityville Horror – you know, when your house tells you “get out…” Get Out! When the cat tells you she’s done – leave her be. If she’s on your lap, stop touching her.

When you do touch her, concentrate on her head, the sides of her face, and the back of her neck. Stay away from full body petting – you may get there eventually, but don’t try it in the beginning. Many cats get more sensitive toward their tails – you may have seen a cat who would stick his rump in the air if you petted him at the base of the tail – that’s a high stimulation spot. Also, the closer you are to the back of the head, the harder it is to whip around and bite you.

Correcting petting aggression

Now, that’s behavior modification for you – but I know that you want to change her behavior, too. It can be done.

Now that you know what to watch for, end the petting sessions before she’s had enough. Send her to the floor – but don’t touch her because she’s building up to a snap. Gently, slowly stand up and she’ll leap down. Then, give her a treat. If she does go too far and bite or swat, put her on the floor – again, by gently standing up. Don’t push her with your hands, and totally ignore her. Don’t push her off, don’t scold, don’t make eye contact, just totally shun her. Especially, don’t use a spray bottle, don’t tap her nose. Those techniques may work to discourage other behaviors, but retraining aggression with aggression is doomed to fail. You’re speaking French again, not Urdu, when you do that.

Don’t be surprised if she wants right back up fairly soon – cats recover quickly, and the petting aggressive ones seem to be the ones that want the contact to begin with. Let her back up and start over. At first, she won’t quite know what she did wrong – but she will quickly make the association between biting, and a “time out.” You may be able to help establish a calming atmosphere which will increase her tolerance by using a pheremone spray such as Feliway, or a flower essence such as Spirit Essences. Try spraying on a small blanket or towel, on your lap.

The last thing to consider is to embrace what the cat brings to you. She’ll sit with you, she’s affectionate – she just isn’t a cat that can be held, or excessively petted. The house is telling you, “get out” — don’t hold her.

I have a cat with petting aggression – but I haven’t been bitten in a long time. Working with the cat, understanding the cat – goes a long way toward producing desirable behaviors.

Harry Shubin is the newsletter editor for the Feline Foundation of Greater Washington. Harry’s entire family is involved in cat rescue: daughter Rachel writes the blog We Have a Situation, where she shares stories of her cat-related life.

Photo by Jay Davenport

222 Comments on Petting Aggression in Cats: Biting the Hand They Love

  1. Rachel
    March 24, 2017 at 11:03 am (18 hours ago)

    I have a young cat. He is actually my son’s. And I was petting him just on the head and instead of the eye dilation and tail signals he just launched himself at my face and bit my cheek. None of those warning songs. Am I missing something?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 24, 2017 at 11:16 am (18 hours ago)

      You probably missed subtle signals, Rachel. Watch for twitching ears, twitching tail, skin rippling down his back.

      Reply
  2. Katie
    March 22, 2017 at 12:47 am (3 days ago)

    I have a cat named Bandit who is around 9-10 months old. She’s very sweet, affectionate, playful and laid back (she’ll let you do pretty much anything to her without scratching or biting). She enjoys being held, laying in laps, and petting. But every once in a while, she’ll get into an aggressively playful mood where she starts attacking everything in sight, including my hand if I touch her. Sometimes when she’s in this mood, she’ll go after my hand even if I don’t try to touch her, simply because it was a moving object in her field of vision. She grabs my hand/arm with her front paws and tries to dig her claws in, while simultaneously pushing against my hand/arm with her back paws, claws extended. If I don’t get my hand away quick enough, she tries to bite as well. I don’t think she’s “attacking” me to cause harm, but nonetheless she’s drawn blood a few times. She only gets like this once every other month or so. What could be a possible reason she does this, and how can I prevent her from “attacking” my hand?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 22, 2017 at 6:03 am (3 days ago)

      My guess is that Bandit is discharging excess energy when it happens. Try structured play therapy, two to three times a day at least, 10-15 minutes each. Really get her tired out. If you see her go into that mode, distract her by tossing toys or using a wand toy to help her channel her energy in appropriate ways.

      Reply
      • Katie
        March 22, 2017 at 8:20 pm (2 days ago)

        Thank you for responding! I guess perhaps she has more energy than I thought. She and my other cat, Smokey, spend most of their awake hours playing with each other, wrestling, chasing etc. When they’re not playing with each other I have a bird wand and mouse wand that I use with them, as well as several catnip toys that they play with, and a laser light. I’ll try distracting her with toys if I see her getting into that mode, and I’ll play with her more often and for longer. Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate it!

        Reply
  3. Ben
    March 14, 2017 at 7:45 pm (1 week ago)

    Hello ! I have a male cat and he’s super friendly.. follows me everywhere we are very close, he sleeps at the end of my bed most nights he never gets aggressive whit me .! One night he was beside me in bed and I went to rub him and he turned around and bit me and was holding on and then letting go when I called him.. then I called him over and he went for my hand again also holding on for some time he was also making A moaning sound. it’s not like him to do that ?! it was very strange . was wondering if anyone one can explain his behavior ? Also i had a fur blanked on the bed and he was acting very strange he seem very awkward on it maybe that was making him
    Act deferent

    Reply
  4. Charlie
    February 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm (2 months ago)

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I have been struggling to find the perfect balance with my cat, Starfire. Her brother is one of those cats who never gets overstimulated, but she is very sensitive and I do my best to respect her boundaries. When I’m petting her, I look out for signs that she’s bothered, but before reading this article, I didn’t realize her fur raising along her spine meant she’d had enough. I think I will be able to better avoid overstimulating her in the future thanks to this knowledge.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 2, 2017 at 6:18 am (2 months ago)

      I’m so glad this helped, Charlie.

      Reply
    • Wendy
      March 5, 2017 at 4:03 am (3 weeks ago)

      My cat is very strange. She sits on me and then after 5 mins or so, sms this is the weird thing, this happens if Im petting her or not, she sits up, tail starts , pupils dilate, then after a few minutes of glaring at me she hits me hard with her paw and runs off. I know the signs now so I put her off before she hits. But I dont understand why it happens especially if Im not even petting her anymore

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        March 5, 2017 at 6:21 am (3 weeks ago)

        It’s probably still a reaction to being overly stimulated by the close contact. Since you know about how long it takes for her to start doing this, I’d try distracting her after two or three minutes on your lap with something positive. Toss a treat, or a toy. This will help her burn off energy without associating with having to take it out on you.

        Reply
  5. Elizabeth
    January 19, 2017 at 12:20 am (2 months ago)

    I have very much enjoyed reading through these comments about aggressive petting. We have an 18-month (approx) male who was a skinny young feral we found hanging around in our neighborhood nearly a year ago. I enticed him into my house with food and got him neutered. I kept him inside and decided to try to tame him. It was trial by error and I nearly didn’t persevere, but now I am so glad we did. His socialization escalated greatly when we adopted a little female kitten. The two cats became best buds, and are a lot of fun to watch together. And our once frightened hissy feral boy is now very ‘expressive’ if sometimes a bit pushy in his demands for affection. After a few weeks, as he got more comfortable with being petted, he started hitting us, and even biting us. I found this website and the article was most helpful. We are learning to recognize when he is about to swipe or bite…and we just turn away from him. Then he comes right back to be petted some more. More recently though, he follows me around and will bite at my clothing or even try to climb up my pant legs if I don’t pay him attention quickly enough – something I am trying to discourage. We are learning to live with our very high maintenance quirky friend whose behavior seems to keep evolving…and we very thankful that our other cat is extremely laid back and easy going. We are definitely in love with both of them and continue to welcome advice on moderating our now feisty feral!

    Reply
      • Elizabeth
        January 19, 2017 at 8:20 am (2 months ago)

        Thank you so much for this. I am so glad we adopted another kitten right after bringing in our feral. He was enamoured with her instantly. They do wrestle together regularly – usually instigated by the younger cat (and have even ‘mated’ – which surprised me greatly as they are both fixed). Our boy who bites (Whisper) doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. In fact he gets SO excited every time he sees me or my daughter, he just wants to be with us all the time.

        I will try to work in more time to play with both of them, and see if that stops the ankle biting and leg grabbing. Thanks again.

        Reply
  6. Lesley ward
    January 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm (3 months ago)

    I have just found your website. I have found it very helpful in understanding why my cat is like this. I have had him.from 6 days old with his brother & have hand reared them both from bottle feeding to weaning & more. They turned 8 years old last june. Unfortunately his brother died suddenly last July leaving me devastated. He was the more calm affectionate of the two. However for several years this one, Leo (as his name is quite apt for his nature) has continued to seek petting only to bite & scratch me. He sleeps on my bed waking me for a fuss only to grab hold of my hand with his legs & bite me. Now thank you to your article I can hopefully help him as I understand what you say. Thank you for this explanation. May his brother, Charlie, rest in peace. He was a beautiful cat.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 8, 2017 at 5:57 am (3 months ago)

      I’m so sorry about Charlie, Lesley.

      Reply
  7. Mason
    December 31, 2016 at 10:19 am (3 months ago)

    Hey Ingrid!

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It has helped me to get very far with my girlfriend’s aggressive cat. I’ve been patiently working with the cat the past 2-3 months. I absolutely love him. He’s a big siamese, aggressive when it comes to almost everything, that is, he’s not very fickle about what he wants. When you call him, he comes like a dog, he’s very affectionate too, which is also the problem, or issue I guess. He will come and rub up against me and purr, and I’ll pet him gently, very gently, because he used to attack immediately after a petting session. So I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping his “attacks” under control. I know a lot of his body language symbols and the sound of his meow when he seems to be getting close to attack mode. Today he attacked me again, now I am mad about the attack, but this is the first time he’s gone full attack on me and didn’t draw serious blood.

    I’m trying to be patient with him. I really do love him, because he is an amazing cat, very smart, and really responsive. We let him outside now and that has really helped his aggression overall, but I want to completely rid him of the behavior. Is there anything else you could suggest that I do?

    The aggression comes on when I’m talking to someone else and he feels I’m not paying any attention to him. Sometimes it seems to happen at no good reason at all. Sometimes, whenI pet him he rolls on his back, and if I don’t move my hand out of the way, he will swat at me. I’ve gotten pretty good at telling when he’s going to lay down, and adjusting my petting to avoid the confrontation. I feed him lots of treats when he’s being good. But today I just got frustrated when I was doing some stretches on the floor and he comes at me out of nowhere. Today, it didn’t hurt, but in the past it has, is it possible to rid this behavior from him completely?

    Thank you for taking the time!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 31, 2016 at 12:44 pm (3 months ago)

      You’re doing all the right things, Mason. Has the kitty had a veterinary check up recently? If not, I would recommend that. Sometimes, there can be an underlying physical issue that is causing such extreme behavior. You may also want to discuss medication with your vet. In some cases, when combined with the behavioral modification you’re already working so hard on, it can really make a difference.

      Reply
      • Mason
        January 2, 2017 at 1:30 am (3 months ago)

        Looking into it…thank you for the timely response. Happy New year!

        Reply
  8. LC
    December 10, 2016 at 8:29 pm (3 months ago)

    My rescue cat was adopted when he was about 2-3 years old (the vet’s approximation of age). When I found him he was in bad shape. He was in the road unaware of the car that almost hit him and had a bad upper respiratory infection.

    He took to me immediately especially since he was so weak but after having him dewormed, deloused and fully checked out, it became obvious he was a semi-feral catch and release, although in the local area they don’t tip the ears so it wasn’t readily apparent.

    Now, he is doing pretty well and adapting to me. Although he seems mostly threaten by men until he gets to know them but pretty chill with women and even kids. I suspect some past abuse and also an association with people and food so he’s had the gamut of past experiences in which humans could be friend or foe depending on the situation.

    The main time he acts up is after a petting session when I turn around to go. Then he makes a sharp caterwauling sound and if I look back he’ll hiss. But that’s it. Then he’s back to normal after I give him a few mins and space.

    No signals show the petting sessions were stressing him out and I am diligent to not over stay my cuddle welcome but very often he postures with a fake lunge attack at me from behind after I turn away. No biting just hissing and swatting. Is this a delayed response to overstimulation or is he trying to express dominance by making it clear he wants to decide if he’s done being petted?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 11, 2016 at 6:38 am (3 months ago)

      It’s probably a delayed response to being overly stimulated. I would try distracting him with a toy at the end of a petting session – before you get up or turn around to walk away, toss a toy for him, or use a wand toy to direct his attention to playing to give him a healthy way to discharge the excess energy.

      Reply
      • LC
        December 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm (3 months ago)

        Thanks! An excellent idea -the diffuse toy toss.

        Reply
  9. Gina Rudd
    December 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm (4 months ago)

    She always climbs into my lap. I have tried stopping (after a few strokes) when she gets that look of attack and will fold my arms in and she will bite me anyway, drawing blood! She has even gone so far as to leave and sneak attack me from behind a moment or two later! Each time severe enough to draw blood. She will also grab with her paws and dig in if she can. I am at my wits end. Either never touch her again or find her a new home. She also bullies the older cat. Any ideas, cat prozac, LOL?!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 10, 2016 at 6:34 am (3 months ago)

      It sounds like you’re dealing with a complex set of behaviors – not something that is easily addressed in a blog comment. I would start by taking her to your vet to rule out a medical issue – behavior changes can be an indicator of something being wrong. Work with your vet and/or a feline behaviorist to find ways to address this. Please don’t give up on your kitty.

      Reply
  10. Moriah
    December 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm (4 months ago)

    Hi Ingrid,
    I have another example at home of a cat that will growl or take hold of me with her teeth when I stop petting her or try to move when she is on my lap. She is an incredibly lap focused cat and was adopted when she was pretty young by me (she was abandoned by her mama and put in a shelter), so she is very attached and suckling on a blanket on me is one of her favorite things. I have recently experienced what I think might be neediness, where she will jump on my lap and purr and sleep and then if I try to move a little or if she has her head on my arm and I move my arm she will grab it in her teeth and growl. Should I be worried? I recently returned from a short trip- could it be some insecurity?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 2, 2016 at 3:26 pm (4 months ago)

      It’s possible that she feels insecure. It could also be dominance behavior. You could try distracting her with a toy as soon as she starts the behavior.

      Reply
  11. Owen
    November 1, 2016 at 7:07 am (5 months ago)

    Hi, this is a tricky one to explain. For the last few months a stray cat has been living in my garden. Between the neighbour and myself it is has been checked out at the vet for a chip / health check and it gets fed. I don’t have it in the house as I have allergies but I have bought a small kennel for it so it has shelter. It comes to me every day and is very friendly, it ‘nudges’ against me for petting which I usually comply. The last couple of days it seems to get quite excited during petting, it can’t really keep still, walks away as I’m petting and then looks at me as if to question why I have stopped, then comes back to me and nudges/rubs for more. I let it lead completely. Today it did exactly the same except it gave me a little nip on the back of my hand, not painful at all so I know it wasn’t malicious. It was purring and immediately lay down on the floor belly exposed afterwards so I suspect very comfortable with me. I was just a little surprised at the bite, is it common in over excitement?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 1, 2016 at 8:20 am (5 months ago)

      Some cats react to overstimulation with nipping, so it’s not unusual. There are always signs before this happens, and as you get to know this kitty better, you’ll probably start to recognize them.

      Reply
  12. David Dawson
    October 14, 2016 at 3:41 am (5 months ago)

    Some fantastic advice here, thank you to Ingrid King and the other commenters who have provided questions and clarification.

    My cat sometimes displays this kind of biting behavior when I am petting him, though I am more concerned with the fact that he occasionally bites my other cat.
    They share from the same bowl with no problems.

    The male is much more bold. The female is incredibly shy. When they do interact, it is generally positively, though sometimes I will find them licking each other, and invariably the male starts biting the female after about two minutes of licking and she runs away.

    We also have issues with the male meowing outside the bedroom door at the crack of dawn (he is kept out when we sleep or he keeps us awake all night). We did move to a new, much smaller apartment about two months ago – although the meowing is a new behavior, the lick-biting predates that move. Both cats are between two and three years old.

    Any advice on encouraging him to just lick her rather than bite would be very helpful (as would any suggestions on having him meow less in the very early morning).

    Reply
  13. Amy
    October 2, 2016 at 10:45 pm (6 months ago)

    I got my cat from a shelter, too. He’s an 11 month old beautiful all black male. When I first get home from a day at work or something he’ll get really excited to see me and come running to knuzzle me, but shortly after he’ll attack me out of nowhere. I have a nice collection of scratches and bite marks on my arms from him clinging to them and biting. I don’t really know what to do about this situation, he doesn’t do anything like this to my roommates or friends, just me, it would seem. I try to push him off my arm or tell him no. I’ve even tried ignoring him, but it gets painful so I still end up pushing him off. Does anyone have any idea what I can do?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 3, 2016 at 5:35 am (6 months ago)

      Your kitty is most likely bored and has a lot of excess energy by the time you get home, and biting is his way to discharge some of that energy. Try structured play therapy with him. Play with him at least 10-15 minutes two or three times a day – really get him tired out. Make sure he has an environment that offers stimulation even while you’re gone. Window perches, cat trees, etc. Be prepared to redirect his attacks by tossing a toy before he can attack.

      Reply
  14. Mel
    August 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm (7 months ago)

    Thanks for this article. I realise it was written quite awhile ago, but saw you had responded to a few comments fairly recently.
    We got our cat from a cat rehoming charity in May, they said he was 10 months, but upon taking him to the vet they said he was more 1 to 1 1/2 years old. He was very shy at first, but once we let him roam the house, get used to noises, he’s become very confident and fairly affectionate. He’ll follow us all around, mostly hoping we’ll give him food (he’s been put on a diet per vet’s orders)!
    I have two young children in the house, who he’s pretty good with. Although he loves to sleep in my son’s crib, anytime I find him in there I remove him. Just last night, he had quite a bit of energy and ran off my bed, leaping into the crib into the floor. Wouldn’t be a problem, but my son was fast asleep! He basically jumped on top of him! This morning I found a horrible scratch on my son’s arm. I know he didn’t mean to, but I’d like to cease this type of behaviour. The crib needs to be off limits. (Will a spray bottle work?)
    He always will scratch/bite us as we casually walk by and attacks me on the regular when petting (hence how I found your post). I’ll definitely be trying out your tips!
    Any suggestions? I can’t have my kids hurt!!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm (7 months ago)

      You’ll have to help your kitty burn off energy – play with him at least two or three times a day, 10-15 minutes each session, really get him tired out. You may need to block access to the room where your son’s crib is. Do not use a spray bottle – they do more harm than good.

      Reply
      • Bailey
        September 16, 2016 at 6:50 am (6 months ago)

        So, my cat loves attention. I got him from the shelter, he is fixed and 5 years old. He normally has no problem getting pet a bunch, but sometimes in the morning he will randomly attack me. For instance, I’ll be laying here and he will jump up and lay with me. He will rub his face on me wanting to be pet more and then he becomes very still. Out of nowhere he will do a quick attack and its a quick bite/latch.. then he will meow and jump down. Another time, he came over to me in the morning and I stopped him from attacking. He then jumps up onto my bed and has me pet him a whole bunch, happy tail flicks, etc. Then as I’m petting him ontop of his head (which he loves) he attacked me quick and jumped down. I don’t know why he does this. I got him in the beginning of may and this has happened a out 5 times.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          September 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm (6 months ago)

          It sounds like what he’s doing is a demand for your attention, Bailey. Since you know his pattern, I’d distract him with a toy. Keep some small toys in your nightstand that you can toss when he starts to rub your face. I definitely wouldn’t pet him when he comes to you in the morning – it sounds like he’s already wound up and the petting overstimulates him.

          Reply
        • Amelia
          September 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm (6 months ago)

          Yes I went through this big time and I still do if I let the cat in the bedroom. I now have had to sleep with the door shut and the petting is after I’m up and out of the bedroom otherwise she just becomes too overstimulated. Because I’ve tried everything and she would be friendly kissing me and then all of a sudden turn around and viciously attack my hands drawing blood so the last 2 months I put a stop to that by closing the door and not having her come in the bedroom.
          She also is a shelter kitty and now 1 yrs old.
          Lovely cat in other ways but I can’t break this habit of hers and she can be a bully at times.

          Reply
    • Laura
      September 29, 2016 at 10:46 pm (6 months ago)

      Thank you for this article. I am not sure what my cat is doing. She wants to be petted and she gets close to me & if I sense she’s had too much and try to take my hand away she grabs it with claws and pulls it in to bite. She never breaks the skin. Then she jumps down and comes right back. I try to just scratch her face but she moves so I scratch more of her chest & she frequently likes it.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        September 30, 2016 at 5:28 am (6 months ago)

        You’ll need to pay closer attention to your cat’s body language and stop petting her at the very first signs that she’s had enough. Watch for ears moving back, twitching of the skin, a slight tensing. Signs can be subtle at first, but there will always be signs.

        Reply
  15. Jason Watson
    August 13, 2016 at 2:41 am (7 months ago)

    My cat has always been sensitive to belly touching but in the last few months, he has been more and more likely to bite. The biggest problem comes with him trying to get my attention when I am sitting down on my bed just before going to sleep. He will nudge me, I will pet his head, he will nudge me again and it seems he is trying to get my attention until he will begin progressively biting me. If I put my arms up or get up he will go elsewhere. Tonight I was sitting on the couch watching tv and after regualr petting I had stopped since he didn’t seem interested. He got the playful look (ears airplaned, pupils wide) and started to nibble my hand, I pushed him a little away, he did it a couple times and then pounced on my arm and bit hard enough to leave tiny puncture marks. I get the feeling he’s trying to tell me something but I I don’t know what. More attention? Hungry? After reading other boards I think I have been playing more with my hands in a hide and seek game. I will stop that but I just don’t think that’s all. I have always been his favorite but there has been a “pecking order” in our home. His list goes like this: 1) Me 2) My son 3) Wife 4) Oldest daughter 5) Youngest daughter. Although he started this gradually for quite some time, big changes have come to our house. Five months ago my son was killed in a car accident. (He was 18) They weren’t particularly close that I could tell, but his “petting aggresiveness” (for lack of a better term) has gotten worse in this time period. I am not sure it is connected but it is the biggest change I can see. We’ve had him 5 years and he was at least 1 year old then. He came from a multi-cat home and had been the caregiver for a bigger, older cat. I have considered getting another cat to be his playmate but my wife won’t allow it. Not 100% that would be beneficial or not.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 13, 2016 at 6:10 am (7 months ago)

      My condolences on your loss, Jason. It’s possible that your son’s death might be a contributor to the changes in your cat’s behavior. Cats are sensitive to energy, and I can only imagine how this has affected everyone in your family. Your cat may be picking up on the stress in your home. I would suggest trying structured play sessions with him. Play with him for 10-15 minutes, at least two or three times a day. Really get him tired out. Use interactive, fishing pole type toys. See if that helps him burn off some energy.

      Reply
  16. Steffi
    August 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm (8 months ago)

    Can you please help me? I have a four month old British Short hair mix kitten. I got him from a very strange lady who kept him up locked in a bedroom with six other cats. His mother and littermates. The cats only had one food bowl and all of them had to share. So I brought him home and I swear he’s jekyll and Hyde. He hid pretty much for the first week. When he finally came out
    he was pretty shy. Now he isn’t shy anymore. My husband pretty much ignores him when I am at work. We both work but we try to at least have one person at home with him as much as possible. There are about three days a week where he is alone for 8 hours. My cat plays quietly when my husband is around, sleeps, relaxes, explores. As soon I get home he meows non stop. He greets me with a head butt then drops in front of my feet and rolls on his stomach. I scratch his neck and he purrs like crazy. I feed him, play with him for sometimes an hour. Then I sit on the couch and he climbs on top of my lap and gets in my face and almost growls at me. He kneads me with his claws, but it hurts. Sometimes he’ll lay quietly on me but mostly he is restless and I usually end up getting nipped and scratched. I’m fed up with his behavior. I treat him really good and I love him so much but his scratching is driving me crazy. I get up and ignore him when he scratches me but he just doesn’t seem to learn. Does he want attention or is he being aggressive with me? Or is it because of his childhood? Please any help is appreciated.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm (8 months ago)

      I’m not sure what would cause this behavior. It could certainly be a reaction to his background. You may be “his person,” and he’s very insecure so his behavior is his way of making sure you pay attention to him. I would recommend working with a feline behaviorist. If you can’t find anyone local to you, I can recommend Daniel Quagliozzi https://gocatgosf.com/, Marilyn Krieger http://thecatcoach.com/ and Pam Johnson-Bennett http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/ All three offer remote consultations.

      Reply
  17. Tanya
    August 8, 2016 at 8:45 am (8 months ago)

    My cat never has pet aggression and generally puts up with as much patting as I can give her. She is very affectionate and never spends any time not being near me and is always sitting or sleeping close by.

    I think she is a rather odd cat, in the fact that she loves me playing with her whiskers, rubbing her stomach and touching anywhere on her face in general, especially her little wet nose.

    I just find it odd that she loves so many of the things cats usually hate, but she is spoiled rotten! I adopted her early this year, I went to the pound and asked for the oldest cat who has been there the longest. I knew I was taking a gamble but I wasn’t getting a cat for my own entertainment, I really felt strongly about getting that one that so many people overlooked, I adopted her sight unseen and was ready for a variety of potential behavioural issues but ended up with the sweetest cat that has ever owned me! I love her so much I put up with countless house of kneading and licking and even look the other way whenever she locates any freshed wash piece of black clothing she must sit on!

    She did bite me once when I was playing with her but immediately started licking me like she’d done something wrong.

    Reply
  18. Anita
    July 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm (8 months ago)

    I have a very affectionate 10 to 15 pound neutered male cat. He will jump up on my lap and headbutt me I do return his attention I don’t intend to over do it if I do I don’t notice. And at some point shortly after giving me affection he will just snap. I have put him on the floor as a sort of timeout and he just keeps coming back at me. he never drew blood before today. The only thing that stopped him from retaliating a third time today was me attempting to grab a t-shirt to separate us at which point he walked away.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm (8 months ago)

      I would shorten the time he’s on your lap, Anita.

      Reply
  19. Paulina
    July 9, 2016 at 12:47 pm (9 months ago)

    I have a 4 month old male persian cat, I do understand everything in your article. He has all the toys, scratching pole, etc… he in general is a good and sociable cat. The problem is that he wakes up at around 4 am and likes to jump in to our bed and bite my hand… he just do it to me, not my husband’s… sometimes during daytime to he plays to bite my hand… when he was smaller it was kind of cute, but now he has bigger teeth so i am afraid he might really hurt me. What should I do? walking away in the morning does not work… there is no “time out” lesson to teach because we were not playing.. I am asleep??

    Reply
    • Nicole
      July 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm (8 months ago)

      He might be trying to tell you he is hungry and the food dish is empty! I had a mixed persian who would do this in the early morning hours waking me up nibbling on my fingers starting out gently then getting harder and harder which was uncharacteristic of him because he is normally such a gentle cat. So I figured he must be trying to tell me something and sure enough the cat food dish was empty! He did tend to eat early in the morning so he must’ve just been hungry.

      Reply
  20. Marlene
    June 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm (9 months ago)

    My shelter adopted cat is now 10 months old and she has always been a biter, not petting aggression. Lately she waits till I turn out the bedroom light and she attacks my hands. I have worn gloves to bed but she will come up to greet me in the morning and then lately she suddenly attacked my hand and drew blood. When I sit on the couch sometimes she will suddenly charge me when I don’t expect it and bite. Yesterday she came to me on the couch to kiss me and rubbed her nose on my face, I went to touch her and she grabbed my hand and arm and bit violently scratching me and drawing blood. I couldn’t help but scream. She always runs and hides after biting like she knows its wrong. I don’t want to now let her close to me and I close my bedroom door to keep her out. All this is distancing my closeness with her as the aggression escalates. I do give her constant play sessions and I get up and leave the room or ignore her at times after a bite but nothing seems to work. I literally now sit on the couch with a spray bottle for protection. Please help, what can I do to change this more sudden aggressive behaviour?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 21, 2016 at 5:52 am (9 months ago)

      If you haven’t already taken your cat to the vet, please do so as soon as possible, Marlene. Any change in behavior could be an indicator of a medical problem, and what you’re describing is pretty extreme. And please discontinue using the spray bottle – I understand that you need to protect yourself, but using the spray bottle is only going to make things worse. Have a pillow or piece of cardboard ready to use as a barrier between you and your cat if necessary as a short term solution. If your vet can’t identify a medical issue, please consider working with a feline behaviorist. If you can’t find anyone local to you, I can recommend Marilyn Krieger http://thecatcoach.com/ and Pam Johnson-Bennett http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/ Both offer remote consultations.

      Reply
      • Marlene
        June 21, 2016 at 8:23 am (9 months ago)

        Good morning yes I did take my cat to the vet she had an injury back in February from a needle and was treated and then two weeks ago she had a fall from her cat tree and she’s sore on the sides but the vet did X-rays and didn’t find anything injured other than the muscles that are sore so I’ve been using arnica tablets for the last two weeks but she still tender on the sides. She eats and plays normal but I know she still has the tenderness in her muscles on the sides so I don’t know if this has made the situation worse. what else can I do for the inflammation and would this cause her to lash out more?

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          June 21, 2016 at 8:34 am (9 months ago)

          It’s possible that pain is causing or aggravating this behavior, Marlene. I would discuss pain control options with your vet and see if that helps.

          Reply
    • Kristin
      June 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm (9 months ago)

      Have you ever used or tried Feliway? It’s costly, but we have found it to be very helpful. Much less expensive on Chewy.com or Amazon than in local stores around us.

      Reply
      • Marlene
        June 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm (9 months ago)

        No I haven’t tried feliway but I’ll check it out I’m anxious to try anything at this point that might work.
        Thank you Kristin

        Reply
        • Kristin
          June 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm (9 months ago)

          Marlene,
          We too have a rescue with some biting issues. Much better now after following suggestions in the article and all the email exchanges here on line. Feliway is some sort of calming “thing” that has pheromones. (?) know that you have lots of support in these exchanges. I’ve learned so much.

          Reply
  21. Betty
    May 14, 2016 at 5:28 am (10 months ago)

    I am having behavioral issues with my 6 year old cat that I have had since he was 3 weeks old. He attacked me by surprise. Glad to find this site.

    Reply
  22. Linda Finder
    April 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm (11 months ago)

    Reading all the comments I was curious if anyone has had a situation with the cat biting if you stop petting. She is a stray kitten that just started to hang around our home a few months ago. I brought her in to get her spayed and she got particularly clinging after her procedure. Instead of biting me while petting she bites and scratches if I stop. I tried to just sit next to her and she continually head butts and rubs against my arm until I pet her. If I stop petting she resumes the rubbing and nudging my arm until I begin petting her again. If I try to get up to leave she either bites me or chases after me scratching my legs and hissing. I have tried playing with her with wands and balls but she is not interested. She never just sits still next to me she is constantly moving around wanting the contact. I haven’t tried the calming spray but that sounds like a good idea.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 19, 2016 at 3:25 pm (11 months ago)

      That’s an interesting display of petting aggression, Linda. I’m guessing this behavior is driven by insecurity. She was most likely poorly or not at all socialized, and going through the spay procedure only heightened her insecurity. Have you tried tossing a toy when you’re done petting her to distract her attention from you?

      Reply
      • Leanne
        June 10, 2016 at 11:48 am (10 months ago)

        Thank you for this article & discussion.
        Our situation is slightly different … our cat bites without being patted.
        We’ve had 6 year old Coco (female, sterilised) since she was about 5 weeks old.
        She jumps up to sit on my lap or legs; soon after she’s settled and appears comfortable, she focuses on my hand or arm, then attacks. She bites hard & claws deep, drawing blood and leaving wounds.
        I have learned to spot when she is about to attack – her pupils really dilate & she tilts her head to the side, on a downward-looking angle.
        Any advice or suggestions would be so greatly appreciated.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          June 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm (10 months ago)

          Since you’ve learned to read her and know when she’s about to attack, try distracting her before she does. Toss a toy, or move away from her. It also sounds like she may benefit from some structured play therapy to help her burn off some of that excess energy. Try two or three sessions a day, 10-15 minute each, and really get her tired out. Or try a play session just before you get ready to settle down to relax. Tiring her out before she gets up on your lap may help prevent her from attacking.

          Reply
    • Kristin
      April 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm (11 months ago)

      We have used the Feliway plug ins with great success. Heads up, it’s costly but well worth it. I have found better prices on both Chewy and Amazon (.com) than in local pet stores.

      Reply
  23. Jay
    April 12, 2016 at 10:08 pm (12 months ago)

    Every now and then I come back to read this article and look at the picture of Stirfry. Still brings a tear to my eye. She was a special cat.

    Reply
  24. Janet Stern
    April 3, 2016 at 7:38 pm (12 months ago)

    I have a 6 yr old cat (rescued 11/15 w/ no history) who seems to bite out of anger when she’s stopped from her play biting. I’ve learned to read her cues and move my hands away from her when she gets over-excited. She’ll sit there watching me for a minute or two waiting for her opportunity, and then move in and give me deep, bloody puncture wounds. She’s not playing. I think she’s letting me know that she’s mad.

    This happens about once a month. How do I change this behavior?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 4, 2016 at 5:50 am (12 months ago)

      Cats don’t bite because they’re mad at you. She’s most likely overstimulated and biting is a way for her to discharge that extra energy. Since you already know to watch for cues, remove yourself from the room she’s in when she gets over-excited, or distract her by tossing a toy for her.

      Reply
    • Kristin
      April 4, 2016 at 9:17 pm (12 months ago)

      Janet,

      We too have a six year old rescue that bit…bloody, fierce bites. “Over-stimulation” (after months in a cage) seemed to be the issue. We followed the author and Ingrid’s advice. Four months later and lots of patience…using their expertise, all is well.

      Kristin

      Reply
  25. Miss Cellany
    April 2, 2016 at 6:58 am (12 months ago)

    My cat isn’t ticklish – she doesn’t need to be petted to bite me. She comes to sit on me, rubs against me and then bites me and holds on with her teeth (usually my hands, fingers, or arms but sometimes my chin or my nose). She isn’t biting hard enough to puncture the skin so I think it’s a kind of comfort behaviour like suckling. She’s purring like mad while she does it too and has her eyes half closed so she’s not scared or aggressive. It is EXTREMELY annoying though – feels like pinpricks. Sometimes she slips while she’s biting me and scrapes my skin as she tries to hold on. It might be related to the fact she was handreared (by me) from 2 weeks old (abandoned feral kittens) and I used to have to pry open her mouth with my finger (by jamming the tip of my pinky into her mouth to hold it open) to get her to latch onto the bottle (so human skin has the association with suckling milk). Her sister (same litter) also bites occasionally but tends to go for clothes instead and suckles on them instead of just biting. Their brother (same litter) doesn’t do it at all.

    Reply
  26. Bob Page
    March 23, 2016 at 7:49 am (1 year ago)

    We have two cats. A male (tabby) and a female (diluted calico). The male is the most laid back cat ever! The female is the most unpredictable ever! They will be grooming one another and all of a sudden she will pounce on him and bite him hard.
    She will continue to do it until he runs away.
    Sometimes she will swat at me or my wife and try to bit us out of the blue. How do we deal with this behavior?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 23, 2016 at 7:52 am (1 year ago)

      It sounds like your female cat has a lot of excess energy, and she doesn’t know of any other way to discharge it other than through biting or swatting. Try playing more with her – structured playtime, 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day, really get her tired out. Also, watch for cues when the two cats are grooming. You’ll most likely see some indication that she’s getting fed up: a swishy tail, ears back, etc. Once you see that, distract her by tossing a toy, or getting her attention in some other way.

      Reply
  27. mel
    March 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm (1 year ago)

    ive had my cat since a kitten. from day 2 he was really aggressive when playing, would latch onto my hand and just bite and scratch and all the slow taking away my hand didnt work, it was like he was on elastic, back onto my hand at the speed of light. hes a year old now and calmer (phew) and loves cuddles, he purrs away and i only pet his head, but i cant brush him, he either runs away or attacks, ive tried all different kinds of brushes and gloves, the zoom groom, and his whole back cringes, i feel i need to brush him, hes leaving fur everywhere. hes scared of the vaccuum so thats not an option lol ive tried everything to try and get him to accept being brushed, and yesterday he swiped my face. he wouldnt come near me till i put the brush back in the drawer. hes a short hair so matting isnt an issue, should i just leave him alone ? and vaccuum more often ?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 21, 2016 at 4:43 am (1 year ago)

      He’s clearly associating being brushed with something unpleasant, so I wouldn’t force the issue. Give him a few days to settle, and then you can try to start to get him used to being brushed very slowly and gradually. This may mean just leaving the brush out for him to explore (perhaps sprinkling a little catnip on it). Gradually move on to you picking up the brush while he’s next to you. Talk calmly and quietly to him. Then eventually start to brush him with just a single stroke. Stop if you see any indication that he’s not happy. Reward every positive association with the brush with a treat, but be careful to not inadvertently reward negative associations. This may take weeks or even months, so go very very slowly.

      Reply
  28. Carolyn Young
    February 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi Ingrid, I am looking for advice.
    I rescued a female cat last year and although she is slowly settling in I am concerned about the aggression she shows. She will lie on the floor belly exposed rolling and purring but should I approach she attacks me, she is not a lap cat and I can get 10 seconds of a cheek rub then she bites. She will rub up to me and visitors purring like a little machine, but if you stroke her she bites. I just don’t understand her, I worry she is unhappy, but she follows me and seems happy to be with me, she will sleep on the bed but when I put out the light she goes to her bed. HELP

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 15, 2016 at 12:55 pm (1 year ago)

      She sounds like she’s highly sensitive, Carolyn. Try to help her discharge some of her excess energy with vigorous play sessions. Watch her body language closely and stop petting or rubbing her cheeks at the first sign of any change (ears back, tensing up, etc.). She may just be one of those cats who likes being near you, but won’t be a lap cat.

      Reply
    • Kristin
      March 11, 2016 at 11:44 am (1 year ago)

      Carolyn…
      We had the same issues with our six year old, female, rescue cat. So challenging because you never know WHAT they experienced prior to life with you. We followed the advice of this article and have seen lovely changes. Our Bella is the same…sending love signals (or so they seem with the exposed belly and purring) and then BITE!!! She too loves to sleep in bed with us. We have very gradually increased her petting time and she’s come a long, long way. I still do not pet her belly and warn all company to do the same. Or…NOT to do the same. She does let me husband pet her belly. Anyway…DON’T GIVE UP!

      Reply
  29. Aquila
    February 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm (1 year ago)

    I really found this article very informative and could relate to many of the comments , I adopted a 6 month old kitty from the Washington human society and today makes 7 days .. I’m still learning her and I’m so affectionate and I wanted an animal that matched my personality I also need my space so I’m a little understanding of cat behavior to a degree ; but my kitty (Isis) has so many hang-ups and PET(PEEVES) (no pun intended ) I cant touch her stomach although she sprawls out like she wants me to do so , she bites , and hisses at the smallest things and I thought about using the spray bottle but I see that the articles says not to, also she poops in my bath tub and I have no idea why . I bought her non clumping cat litter like I was directed to and she has her own area that’s kept very clean … I also bought her tons of toys , she has a bed and a scratch post with a toy mouse attached and she doesn’t use any of it .. shes affectionate and shes aggressive so I’m terribly confused and I don’t know what to do .. I feel like when you adopt rescue animals you just never know the temperament or if the animals is feral or was abused .. I’m so heartbroken

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 14, 2016 at 6:01 am (1 year ago)

      Your kitty is still adjusting to her new home, Aquila – give her a little time to settle down. At six months, she also has a lot of energy, so spending a lot of time playing with her is going to be a great way for the two of you to bond. Use interactive wand toys, and really get her tired out with intense play sessions, lasting 10-15 minutes at a minimum, at least two or three times a day. If she continues to poop in the bathtub, you may want to take her to your vet to rule out any health issues.

      Reply
    • Kristin
      February 14, 2016 at 6:37 am (1 year ago)

      Aquila…Our senior/recently adopted cat has come a LONG way with us after following the advice in this article. Very affectionate but “bitey” confused us too. And still does confuse us at times. That sprawling out and exposing the tummy…don’t fall for it! It’s a trap! I pet our cat’s back when she does that…but only moving AWAY from her mouth. And in my mind I say “pet pet pet, that’s all you get” to make sure I don’t get lost in the moment of her soft fur and end up bitten. Again. 🙂 We built up the amount of time we pet her…over the months we’ve had Bella. After being bitten…she could sit on our lap and we’d brush her. Then, gradually we built up to petting with our hands, but we’re very mindful of her tail – which seems to alert us when she’s done. (but still purring) Our Bella had six years of who knows what to “undo”…but with patience and reaching out to experts – we’re getting there. Can you contact an animal behaviorist through your humane society?

      Reply
    • Alexes
      March 11, 2016 at 6:01 am (1 year ago)

      My cat will come up to me and want petted. Of course I pet her but after a minute or two of petting she will latch on to my arm biting and scratch me with her feet. I always have scratchs on my arms. I dont want to stop petting her because she want me to. She doesn’t like belly or tail touch so I don’t touch those. Normally just pet her head because that is what she is putting in my head to be petted.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        March 11, 2016 at 6:04 am (1 year ago)

        You need to pay attention to your cat’s signals as explained in this article, Alexes. If you don’t stop petting her when she’s telling you she’s had enough, she will continue to bite and scratch.

        Reply
  30. lisa
    February 10, 2016 at 3:36 am (1 year ago)

    thanks for the tips but my cat is the opposite. he loves to be pet n have his stomach scratched and play In water. the new thing I noticed is he will be laying next to you sleeping or purring awake and you move he will reach out and scratch you and put his hand on you like he is mad because
    you moved away or is leaving. he has done this to me and my 6 year old daughter. even scratched her face because she was sleeping and moved her head.

    Reply
  31. Renee Pass
    January 20, 2016 at 8:08 pm (1 year ago)

    Thank you for this article!
    I have a male cat 7 months old, unneuterd ( have the appointment to have it done) that hisses and bites at me sometimes, not always, when I pet the base of his tail. I was worried something was going on with him! I was leaning more toward the idea he didn’t want me touching anywhere near his gentials because it happened right at the time he hit sexual maturation. Or so I think!?
    Other than that, he is a loving cat that loves to lay on my shoulder and loves attention from me. He is not always so nice to other people though. He has hissed at my parents for just trying to pet him. Any recommendations on what I can do to help him with that situation? I never thought the two were related but now I’m questioning that too. (First time inside cat owner)

    Thank you,
    Renee

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 21, 2016 at 5:50 am (1 year ago)

      It sounds like he’s comfortable with you, but he may perceive other people as a threat. I would advise your parents to not pet him, but rather, allow him to check them out at his pace and comfort level.

      Reply
  32. Janine
    January 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm (1 year ago)

    Thank you for this article. I had easy going kitties in the past, and I guess I got spoiled. Rescued a kitten over a year ago, and even with much work, she simply was always wired to be the way she is. She has this primal streak, and is the most active and challenging cat I have ever had. She will never be a lap cat, and you pet her according to her mood, but much work has gotten me some considerations on her part, as far as gentleness. Most of the time. Not a cuddler or snuggler (will let me hold her sometimes and lean my head on her as she purrs against my shoulder). But she is smart, and understands some things I say, and sometimes if I tell her, “I want to pet you,” she will present her back to me. If she agrees, that is. It is still only going to happen until she is done, though. Does not like to be brushed, either, and I never knew about the whiskers all over, so maybe that is the reason? Hates her belly touched, will grab and bite your hand if you try. Hates the base of her tail area scratched. She really is so different than any of my former kitties. I still have a ways to go in understanding her, but I have accepted that her wiring is what it is. I let her give me love bites and licks on my hand, which she does sometimes when she is actually in the mood for some petting and smooches from me. She loves for me to play with her, or go outside exploring with her, so is social in the things she enjoys. I am trying to understand her better, because, well, the weight of that falls on the human in the equation. She will not be seeking articles on better understanding me, LOL.

    Reply
  33. Dienna Howard
    January 11, 2016 at 9:44 pm (1 year ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve been bitten a few times by cats when I’m at the shelter either as a volunteer or a visitor. One minute I’m gently petting a cat and the next minute I’m being bitten. Luckily none of the bites have broken my skin. I’m still learning about cats each day and these tools are a great help. I’ll be looking a lot more thoroughly at the warning signs from here on out, and hopefully that’ll help to nip the problem in the bud.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 12, 2016 at 5:40 am (1 year ago)

      I’m glad this helped, Dienna. And thank you for helping shelter cats!

      Reply
  34. Kristin
    December 11, 2015 at 7:03 am (1 year ago)

    Thank you so much! We just adopted a six year old female with this issue. Your straight forward article has helped me understand what’s going on – better!

    Reply
    • Clay corley
      December 30, 2015 at 9:40 pm (1 year ago)

      I just got a kitten a day ago and when we play with a wand he will pounce on the toy then some times he eyes our hands and jumps at it and I don’t know how to stop him

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        December 31, 2015 at 5:51 am (1 year ago)

        Watch him closely while playing, Clay. As soon as you see him eye your hands, stop play for a moment, and redirect his attention to something else. You may want to have another toy ready that you can toss for him.

        Reply
  35. Karen
    October 10, 2015 at 6:36 pm (1 year ago)

    I was given a cat recently that is huge. He rubs on my legs then attacks my feet, ankle, knees. He lunges to the top of the back of my chair then attacks my head. I feed him and he eats. Then he comes up to my and attacks me. He wants a belly rub then bites my hand. If he is in my lap and I pick him up to put him down he bites my hand. If I stand up he digs his claws in as if to never let go. He stalks me from behind boxes and lunges at me. As if I am his play toy to be attacked constantly. My blood pressure has gone up and I already have PTSD. This startles and scares me and I yell. He just keeps doing it over and over when he is looking wild. It is more at night but also during the day. I woke up from a sound sleep to him attacking me. My husband says he is playing and the bites are love bites but I don’t like it. It is not fun or loving to me. He also sometimes uses the bathroom in the hallway instead of his litter box and he has constant diarrhea which the medicine I have been giving him for it seems to have no effect. He will jump to reach things on the ceiling knocking stuff over. He has attacked my library books and there are bite marks in them too. I seriously wish I had not gotten this cat now but I have. I don’t have a clue what to do but I know I stay out of his way and walk a wide path around him to try and not get attacked. Sometimes he is waiting outside my bathroom for me and attacks me when I try to walk by. I am getting really jumpy over this and feel traumatized by my new cat. I know he is young probably about a year old but also about 12 pounds and huge. He sits in my chair when I do the dishes or something so I have to move him and he bites me when I move him from my chair.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 11, 2015 at 3:48 am (1 year ago)

      It sounds like your kitty has lots of excess energy, and the only way he knows how to discharge it is to bite. Yelling at him is only going to make things worse. You need to start building a relationship with him, and the best way to do that is with play. Use interactive, fishing pole type toys and play with him, at least two or three times a day, 10 to 15 minutes each session. Really get him tired out.

      Reply
      • Brandon
        December 14, 2015 at 1:30 am (1 year ago)

        Sounds like he had too much energy as ingrid has said. I also think you should play with him using a pole with a string or something of that sort. My kitty is the same way but when she acts up I just totally ignore her and walk away. Finally she got the hint and she is the best cat I’ve ever had.. Good luck… 🙂

        Reply
    • Mary
      August 24, 2016 at 3:30 am (7 months ago)

      Hi Karen,

      Did your situation with the cat improve? Do you still have the cat?

      I hope the situation improves for you and the cat.

      Mary

      Reply
  36. Alicia
    July 17, 2015 at 11:32 pm (2 years ago)

    This article was interesting to read! I have a question about something my boyfriend’s cat does. I’ve always had dogs, not cats, so cat behavior is new to me. The cat is friendly, and seems to like me a lot. He follows me around, likes to scent mark me and rub against me, hops up and naps in my lap, and purrs a lot if I pet him. He’s a very attention-demanding cat, and will do stuff like meow and put his paws on me when he’s being ignored, too. Sometimes he’ll grab my arm with his paws and gently bite me, though, and I don’t know what’s up with that. He does it both when I’m petting him and when I’m ignoring him, so I’m guessing it’s not just petting aggression. I’ve always speculated that he’s trying to play and doesn’t understand that I don’t like it and won’t entertain that behavior, because he’ll stop and switch to scent marking or walk off if I say, “NO,” gently push him away, and ignore him (plus, he still sometimes tries to grab and chew on my hair in the same way, regardless of what I’m doing). He’ll also do it if he climbs in my lap while I’m at the computer or writing – he’ll grab my hand and do the bitey thing if I move it past him.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 18, 2015 at 6:15 am (2 years ago)

      It’s an attention getting behavior, Alicia. You’re doing the right thing with a firm “no” and gently disengaging. If you and your boyfriend are not already doing this, you may want to think about starting structured play sessions with him – two or three times a day, 10-15 minutes each. Really get him tired out each time. This way, he can anticipate his regular play times – it may help with the attention seeking behavior in addition to helping him burn off energy.

      Reply
    • Rita
      August 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm (2 years ago)

      Your article was interesting. I am a cat person. I have a cat that doesn’t really like to be pet or i don’t think he likes it. Once in a while he looks at me for attention but its hard to give him attention because he doesn’t really want me to pet him. he always bites me and hard so i don’t usually pet him but the times i do he bites me hard after less than 5 minutes so i stop, but the whole time i am petting him he is purring. this to me is a mixed message. Does he like it or not. Sometimes he will swat me as i walk by and sometimes he just bites me out of the blue. Now his brother lets me pet him all the time. I wonder if he gets jealous because the time i spend with his brother he is clawing on walls and mirrors to get my attention. He is also a high energy cat.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        August 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm (2 years ago)

        You’re going to have to watch your boy carefully for subtle signs that he’s had enough when you’re petting him, Rita, and stop before he gets so worked up that he bites. Signs can be as subtle as a small change in position of the ears. If you don’t feel confident that you’ll recognize the signs, start with very short petting periods (30 seconds or less) and gradually increase the time. It sounds like he also needs other ways to burn off energy (the swatting and biting at you out of the blue is most likely because he wants to play and/or is bored.) Try structured playtime, 10-15 minutes, two or three times a day, with an interactive toy. Really get him tired out. Try to do it at the same time each day so he can start to rely on those periods to get his exercise.

        Reply
  37. jane sellers
    June 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm (2 years ago)

    my cat does something no one can explain,99% of the time she is normally very sweet and loves petting but sometimes she tries to bite me and i mean a real all out launch at my face, i back off and she lets out a real howl of anguish with her mouth open and her ears are flat – it’s like she angry i backed off and would not let her attack me, not sure what is going on and why she does it.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 16, 2015 at 4:15 pm (2 years ago)

      Have you had her checked out by your vet, Jane? I couldn’t even begin to guess what is setting her off, but I think you need to work with either a vet or a feline behaviorist to get at the root of this issue.

      Reply
  38. Emily
    May 27, 2015 at 6:07 pm (2 years ago)

    I have a 2 year old female who is really sweet and cuddly when she wants to be. My question is that when I come home she often greets me, then insists on thoroughly licking my hand, but then will give me a little nip and then continuing licking me again. The nip is usually not hard and all while this is happening shes purring and trying to rub against me like she’s happy I’m home, so I’m not quite sure that it’s aggression. What do you think?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 27, 2015 at 8:19 pm (2 years ago)

      That does sound like petting aggression, Emily. It means that she’s overstimulated, and the only way she knows to discharge that extra energy is by nipping at you. Try to distract her with a toy when this happens.

      Reply
      • Emily
        May 27, 2015 at 11:25 pm (2 years ago)

        Thank you for responding! I’m just confused on why she would be overstimulate if I hadn’t even petted her yet. She licks then one small nip then licks then headbutts my hand & then wants pets. Do you mean overstimulated as in excited that I am home? Because this all happens within a two minute or so period and her body language Is that she wants to be pet but only after she gives me a few licks.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          May 28, 2015 at 6:09 am (2 years ago)

          After being home alone all day, she probably has a lot of excess energy stored up, and that may be her way of discharging it. Try playing with her as soon as you get home before you pet her.

          Reply
    • Kaileigh
      June 5, 2015 at 1:00 am (2 years ago)

      No, no. That’s not petting aggression. Licking your hand is her showing affection for you. A little nip in this situation is a happy one, almost like when puppies nip when they play. Many people actually describe it as a “love bite.” She purring, licking you, rubbing against you – she’s happy you’re home! And you are right – she can’t be overstimulated/have petting aggression without you petting her.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        June 5, 2015 at 6:25 am (2 years ago)

        It depends on how hard those “love nips” are, Kaileigh. With some cats, it can easily cross over into aggression, especially if guardians don’t pay attention to the subtle signals from the cat.

        Reply
        • Emily
          June 17, 2015 at 3:39 am (2 years ago)

          It’s a very slow, non aggressive nip, immediately followed by a head butt & rubbing her body along my hand. It does not seem aggressive in the slightest, considering I have seen her try to challenge me about the brush time & bath time.

          Reply
  39. Charlotte
    May 24, 2015 at 4:04 am (2 years ago)

    I have a 6 year old tortiseshell cat, she is kind and friendly.
    She loves to be pet, she rubs against you and purrs.
    She especially loves it behind the ears.
    I was rubbing her there, she was purring loudly, and she suddenly turns around and bites me, it wasn’t too hard and didn’t draw blood.
    But I don’t want it to become a habbit.
    She immediately stopped purring and cowered.
    I didn’t do a thing!
    I didn’t growl or anything, I just let out a quiet (really quite) gasp of surprise when she did so.
    I live with my dad, step-mum and younger brother too.
    She has never done this before.
    Any tips?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 24, 2015 at 6:17 am (2 years ago)

      Follow the steps outlined in this article, Charlotte. It sounds like a classic petting aggression reaction – she was overstimulated.

      Reply

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